Social marketing can be hugely powerful: it drives new and repeat business, builds loyalty and engagement, and even inspires the holy grail of word-of-mouth marketing: spontaneous brand advocacy.
But, like any powerful tool, social requires knowledge and skills to effectively harness its might.
Before you rush out to Post and Tweet with reckless abandon, it’s crucial to have the right foundation in place to inform what you’ll say (strategy), how you’ll say it (execution), and how you’ll measure the results (ROI). Here are three fundamentals to set you up for success in social marketing all through 2013:
Get Over IMC
IMC, or integrated marketing communications, has long been the de facto mantra of the modern marketing world. Its main premise is that you should keep brand messaging uniform across all mediums.
For many big brands and old-school agencies, IMC is simply how things are done. But IMC was created with a different world in mind.
When the term was coined back in the 1970s, there weren’t nearly as many mediums in play — and they were all one-way, “broadcast” mediums. TV, radio and print ads were usually the vehicles of choice, backed up with package design and store placement. It was easy to use the same taglines, imagery and branding in a uniform way across all of these marketing efforts.
Today? Not so much. With all of the dynamic new mediums created by the internet revolution, we can’t just shoehorn the same message into all channels, digital and analog alike. For one, most marketing channels today are a two-way street.
Brands can broadcast their messages, but consumers and fans also have the opportunity to respond, remix, retweet and generally change your message. Two-way marketing channels throw a wrench in good, old-fashioned IMC.
Instead of trying to keep the message 100% uniform across all channels, we recommend focusing on the unique “personality” of each brand and on providing consistently great interactions, everywhere from your website to your social media channels to customer service and everything in between.
Think of a brand more like a person, with different facets to its character. It’s still a single, cohesive entity, but it’s a heck of a lot more complex than a label on a shampoo bottle.
Bottom line: IMC had a good run, but the end is near. That doesn’t mean you should give up on integrating your brand’s messaging. It just means you need to think about it more holistically.
Start Using Full-Spectrum Attribution
As budgets continue to rise for social media marketing, executives have increasingly (and rightfully) demanded that marketers prove their efforts are “ringing registers” and delivering return on investment. But some marketers claim social metrics are too “squishy” to align with real business objectives. Others still haven’t summoned the discipline to establish a rigorous measurement framework.
But for those marketers who have fully embraced social media marketing and invested in a rigorous measurement framework, it’s easy to demonstrate the benefits. Success stories like Samsung and Nutella are now outnumbering naysayers like GM, because marketers are using data to prove that they can leverage social to solve complex business challenges and deliver significant returns using social.
This is only possible through an analytical process called Full-Spectrum Attribution. In order to attribute positive results (engagement, enhanced loyalty, new sales) to specific efforts (paid advertising, applications, publishing, customer care), marketers need a highly analytical, full-spectrum view of their social media activities.
Tools can enable this approach (more on that in a moment), but first it requires a commitment to identifying metrics and benchmarks that are specific to social and that recognize the unique qualities that distinguish it from broadcast mediums.
Find the Right Tools For You
In order to begin treating your brand’s messaging more holistically and implementing Full-Spectrum Attribution, you’ll need to find the right tools.
The right tools for you will depend on the size of your company and the nature of your brand(s). Most importantly, you should make sure that the people who are producing social content are directly and constantly connected to the people who are amplifying that content, and that they’re using the same tools.
One way to do that is to create a social media “war room.” Oreo employed this tactic with great success during the Super Bowl, pushing out fun and timely content with speed that made plenty of consumers and brand marketers take notice. How did they do it so fast? In a word, integration.
Everyone who needed to be present to make a decision (and put the creative together) was in the same room at the same time — the right time. Agile social marketing is best enacted in real time, in one room, with one group of people who can easily communicate with each other and who use the same tools to achieve common goals.
Why is this war room so important? Both content producers (for example, the people writing your Facebook posts) and content promoters (the people pushing your ads) have valuable insight into what works. If they’re both measuring correctly, they will start to see patterns.
Perhaps a clever Facebook post is getting tons of likes and shares. Or maybe a certain retargeting strategy is suddenly paying off and needs more media spend immediately. In a war room, real or virtual, these patterns can be quickly identified and used to adjust your strategy and combine owned, earned and paid media effectively without missing a beat.
To make this even easier, we recommend using automated software tools that can aggregate and make sense of data faster than humans can. When a powerful software system is combined with a “war room” full of well-trained people who can put this data to use, what results is a highly scalable approach to maximizing the return on your social marketing efforts.
So there you have it. Three important ways to think about putting social to work for you in the new year.
How will you be approaching social marketing differently in 2013?
About the Author
Jamie Tedford is CEO and founder of Brand Networks, one of twelve companies that comprise Facebook's Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer program, and a leading provider of integrated social software solutions and marketing services for some of the world’s most “Liked” brands.