The three "E's" of social marketing

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For marketers, few things are as cool as having customers talk about how great your company is, while it's often daunting when they complain to others about a poor experience. For better or worse, those conversations are occurring with more regularity in social communities, networks and blogs. How can companies thrive in this marketplace gone social? Follow the three “E's”:

1) Engage the marketplace

Every marketer dreams of seeing his or her carefully crafted messages go viral, increasing reach exponentially. But you have to do your homework, monitoring key communities, competitors and influencers on social networks. This will increase your understanding of what people are talking about, better enabling you to join conversations where they already exist.

When you're ready to jump in, build a base by seeding social networks and communities with content that educates, informs and starts dialogue. Post in a style that generates reaction and conversation around a topic that is consistent with your company's offerings, but isn't directly self-promotional.

2) Enable influencers and fans

Harnessing the real power of social media means having your customers, fans and influencers talk about you more than you do. To make that happen, you'll first need to keep tabs on buzz in the blogosphere, on Twitter, etc. to find key influencers in your industry. Identify who's sharing your offers to their social networks and could be potential brand ambassadors.

Once you've found a cadre of brand ambassadors, start building goodwill among them by engaging them regularly and providing them with special benefits. These persuaders can have a huge impact, so make them feel important. You'll cultivate increased loyalty and give them further incentive to share even more. 

3) Evaluate your efforts

Measuring social activity can help you quantify the performance of your initiatives, improve your understanding of customers and prospects, and tighten up the efficiency of your programs. Instead of just evaluating a promotion by whether recipients opened and clicked-through on an offer, now you can gauge your success by whether they are sharing your offer and talking about it.

Use the data to adjust and optimize future initiatives. For example, if you discover that a new product campaign resulted in a strong uptick in Tweets, you might design a special Twitter-only campaign offering a channel-exclusive discount. Learn from previous hits and misses.

As you execute your social media plan, remember to think of it as part of your core business and overall marketing objectives. By following the 3 “E's” above, you'll have an excellent chance of making social pay off in the form of higher retention rates and new customers.

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