Entrepreneur

6 social marketing truths executives must understand

(Editor’s note: Reggie Bradford is CEO of Vitrue. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

With more than 20 years of experience as an executive in the technology and marketing spaces, I’ve learned a lot about how technology directly affects marketing strategies.

The arrival of sites like Facebook, Twitter and most recently Google+ have changed the way societies communicate. While many brand marketers have incorporated social into their plans, many still wrestle with questions like how much, to what degree, how to execute, and what is next?  Simply “being social” is not enough. Here are six truths marketing executives need to know about this phenomenon:

The social sandbox is getting bigger:  With 750 million engaged and active fans, Facebook is absolutely the most effective and important overall social network (and should be your main focus).  You’ve probably heard the refrain about engaging on Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and emerging platforms, as well. But it’s foolish to not have an eye on Google+, which amassed 20 million users in only a month.

Despite its infancy, and some launch hiccups, Google+ has great potential – most notably its integration with other Google products, essentially creating a social layer across numerous properties. According to Experian Hitwise, 56 percent of Google+’s upstream traffic came from other Google properties, with 34 percent of that traffic coming from Google.com. 37 percent of its upstream traffic came from search engines, while 21 percent was driven by email. In the aggregate, Google+ could offer a valuable real-time multimedia content sharing and discovery social platform.  Only time will tell.

Google+ also has promising features like its “circles,” a friend-grouping capability, as well as the “huddle” and “hangout” video-chat functionalities. And many have noted Google+ as simply offering consumers a place to “start over” with a fresh, a brand-new social slate. Smart brands have already taken notice, led by Ford, whose social media head Scott Monty noted: “It’s a priority for us to understand what’s on the cutting edge and where influencers are going and look at the technology shaping the way people are communicating. Normally we try to go where the mainstream are. In certain circumstances we’ll be an early adopter because we see the potential.”

Social networks are your best consumer connection: No other marketing channel offers such an effective, direct communication between your brand and your consumers. The two-way flow of that talk can lead to increased brand awareness and loyalty, which will drive your business forward. Buffalo Wild Wings learned this by combining a digital “Wall App” coupon strategy and traditional media. During a 27-day period, more than 179,000 coupons were printed, with almost 100,000 coming directly from the Wall App. The company had a 63 percent redemption rate of coupons from Facebook, helping to provide a healthy in-store sales boast for the promotional period. And they gained 57,000 fans during the promotion.

Don’t ditch traditional marketing just yet:  Despite social’s power, brand marketers will need, for the foreseeable future, a solid execution of traditional marketing married with digital and social. TV still remains the dominant “branding” mass medium. And despite sagging readership, print newspapers, magazines and radio will continue to grab a share, albeit digital continues to erode the traditional “print” outlets.

Be strategic about integrating traditional, digital and social marketing to ensure consistent messaging and maximum reach. Social will continue to grow in importance, but it needs support of other marketing channels.

Great content trumps fan volume:  A large fan base is good, but an active one is better. What you say and how you say it is more important than simply building a following. Publish content that garners engagement. Among those who are doing content right are: iTunes Facebook community, the NBA, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Tide.

These brands all take time to “know” their fans and deliver content that is exclusive and of value, whether that be follower-only specials, promotions and exclusives, rich video content or compelling information around their products. Philanthropic tie-ins cause consumers to associate your brand with social good and typically results in a higher level of brand loyalty. And social games can be an engaging, fun element that will give social audiences a reason to visit and interact with your brand.

You need to localize and target that content: Because the conversation is two-way now, it’s more important than ever to know as much as you can about your customers. As the space matures, marketers will need to deliver hyper-targeted, localized content –coupons, information, specials, stats, etc. –at the right time in the right format for maximum effectiveness. Learn to segment and put content into audience silos. MTV, for example, has separate Facebook Pages for each of its individual shows because the network knows that fans of “MADE” might not be fans of “Jersey Shore”.

Pay attention to key emerging trends: Changes in the digital world will affect what’s possible and relevant to your audience – and these changes aren’t mutually exclusive to your social marketing strategy. For example, mobile phones and tablets will likely become the main means of communication for the digital/social world, meaning brand marketers must have the sophistication and technological platforms to manage and deliver on those devices.

Other trends to keep your eye on include the rising trend of alternative commerce technologies and the potential with NFC (near-field communication) technologies for mobile commerce is incredible. We’re also seeing the rise of sCommerce with fully integrated Facebook storefronts, and the potential is great. The jury is still out on sCommerce, but it’s worth keeping an eye on it.

The advance of social technologies has given consumers much greater access and, in turn, control. Brands now have to sprint to keep up with them.  

This story originally appeared on seonix.org.


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