Social’s prime function: Retention

Buddy Media’s Lazerow discusses how brands use social media effectively to engage high-value customers

Q: What is Buddy Media’s business model, in a nutshell?

A: We help companies market better on Facebook and Twitter and the open social Web. In a world where a brand’s Web site is less important every year, marketers need to build up a presence across all social sites. We have a software-as-a-service platform that helps that.

Q: How important is it for brands to look at social media globally?

A: Networks like Facebook have taken off globally, so brands have to figure out how to manage their presence on that scale.

Q: How has social media evolved in the past year?

A: The large social portals, like Facebook and MySpace, had 30 million to 40 million users each just a few years ago. Now, they’ve evolved into massive destinations bigger than Google. There was more traffic to Facebook than to Google in February — and the larger it gets, the faster it grows. Because of the time consumers spend on social networks, we have to move beyond thinking just about what we do with our Web sites to how consumers experience our brand across the Web.

Q: How do you define social media success?

A: We look at it from an engagement standpoint – it’s less about total reach or impressions and more about how people interact and engage with you. The best entertainment clients, like Twilight, have more than 5 million fans and are getting tens of thousands of likes and comments a day. Others have massive reach, but no one is commenting or sharing content. You really need to have both reach and engagement to be successful.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in social today?

A: Shoving marketing messages down people’s throat doesn’t make much sense, so you have to jump in and accept the good with the bad. Things may blow up, as they did with Southwest and Nestle recently, but the two-way communication channel you can build up far outweighs [the potential for negative consequences]. Social is not just a marketing channel – it’s PR, product development, customer service and even HR.

Q: Is social media best used to retain or acquire customers?

A: The companies that harness social best look at it as part of a loyalty program. They use social to manage and build better relationships with their most profitable customers. When you have 1 million people connected to your page, it becomes your own private network that you can program any way you want. You can, as a brand, bypass traditional media companies and activate those people for free.

Q: What’s the future of the channel?

A: We’re looking at the location space. FourSquare is the next emerging channel even though there’s not a lot of scale yet. When that goes from sub-million to several million users, it will become important, with real-time location-based and geo-tagged content and relationships.

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