Social media: the new engagement frontier
Marketers were bombarded with new technologies in 2009, not least of which was the Twitter phenomenon which allows consumers to take greater control of brand images whether the marketer wants them to or not, according to Tim Norman, sales director for SDL Tridion.
Twitter exploded into global consciousness in 2009, with many so-called 'Tweets' achieving national press coverage, and the service even being used to track and break news stories in real time. As a result, marketers have been keen to get in on the act and use not only Twitter but other Web 2.0 tools such as Facebook to drive web-based traffic and engage customers with greater convenience and relevance.
But social media engagement with consumers isn't as easy as signing up with those web sites and waiting for an increase in customers. Instead, strategies must be carefully planned as for other marketing technique. Sadly, several companies and brands have already come under fire for poorly planned and executed social media campaigns.
Social media has meant that consumers can make their voices heard, and share information faster than ever before, which can be a double-edged sword for businesses. However, it can also be a good way to engage consumers, offering a potential new method of both attracting and retaining customers.
Many brands now have a presence on social networking sites, and they actively use these sites to enter into a dialogue with consumers. Customer service and support are also sometimes offered through these sites.
Naturally, marketers who are pioneering social media techniques have faced a challenge in getting the interaction balance right, and the industry is still climbing a steep learning curve. But consumers have also shown that they are keen for web sites to be personalised based on their own needs and interests, and that they want more relevant content and offers to be either emailed to them or displayed in real-time as they browse a web site.
A recent SDL Tridion survey of 1,000 British consumers found that 66% expected to view content that was specific to their browsing habits when visiting and re-visiting commercial web sites. Furthermore, 74% said they value (more than any other feature) loyalty programmes and discounts based on their online shopping habits.
With the focus turning to personalised content and relevance, marketers must therefore keep in mind five basic steps to ensure that their content remains personal:
- Know your audience;
- Profile your visitors;
- Target your content;
- Close the loop;
- Use an implementation checklist.
Marketing departments, like most other business units, have been under increasing pressure to provide more proof of ROI and more measurable outcomes than ever before, and the shift to an online presence has made these goals easier to some extent, as 'click throughs' and 'time spent on site' are both easily measured in comparison to offline adverts and other traditional channels.
However, there has also been a sharper focus on the tools and resources at the marketer's disposal, despite there being little or no budget for new supporting technologies. At the same time, the tools for monitoring these tools are wide and varied, making it difficult to integrate them to gather an overall picture for integrated marketing campaigns.
The key marketing investment trends for 2010 include:
- Improvements in personalisation In 2010, the focus is expected to remain on the consumer, and in particular on improving personalisation - but on a larger scale than before. There will also be an increase in the budget for new technology, particularly as those companies that did not invest or update their technologies during the past year or two will need to catch up with online consumers and their expectations. Indeed, although budgets may have remained frozen in 2009, customer expectations certainly did not.
- Still attracting and retaining customers Another key focus in 2010 will be attracting and retaining customers. Businesses are looking for 'the next big thing' in terms of online presence, and the market leaders will be the companies at the forefront of innovation, providing new and interesting offerings through increasingly sophisticated web sites. This will help them to attract, engage and convert web site browsers into customers, and ensure repeat web site visits. Dynamic content (i.e. content created in real time, specifically for the web site visitor) will be essential, encouraging consumers to spend more time with the brand's web site, which in turn will lead to increased ROI as well as KPIs (key performance indicators) being met or even exceeded.
- Investing on online brand image Businesses will also be more conscious of their online image, and will need to make sure that their web sites match the brand's offline brand quality and image. With the recession seemingly entering its final stages, companies will be aiming to increase investment, which will make implementing and safeguarding online continuity easier than before. Marketers will invest in technology to enable campaign planning and management to be integrated with email communications and web sites. These single online marketing platforms can help to ensure that campaigns are more efficient and easier to manage.
- Investing in 'the market of one' 2010 will see businesses recovering from the recession and looking to invest in the online future of their brand. Marketers will be focused on 'the market of one', ensuring that content is targeted for maximum return and effect, and placing individual consumers at the centre of marketing strategies. However, marketers will need to be prepared for the fast-moving online environment and, where possible, stay one step ahead of the competition.