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Plug-ins: social Marketing

Every marketer needs to weave social marketing into marketing strategy in 2012, but far too many are still at a loss when trying to determine how to go about maximizing the social networking medium without coming across as too promotional.

Our expert columnists this month offer practical advice regarding the most effective ways to use social media to foster greater loyalty among customers, including strategies around providing meaningful content for maximum engagement; how to use data collected to improve targeting in a way that is integrated with other marketing efforts; and how to measure and track social marketing efforts.

Thanks to smartphones and social technologies, the empowered customer has become the make or break marketing channel of every business and organization on the planet, says Ronald Ladouceur, EVP and executive creative director at Media Logic. He details exactly what brands need to measure to make sure the investment in social is truly paying off.

Busting social media silos in three steps:
Brian Killen, Director of emerging technologies, Acxiom Corp.

Marketers seek to blend social media with their traditional marketing methods, but are challenged to use the data they collect effectively in a way that scales with their overall marketing strategies.

The following tips will help marketers adopt an incremental, “crawl, walk, run” approach that isn’t too costly and allows them to use their own valuable, traditional data sources to create more personalized experiences and improve targeting with more content relevance and timing while empowering brand advocates.

1. Perform social recognition. Focus on consumer opt-in for access to social insights. You’ve probably seen social log-in forms on Web landing pages where you fill in your social password. Likewise, you should insert these social buttons on your own landing pages for as many different social media platforms as possible (not just Facebook) to indicate to your audience that you’ll share their information with their trusted social media brand. Enable this log-in at the point of conversion, whether by registration or contact form, comments, reviews or sharing.

Once you’ve integrated the tools that add a social layer to your sites, you’ll find that visitors are willing to share information from their social or identity profiles with you that give insights deeper than ever before. Depending on the provider, they could be sharing up to 30 different fields of information with you, including location, demographics, interests, activities and their friends.

2. Use a packaged analytics solution. Innovations in this product segment are nascent, but don’t let that prevent you from experimenting with them as they insert consumer insight elements into campaigns. Focus on specific use cases. Loyalty is a good place to start and is best employed with a mix of CRM, demographic and psychographic data. Your social audience may only be a small portion of your entire audience compared with your traditional customer data, but don’t be overwhelmed or worry about the scale challenge.

The good news is that you can capture the relatively small social media data sets, blend them with your customer segments and personas, and model them against the traditional personas you’ve built against the larger data set in order to get the necessary scale to use social media in harmony with your direct marketing assets.

3. Combine social profile data with traditional data and link customer records to social IDs. Take your social data and think of it as a qualified sample set because your target audience has chosen to engage with you. Merge the social data with traditional offline data assets, identify trends with personas, and perform “lookalike” modeling to achieve scale from that small set and apply it to all the other personas that relate to it.

Perform aggregate and individual analyses of consumer purchase intent from a sample to a larger scale. Use your modeling results to predict other prospects and integrate those results in order to augment and deliver targeted communications through all other traditional channels where applicable.

Marketers can adopt incremental steps to get started right away using the social data they’ve collected without being weighed down by the scale and technology challenges.

Make sure your social investment pays off:
Ronald Ladouceur, EVP and executive creative director, Media Logic

Nothing stops serious consideration of social marketing strategies faster than the question, “What’s the return on investment?” This query comes more frequently from in-house marketing than it does from finance. With budgets to project and egos to protect, traditionalists still too often take a defensive posture relative to social media integration.

Thanks to smartphones and social technologies, the empowered customer has become the make or break marketing channel of every business on the planet. Follow these four metrics to reap high returns on your social investment.

1. Engagement. Dozens of national and global brands have built up million-plus fan bases on Facebook and Twitter. However, the raw number of followers actually means very little. Measure the activity level of your followers, not just their numbers.

2. Influence. Are your messages retweeted? Are your status updates shared? Are your blogs linked to? Are your employees considered the go-to experts in your field? Social media channels have created both a demand and an opportunity for brands to establish a position of influence. It’s hard work. Remember that it has become a relatively trivial task to measure the amount of influence your business or institution has relative to your competitors.

3. Responsiveness. People have come to expect instant responses to their personal inquiries, whether they’re sending a question to their kids via text or to a retailer via Twitter. Set an ideal response time and then track how long it actually takes for your front-line social people to reply to customer questions.

4. Delight. Remember, the audience you are speaking to through social channels is not the general “market;” it is your customer base. Your fans, loyal customers and advocates want to have a meaningful social relationship with your brand. Use your social channels to deliver membership value, and then measure their likelihood to share their delight with others.

Online niche forums require fresh content:
Patrick Dorsey, VP of marketing, AvectraLabs

Building a strong, sustainable online community can take time and sometimes quite a bit of trial and error. All successful online communities have the same common themes. This article details the four things all successful online communities possess, and what readers should do to ensure their community prospers and is properly marketed to.

1. Content breeds collaboration. No one wants to collaborate in the absence of an idea. Make sure you have valuable and meaningful content within your community that your users can collaborate around. It could be educational resources, research studies, or anything your users would socialize around.

2. Keep it fresh and relevant. There’s nothing worse than searching for content and finding a discussion forum from 2007. Ensure your community search tools rank results by relevance and allow for filtering and sorting based on ratings and more. Use community groups or niche user forums to ensure the collaboration is relevant for the specific niche audience.

3. Engage your audience. We’ve all heard the term, “If you build it, they will come.” That is not true of social networking. Until you’ve reached critical mass (and even if you do), you must continue to engage your users with purposeful and appropriate communications. Email is still broadly used for community notifications. Get the right default settings in your community so users are notified when content appropriate to them is ready for collaboration.

4. Recruit and monetize. You can recruit new members by making your collaborative community open to the external world. One way to do so is to show an executive summary of the content to all, but retain a level of privacy and security around your users and discussions. You can then make it easy for your public content to be shared and “liked” on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while still retaining the exclusivity of certain types of content. This will drive awareness and recruitment.

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