Walk the Line

Young Woman Jogging Across StreetI recently read a blog post from Dave Fleet that really put words to something that I had been pondering for a bit. The piece was entitled Are you creating social media scorched earth? It focused on companies that burn bridges with customers with one-off social media accounts.

There is no question that social media is the hotness for the 2010-2011 fiscal years for companies. Communications and customer service folks have been utilizing tools and building communities and brand awareness while driving revenue as a secondary benefit. The dollars brought in from people who are generally not seen as revenue drivers has given marketers a set of green blinders. You know the ones, where money clouds one’s thoughts, especially when the entry point into a medium is virtually free and is a direct outlet to customers.

Common Misconceptions

When many marketers look at social media platforms, they are immediately drawn towards the audience of the site. Facebook for example, has over 500 million users on the site. These users can be targeted with pay per click ads and if a person becomes a fan you can directly market to them without fear of the CAN-SPAM act.

As Fleet mentions in his article many companies are also making one time use accounts for specific campaigns. The thought process is that fan page for product X can be tested against product Z as to who generated more fans or followers. The sheer focus of these campaigns is acquisition and does not factor in the long-term connection with these people or other areas of the customer lifecycle.

How do we fix this?

In general social media is a lot like public relations and customer service – a support for the business channel. Much like the previously mentioned established mediums, social media touches every nook and cranny of the business.

So with that in mind, companies should aim to build a lasting impact and relationship with customers using social media. Instead of looking at the shot-term wins, the focus should be on building lifetime value and keeping customers in the company’s loop.

Doing so takes everyone’s help starting with the initial transaction or contact with the company. After the sale, offer customers ways to keep in touch with the company that they are comfortable with – email, blog, text, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.  From there it is about keeping lines of communication open and pumping out great content.

Sounds easy right?

Like all forms of communication, social media requires a two-way conversation to be sustainable and mutually beneficial for customers and brands. This is a shift away from the old guard of positioning offers through tried and true marketing efforts and passing news via press release, which was the classics one-way street. Brands should not abandon these methods, but will need to evolve and create a more holistic customer cycle to thrive in the social Web that we currently live and play in.

Instead of treating customers like an anonymous mass that are bulk marketed to, companies need to look at customers in a different light and segment them by their preferred platform.

For example, CoTweet recently put out a research report, Twitter X-Factors, which showed some pretty interesting numbers when comparing regular Twitters users to all other consumers. Seventy-two percent of Twitter users blog compared to 14 percent of the rest of consumers and 61 percent of these users comment on blogs forty points higher than the rest of consumers.

Given the audience’s pension to blog and to rate and review companies and products, this is a perfect group to pool for product reviews or a refer-a-friend or loyalty program. On the flip side, if you anger this group be ready to hear about it in your Google Alerts.

Tapping into these active users on your social accounts also builds a personal connection with the brand along with offering your company real-time insight into customer behavior, likes, dislikes and potential customer issues. The only commitment is committing time to building the bridges.

But then again you can stay the status quo with a bridge to nowhere.

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  • Elise Lopez

    Hi Jeff,

    I think you’re right- we’ll anger the communities we’re trying to reach out to if we just give them canned spam. We really have to hunker down and become part of the relevant virtual communities to leverage their market research and customer potential.

    It takes some time to really gain the trust of a community, but the payoff is huge. Better to have 80% impact on 5% than visa versa. Plus, once you gain the trust of the community and its influencers, your message is going to get passed along through a viral effect.

  • Matthew Fast

    This post reminds me of the pre-internet days when we viewed press releases and newsletters as a tool to standardize our messages in the mind space of both employees and external stakeholders. That was it. Anything more, and you’re playing with fire.

    We sought, and developed, opportunities to engage with community opinion leaders in two-way conversations. Obviously, this was done not only to gauge reaction, but also to obtain valuable feedback on what actions could be taken to improve our overall value.

    Social media hasn’t changed the dynamic of sociological behavior (it is, after all, called “social” media). Most people are content to passively engage by keeping up with the latest hot topic or trends. It’s the opinion leaders – for better or worse – who must be actively courted and engaged.

    Matthew T. Fast