“If you dip your toe into social media, the chances are you’ll get your leg bitten off,” says Tom Ollerton, marketing director at the specialist agency We Are Social. It is a thought echoed by David Thomas, senior director of community and content at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
“The most inappropriate social media marketing is when a company comes in, pretends that they know who their audience is, thinks they do, makes assumptions, and then posts a real clunker on their Facebook page, or jumps in and starts trying to sell in a forum where people are communicating and engaging.”
This can be the outcome when a business dives into social media marketing without formulating a strategy. Ollerton has an example from a few years ago. “The Post Office set up a Twitter feed to talk about their marketing messages, and people started tweeting saying where’s my package? They opened the door to a conversation but weren’t prepared because the person doing the Twitter handle didn’t know anything about what might be holding up packages.”
What, then, should an organization do after recognizing the need for social media marketing? It starts with a listening phase. In this context, listening means discovering what is being said about your brand or business on social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and on forums and blogs.
“There are tools like Sysomos and Radian6, which are like a search engine that searches conversations and amasses them in one place for us to decode in such a way that we can give actionable insight into those conversations,” says Ollerton.
Typically, the listening phase might take a month, but it varies according to factors such as the number of regions and markets being targeted, and whether it spans different languages. Key elements are who is having the conversations, where they are taking place, and who the influencers in those online communities are.
How to engage with that community is the next piece in the puzzle. One of the questions is whether the product, service or brand is “inherently conversational”, as Ollerton puts it. “Jaguar is one of our clients, people love the brand and there’s an infinity of detail to get involved in as they discuss everything from the density of the tyres through to the kind of glass used for the windscreen,” he says.
In other cases it is not so easy, because there is little to say about the product itself. The challenge is to invent content such as video, games, apps or Facebook applications that becomes the talking point. “A brand that does this really well is Red Bull,” Ollerton says. “It’s just a soft drink. So what they do is constantly create amazing videos and games and photo-shoots that throw people out in space so people are constantly talking about it on social networks.”
When Heinz analysed the results of a listening phase, it discovered a correlation between people talking about being unwell and wanting to eat soup. “We created our own bit of content around that,” Ollerton explained. “What Heinz did was to create a kind of soup that you could buy on a Facebook page, but you could dedicate that can to someone. Then a can with that message would get sent to your door for the cost of £1.99.” Customers would then post about their gift on Twitter and Facebook. Simply repackaging existing advertising content, designed for TV, print or outdoors, is rarely effective.
“What we want brands to do is to work out where the common ground is between what they want to say as a brand and what consumers want to hear as people on social networks – where does that overlap?” Ollerton explains. Once the social media campaign is completed, how do you measure success? Having a goal is important. “Until you can say, this is what we’re trying to accomplish, then you’re not going to prove the value of your social media efforts to the people in your company who are paying your salary,” says Thomas.
Determining return on investment is a challenge, though some things can be measured. “The sweet point about social media is that the tools that you used to listen at the start are the same tools you can use to measure the effectiveness of the campaign,” says Ollerton.
A listening tool might identify how often Heinz is mentioned in the context of “soup”, for example.
Then you can compare the percentage before and after.
This is a narrow approach though. The advantage of social media marketing is that it builds a relationship with your customers, with spin-off benefits that go beyond immediate results. The further implication is that thinking in terms of campaigns alone may be a mistake. “Move away from campaigns, because campaigns don’t play to the true nature of social,” says Ollerton. “Brands should maintain an ongoing relationship with their fans over time, but then include different spikes of activity around certain launches.
“The crux is the listening piece. What better way is there to understand who it is you’re selling to? People trust other people online more than they do TV advertising.”
Article from Tim Anderson, The Guardian