From Intimidation to Impact: How to Improve Customer Engagement Through Social Marketing

Updated: April 04, 2011

Similar to the path of many digital communications tools, with any new channel there is a tipping point - a point where marketers emerge from the haze of experimentation to the clarity of full-fledged exploitation where targeting, personalization and overall effectiveness are fully established. Since new channels tend to be disruptive, they require new rules of customer engagement, management and measurement.

In terms of marketers' stages of adoption, we examine them here - transitioning from Fear to Engagement:

Fear

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the world of social media is a powerful force. For companies adverse to change and experimentation, social media can be downright scary. Let's examine the basis for some of that fear. From the perspective of the C-suite, social media is amorphous. Measurement, in quantifiable terms, seems elusive. And, in general, social communities are largely unmonitored and uncontrolled. Unfortunately, social channels like Twitter and Facebook have become open forums for disgruntled customers or special interest groups. This is scary to brands that have, until recently, been able to protect their image through traditional marketing tactics.

Overcoming fear about social media is the first step of adoption. So, if you are unsure, take baby steps. Start by listening and monitoring to get feel for the environment. Then you can decide if and when you want to engage further.

Engagement

Once you've gotten your social media feet wet - you've listened, monitored, you've beefed up your Twitter follow list, Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections with customers, partners, thought leaders and more - it's time to start interacting. This is the first step toward engagement. To be successful, start with a plan that outlines high-level goals for what you realistically hope to achieve through social media interactions. Establish guidelines for your team to follow so efforts are collaborative and synchronized. Most importantly, don't make the plan about your company, make it about the customer.

To begin truly engaging with customers and prospects, organizations must move beyond social media as a mass-marketing tool, and identify opportunities to make it more personalized with messaging that is coordinated across other communications channels.

Establishing Control, Focusing on Measurement

One of the next social media marketing challenges becomes gaining control - cutting through all the noise, collecting data and driving intelligent actions and measurable results. According to the 2010 Omniture Online Analytics Benchmark Survey, 69.1 percent of respondents are using social media in their marketing efforts. However, 41 percent of those using social media lack a mechanism to measure social media conversion. This probably isn't surprising to many. Social media does present special measurement challenges, but to overcome them, it's a matter of setting realistic goals, and understanding what measurements actually matter to your business.

It's all about defining what's important to your organization's business goals, and managing expectations with the C-Suite. While many view measurement as vital to sustaining a social media program, a

Examine Available Solutions. What's right for your organization?

A successful social marketing strategy is dependent upon being able to integrate all marketing channels, including social media, to drive conversations and offers in a consistent, highly-personalized manner.

While there are a variety of "listening" platforms on the market today, few are truly integrated within existing enterprise marketing software - most social media capabilities have been added through acquisition, not organic extensions of current platforms. Some of the stand-alone platforms focus on monitoring and measuring, others key in on messaging. Whichever one you choose to focus on first, keep in mind that social media is about listening and engaging, they go hand in hand.

The secret to social marketing campaigns is to recognize every customer and what is relevant to them, in every communication, regardless of channel. When considering an enterprise marketing solution to power these communications, marketers need to be able to build and use unified customer intelligence to automatically generate personalized and localized offer recommendations at the appropriate time and frequency to add value and win credibility with customers - building loyalty and an improved lifetime value. The most important requirement for these types of solutions is that they combine all of the necessary tools into a single conversational marketing platform that can manage all of the marketing activities. All of the information that the marketer needs - contact details, prospect profiles, marketing initiatives and sales opportunities - should all be housed in one place.

Another important requirement is that these tools should be able to effectively measure returns on social media activities as part of the marketing mix. The right enterprise marketing solution should provide the ability to monetize each marketing activity so that marketing spend can correlate directly to revenue generated, and be defendable to senior management.

The solution should also be agile enough to embrace new social media marketing channels. Today we talk a lot about Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but tomorrow new social media channels will emerge and marketing solutions must be able to consistently manage conversations on both existing and emerging digital "contact points" like avatars or iPhone applications, for example.

1to1 magazine article says, "…there's a great deal more that businesses can learn from social conversations. In fact, some companies are beginning to shift from asking, "How do I measure social media" to "What do I do with the social data I'm collecting?" This is an important transition to make, especially when the conversation eventually turns to answering the question: "How do I monetize this social marketing effort?" What's the use of measuring, if you aren't putting that data into action to creating long-term marketing strategies and meaningful customer engagement that influence customer lifetime value?

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