Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When Integrating Social Media and Direct Marketing; Part One - Think Strategically

Before posting your first tweet, writing your first blog post, or attracting your first fan, you need a strategic plan.

The path to social-media success is filled with potholes that cost you time and relationships, or both! As such a clear definition of your plan, documenting the process and details, and then revising it as needed is the difference between profitable social-media engagement and being just another corporate presence.

Social media strategy starts with community
Your strategy starts with a vision of your community: 
  • How do your customers interact with your team and one another?
  • Is the community social or commercial focussed?
  • What are the benefits and the challenges? 
  • What do your customers want? 
  • What moves them to action? 
  • Is the community telio or communoludic?
In general if it works with direct marketing, it will work with social media. But that isn't an excuse to start posting one promotion after another. Social media requires more thought, planning and resources to achieve the best effectivenes. To begin integrationyou must document a vision of the community that becomes a touchstone for it, just as a mission or vision statement should serve for a company. 

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it

One of the biggest challenges with social media is capturing reliable metrics, indeed this is a challenge in all marketing. Various sources provide analytics and on the face of it it would seem logical that the number of visitors would be the same regardless of the analytics source. 

In reality the numbers don't match; indeed most of the time, they're not even close. So before you start, establish benchmarks for everything;
  • How many orders do you receive from unknown sources? 
  • What does it cost to process an order? 
  • What is your customer lifetime value? 
  • How many hit-and-run customers (customers who place just one or two orders before disappearing) are you attracting? 
  • What is your average order? 
  • What is your response rate? 
  • How many customer-care calls do you receive?

This still applies if you've already started a social-media programme, you still need to benchmark. Why? Becuse it will allow you to see cause and effect as you test different campaigns, it will establish basis of cross-elasticity in elements of the marketing mix and particularly the cross-elasticity of demand in terms of various media. 

Social media is a long-term relationship builder, not a short-term cash generator. If you don't have benchmarks establishing a baseline, your ability to measure anything is significantly decreased. 

Define Goals and set objectives
The next step is to define your goal and objectives. They need to be realistic and specific, and they need to fit your stage of development. There are plenty of sites out there dealing with goal and objective setting so I'll leave up to you to google the details. 

When you are first starting in social media, it is rare to receive much participation. You need to recognise that like any pipeline, you need to prime it and your timeline needs to allow for that development of your community. In this Social media is much like direct marketing. It is a back-end business where you have to build your customer base before you can reap the rewards.

It's faster and easier if your company is a large brand or you integrate your other channels and systems with your new network. Then, it takes less time to see some results, but it still requires a long-term commitment.

I'll follow this up soon with the second part 

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