Seven best practices of social media marketing
The explosion of Web 2.0 has undoubtedly transformed social CRM strategies, according to Simon Robinson, senior marketing and alliances director for Responsys, who offers seven best practices for social media marketing in a fast-paced world of increasingly connected consumers.
Today's digital natives have 24/7 access to videos, blogs, RSS feeds and wikis giving rise to a new generation of tech savvy customers with a strong online presence. It has also dramatically altered the way that brands and consumers exchange information. Now customers have the power to buy or return goods on an m-commerce site, lodge complaints over email, receive a response through a forum or find the latest information about their favourite brands on a social network site. In addition, this is done over a whole host of web-enabled devices including PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablet devices.
The growing popularity of social media has created a new channel of engagement that many marketers are still failing to take advantage of. Recent research by Responsys reveals that under half (46%) of the top 50 online retailers currently include a social media component in emails. This is surprising since social networks are where a brand's most loyal fans are, providing an ideal opportunity for businesses to engage customers in real-time.
Today, it is virtually impossible for marketers to escape the emphasis being placed on cross-channel campaigns that incorporate all of the key interactive power channels - email, mobile, web, social and display. As a result, now is the time for marketing teams to re-evaluate how they can integrate social media into their marketing campaigns to drive engagement and increase sales conversions, using these basic best practices as a guide:
- Gain permission Permission forms the basis of all online relationships, and marketers need to ensure that customers have opted-in to receive brand communication before targeting them. Essentially, permission is easy to achieve across social media websites. By simply following a company, or tweeting a piece of news relating to a brand, customers are effectively giving marketers permission to contact them directly and engage them in conversation on an ongoing basis.
- Establish customer preferences Once permission has been received, marketers can start monitoring a customer's behaviour to establish preferences. By examining the content that customers engage with, the type of information that customers respond best to and the social media channels that customers are using, retailers can build accurate customer profiles to shape future campaigns and communications.
- Tap into the data Ultimately, successful social marketing relies on the efficient and effective use of data. Disparate elements of a company need to work together and share information for brands to create truly personalised, relevant and dynamic campaigns that will be successful. Tools such as web analytics, ratings, reviews and recommendation engines can all be used to help collect customers' behavioural data. This can then be aggregated and analysed to generate accurate customer profiles that connect customer behaviour with successful marketing efforts.
Data from different sources, including web browsing, social networks and purchasing history also needs to be collated to gain a single view of the customer. Combining this information across all channels helps provide a more accurate portrayal of the customer and creates a more holistic marketing process connecting all the different channels for higher-impact marketing.
- Develop a personalised approach By obtaining a single view of the customer, brands can target customers with personalised messages in response to individual customer's behaviours. In addition, customers now know that companies are constantly collecting data about when they are online, what they click on, what they buy and what they don't buy. They expect marketers to use that data to make messages more relevant. The information that these social platforms can offer on customers including the content they are engaging with and the contacts that they are sharing information with, is invaluable insight that marketing campaigns need to succeed.
- Communicate in real-time By engaging with customers in real-time, brands can provide highly relevant and personalised content to customers across the right channel, at the right moment in time. Marketers can also analyse the sentiment of posted tweets, and monitor hash-tags or links that drive traffic back to the brand's site. However, instead of just posting information from their feeds, brands should respond to customer requests and questions in order to help develop relationships with those engaging with the brand. This will increase brand engagement, boost a company's social media following and drive traffic to other key channels including web, email and mobile.
- Employ a cross-channel approach So that brands can use social media websites effectively and turn them into high-impact channels of engagement, sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, should form part of an existing multi-channel marketing approach. By integrating the data from these sites, marketers can engage customers in a meaningful dialogue.
- Use email to drive social behaviour Today's consumers live in a networked economy and want information wherever they are, whatever the time, whenever they like. By incorporating features such as 'join our network' or 'share with your network' into emails, customers can constantly connect with their favourite brands across whatever channel they choose. To illustrate this, consider Barratts, which broadened its conversations with customers by integrating social networking and mobile channels into its email campaigns. Adding the 'share with your network' capability and 'follow us on Twitter' functionality into email has helped to drive increased traffic to its online brands and social following, providing more opportunities for cross-channel engagement and targeting.
The most successful brands over the next few critical years will be those that truly embrace social media and use it as part of a holistic marketing approach that incorporates today's power channels - email, mobile, the web and display. This will enable brands to participate, talk and guide customers in an engaging and conversational manner across every touch point, digital or traditional. Smart brands recognise that social media offers an opportunity to deliver personalised communications in real-time, and use it to power relevant and targeted dialogues with customers that increase brand advocacy and improve sales conversions.
There is no denying the impact that social media tools have on the way that we communicate online, so key to developing lasting online relations with customers is having a social voice. At a time when social media is a buzz word, to remain competitive it is imperative that marketers can provide customers with dynamic content across social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Only then can brands develop successful socially enabled campaigns to spread messages, encourage dialogue, alter perceptions and share information - and all in real-time.