Six things to consider when moving into social media

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Some direct marketers are still skeptical about the social Web phenomenon and its long-term impact on traditional marketing. Despite significant evidence showing positive ROI on a variety of social media programs, habitual direct marketers are reluctant to fully embrace social media, hedging their bets, investing tepidly and limiting their success. Consider these six points when weighing the value of social marketing:

1. Social media is no fad.

It might sound silly today, but 12 years ago there was healthy pundit debate about whether the Internet was a fad. We are indeed in the early days of social media, but its impact will be lasting and significant. It is important for direct marketers to move their organizations forward in this new communications channel.

2. Social media is different.

We have to stop asking questions like “How can I use Facebook to sell more credit cards?” While marketing attempts to push a relevant message with a call to action, social media encourages the audience to linger with content. The experience drives the online community to interact, which builds the conversation and community.

3. Wait until you get it, but don't wait long.

Waiting to go social is better than launching with the wrong approach. Dozens of marketers have treated social media as a direct marketing outlet and their brands suffered, but there are plenty that have done it right. Check out Zappos' Twitter account, the work done by Ford or Starbuck's Facebook page for examples. Just don't wait too long. Social is growing up fast.

4. Be authentic.

If you are going to set up Twitter accounts for your brand, don't tie them to fictional people and fictional personas. Fakers will be exposed; it's just a matter of time and your brand will suffer. Allow real members of your team to have real conversations with the market.

5. The database isn't the only source of data.

Direct marketers have been conditioned to think that the centralized marketing database is the best and only source of data for marketing campaigns. In the world of social media, the cloud becomes a very valuable source of data. Whether it is simply ingesting sentiment, or connecting to a social outlet's data API and collecting personal details.

6. Consistency counts.

If you start using social media to promote your brand, you must do so consistently. Your voice needs to be consistent, and your content must always provide value to the community. Consistency is what brings people back to the experience.

Done well, social media and traditional marketing can not only co-exist, they can thrive.

Paul Mandeville is the COO of Conversen, a marketing services technology vendor.

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