We live in uncertain times. Volatility in the market place caused by inflation, the mortgage crisis, and rising fuel prices have placed considerable downward pressure upon the average consumer. These factors have a direct impact on the bottom line of most businesses, and play a significant role in how marketers allocate their budgets. Now more than ever sales and marketing strategies must achieve the greatest reach and return on investment possible.
Print buys and traditional media spends require considerable investment and frequency to produce results. Not only are they expensive, but they typically limit engagement to direct pitches as opposed to two-way dialogues with customers. While metrics such as circulation, GRPs, and Nielsen ratings are good, they are hardly exact. Coupons, barcodes, and phone numbers can be put in place to track return on investment, but what if the amount of people that are actually seeing and using them is going down?
Everywhere you look these days you read headlines like:
Major brands are shifting their marketing and advertising dollars to the web because, why?
- The Web is THE source for information and interaction.
- It represents the largest consolidation of customers with expendable income.
- You can reach customers at the point of making a purchasing decision.
- The online shopping experience is more valuable because of product comparisons, ratings, and feedback.
- You can engage your customer on a personal level and have meaningful dialogue that forms a positive relationship.
- The scale and extensibility of the Web, and web applications, is practically boundless.
- You can target campaigns based on niches, social networks, groups, keywords, customer type, and geography.
- Creative and messaging can be dynamic, interactive, and actionable.
- Companies are not bound by 3rd-party deadlines and campaigns can be launched quickly and cost-effectively.
- It is easy to append, shift, and replace an online marketing campaign at any point in the cycle.
- The shelf life of a web page, blog post, video, or campaign is potentially limitless.
- And most important of all, you can Track, Measure, and Analyze everything.
Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research recently stated, “In the last recession, online spending cratered along with the rest of the advertising industry. But since interactive marketing programs are now fueled by measurable results, not dot-com madness, we believe that they can thrive in a recession.” Bernoff added, “Social applications in particular, such as communities and social networking sites, are cost-effective and have a measurable impact on prospects’ decisions in the consideration stage, which will be important to companies under recessionary pressures.”
Enter Social Media Marketing:
Businesses are increasingly realizing they can start a business blog, build out a YouTube channel, and join a few social networks for a fraction of the cost for a TV ad; and there is an audience. Joe Mandese, editor of MediaPost recently cited a study stating, “for adults 18-34 – social media now is the dominant form of personal communication media, with 85% of this influential demographic group relying on one or more Web 2.0 platforms to stay in touch with others.”
I guess you can call it Viral Marketing…if you want.
What has long been described as viral or buzz marketing is really the practice of getting customers to take action on a particular message by consuming it and passing it on. Because of the extensive reach of the web, a successful campaign can achieve tremendous success for your brand. But how does that relate to ROI? How much does a friend cost or a video view worth? The answer is, it depends. It depends on what you do with the relationship. Did you capture an email address from a sign up form? Did you overlay a link in your video that directed people to shopping cart for a particular product? Did it inspire enough motivation for someone to come down and test drive the latest model of car? Social marketing must consider all of these aspects and then some.
Some Words of Caution:
There is a right way and a wrong way to delve into the practice of social media marketing. If you do not have a clear strategy combined with a creative delivery your campaign will fail. People will not immediately eschew a social campaign because it is a business, but they will have higher expectations and be hyper critical. A few things to consider about a social marketing campaign:
- It must be clever, and it should resonate on a psychographic scale.
- It should be architected to persuade customers down a certain path but never force them.
- It should deliver on its promise.
As the Social Graph demonstrates, not only are you going where your customers already are, but you are giving them the means and the reasons to come back to interact with you. Done right, not only will it raise brand awareness, but it will also boost revenues by increasing direct and indirect web traffic.
Move Forward or Fall Back.
In an uncertain economic climate it is typical for many businesses to batten down the hatches and wait out the storm. They become conservative and unwilling to experiment. They worry that any marketing efforts will simply fall on deaf ears. These are legitimate concerns. Fortunately, the evolution of web applications, and our ability to get a message out quickly, cost-effectively, and with the right measurement tools in place means you don’t have to bind your hands with complacency. You can proactively get your message out and build your web base. Test, Tweak, Rinse and Repeat. Find the people that are searching for what you have to offer.