Social media marketing is more than just adding social bookmarks on your site in hopes that your content spreads like a virus.
It’s more than seeding your content in sites like Digg; and/or trying to game their voting algorithm. It’s more than creating multiple profiles and/or adding a multitude of friends in all the social networking sites; and then blasting out bulletin messages. And, while optimizing your site for social media is important, there is still much to consider.
Since the majority of marketers plan to increase their spending on social media, it’s time to start thinking strategically about social media marketing. I have mentioned in the past that social media is community driven. It’s within these communities that brand stewardship is fostered, viral marketing can give birth; and where conversational marketing can begin to take root. But before you start a corporate blog; a Facebook fan page or hire a social media consultant, you should read on.
Who is your target audience?
Better questions is … is your consumer even using social media (subscription required to read)? In fact, here is an interesting bit of new information – according to Business Week, woman are the ones holding down the fort of social media and they say, “if you’re going to create the next hot Web 2.0 site and you want it to go viral, you’ll target women.”
Nonetheless, understanding your audience is closely aligned to Forrester’s POST method; an acronym that helps marketers define social media strategies before they execute. P stands for People; and they encourage marketers not to start a social media strategy until they know the capabilities of their audience.
It would literally take days to list out all the social networking/social media/social news aggregation sites that exist on the Internet today. And, these sites attract very different users. The community at Digg is very different from the community at Myspace; and these demographics change all the time.
To begin the process of defining your target audience, you should first take a quick snapshot of your existing user base you have today; and ask yourself:
- What characteristics do your users/customers have in common with each other?
- What are they passionate about? What are they talking about, writing about?
- What are their interests, desires, and hobbies?
This insight will help you craft a marketing strategy and give you direction on which social media channel you should pay attention to. I have seen too many brands that have Myspace profiles just because their competitors do; with no clear strategy on what they are really out to achieve.
How will you measure success?
Measuring social media is tough; I mean … how do you assign a value to a conversation? This is something that many marketers are still trying to figure out. It’s not like you can log into a control panel somewhere and check your metrics. Of course, there are always the standard metrics (clicks, impressions) and engagement metrics (page views, time spent on site, etc.) as well as some other metrics to think about if you are blogging, podcasting, and/or building community (RSS subscribers, external blog mentions, inbound links, comments, etc.). Here is a great summary of metrics you can think about.
Without a clear understanding of what your goals and objectives are from the beginning, you will find yourself questioning whether or not social media is the right channel for your business; and in some cases, it may not be.
Be real! These are “real people” you are talking to so you should talk with a “real voice”. Social media users don’t want to read another white paper or press release. They want to have a conversation; and in fact, will continue to converse with or without your participation.
This is the true nature of conversational marketing and it’s something all marketers must embrace if they want to succeed. These conversations should be open-ended and the community should be in the driver’s seat. Forget the marketing fluff and don’t just pretend to be interested in what they are talking about. Listen. Don’t inundate them with offers, banners or marketing fluff. Consumers today are savvy enough to see right through it; and it might backfire if you approach it this way.
Yes, Monetization matters too … and it will come
Every marketer will approach this step differently. It really depends on the nature of your business. However, once you define your target audience and understand their true needs and motivations; and, assuming you have built a trustworthy relationship with them, then, you can begin defining your monetization strategy. I would recommend taking it slowly and start monetizing in steps with a clear process in mind. Otherwise, if you put on your direct marketing hats too fast, you may scare folks away.
This was pretty easy at Yahoo. Monetization actually occurred during the process of engagement. The strategy was really about increasing usage by giving the community the tools they needed. We also gave them a voice and empowered them to help shape future product releases. The more time they spent on the site equaled more page views; and these were the same page views we were selling to advertisers.
Nurture the conversation
So you finally defined your audience; built a relationship with them and maybe even made some extra coin. The last thing you want to do now is abandon the conversation. Your life-long goal should be to increase the value of your community; and you do this by relationship building. The community will be the cornerstone of your brand and will stick with you through thick and thin. You can do this by keeping the conversation fresh and alive; soliciting ongoing feedback about your products; having contests; ongoing roundtable discussions; and of course throwing in some awesome rewards too.
Today, consumers demand to be heard, whether or not you are listening. They are ranting, praising, discussing, complaining and even defending your brand. Don’t interrupt these conversations with marketing; your product may go viral, but not with the message that you were expecting.