Transition from social listening to customer engagement

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As the number of US businesses using social media marketing continues to grow, the channel's potential impact on a brand also increases. To do so, though, social media should not remained siloed within the marketing mix.

Integrating social requires removing internal roadblocks and implementing strategies that focus on building and sustaining one-to-one personalized lifetime dialogues across all marketing channels to drive revenue and marketing effectiveness.

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. From the perspective of the C-suite, social media is amorphous. Measurement, in quantifiable terms, seems elusive. In general, social communities are largely unmonitored and uncontrolled. Unfortunately, social channels such as 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.

Yet, interacting with your customers (and prospects) 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. Don't make the plan about your company, make it about the customer and keep the plan flexible to account for changing customer dynamics. To begin truly engaging with customers and prospects, organizations must move beyond social media as a mass-marketing broadcast tool, and identify opportunities to make it more personalized with messaging that is coordinated across other communications channels.

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. To overcome measurement challenges, it's often a matter of understanding what measurements actually matter to your business.  Determining how – and if – you measure may depend on the answer to this question:  “How do I monetize this social marketing effort?” For many, the goal might not be measuring fans and click-throughs, but instead figuring out how to translate the data you are collecting into meaningful engagement that influences customer lifetime value.

Social media has the potential to play an important role in the conversational marketing movement. Over time, it will be part of increasingly unified inbound and outbound communications strategies where marketing activity data is tracked and managed to generate targeted messaging and relevant offers based on customer behavior and established preferences. So, stop broadcasting, start engaging and put your social media intelligence to work.

Kristin Hambelton is senior director of marketing at conversational marketing technology provider Neolane, Inc.

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