We’ve reached the halfway point of the year and I hope your first two quarters were extremely productive. We still have half the year to “Make It Happen,” so it might be worthwhile to take a look at the list of social marketing factors that follow. I list out market factors as opposed to trends because trends come and go. Market factors have a direct and lasting relationship on business success. Thus the “Social Market(ing) Factors” you should consider are as follows:
1) Consumer Behavior – not Technology Platforms – consumer behavior should drive all marketing decisions. Far too often, marketers telegraph a marketing strategy to a specific platform because that technology generates much buzz. Understand a) which platform your target audience uses and b) how they use them to shape your channel decisions. But start with a marketing strategy first. One that should include a plan for brand proliferation and word-of-mouth marketing.
2) The Voice of the Consumer is Stronger Than Ever – this and this alone is the key reason why businesses need a social marketing strategy and plan. Undeniable fact – people are likely to talk about your brand. Their voice is more powerful and influential than ever. Yes, social media causes you to lose control of your brand. But it is happening irrespective of your social marketing participation. Smart marketers recognize this and find a way to influence conversations about their brand.
3) Listening – is more important than ever. The fact that the consumer voice is so strong means you need to listen to them. Learn exactly what they are saying about your product/service, your competition, and the brand category overall. Listening will help you shape your offering to deliver greater value. It will open up opportunities to engage and build strong relationships with your target audience. (See “Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?”.)
4) Reinforcing the Brand in New OPEN Ways – what does your brand stand for? How do you reinforce it? Consider the power of content, engagement, and conversations. All of these are non-advertorial, open ways of building brand relationships. “Open” means not only having a two-way dialog, but also putting the brand in the hands of the target audience to capture both sharing and earned media.
5) Content and Publishing – brands need to think like publishers and produce compelling content. Content that is valued by your target market provokes them to share something about your brand. I am not talking about advertorial content, but rather something that is entertaining and/or informative. Appropriate content marketing yields “associated marketing.” This means your product/service is associated as a strong and leading brand within its industry category. Construct the stories and knowledge behind the brand as opposed to speaking directly about the brand.
6) Curation – Your content is not the only content used to reinforce your brand. Consider curating content that speaks to the interest of your audience and/or reinforces a position that is germane to brand position.
7) UGC – user generated content is potent for a number of reasons. First off, we already spoke about the importance of brand openness. Allowing users to generate brand content is part of this new openness. UGC is most trusted because the content comes from an objective source. Also, users are most likely to share their own content. Thus it is in your interest to have them produce videos, write stories, take pictures, etc. that incorporate your brand.
(On the Topics of Content and Publishing, Curation, and UGC see “4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy“.)
8) The Web Being Re-Organized Around People – just think about the Internet today versus 10 years ago. In the past, we would use the Internet almost solely to find information. Now we use it to find out what our friends, family, and colleagues are up to. We use it to communicate and engage with people more than ever. Marketers need to work to be part of this engagement and communication in a natural and authentic way.
9) Mobile – Yes, I know. We’ve been talking about mobile for the past 10 years over and over again. But mobile continues to increase in importance. Not only does it allow us to stay connected everywhere, all the time, but mobile provides a real-time consumer shopping guide at the fingertips of consumers. Shoppers actively seek information while they make purchase decisions.
10) Strong Growth in New Sharing Services – these new services are really apps, but they have one key distinction. They have a sharing component. Take services like Pinterest and Instagram where people share photos and pictures. Spotify and SoundCloud to share music. Look for more services to not only have functionality and utility, but sharing capabilities as well.
11) Fire Hose of Data – the fact that the world is going digital in a big way means an exuberant amount of data is produced. Structured and unstructured data. Valuable and superfluous data. We will continue to see growth and maturity for data support, analysis, and brand action tools in the years ahead. At the same time, marketers and marketing decisions need to be driven by empirical data to yield appropriate consumer insights. Those that take the time to examine appropriate data will have an easier time capturing loyal customers.
12) Metrics Aligned to Overall Business Objectives – I think we are finally going to see a move away from Facebook ‘Like’ being the metric for successful and business-related social marketing results. Social marketers need to identify parameters that can be measured AND relate to overall business KPIs (key performance indicators). (See “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like“.)
All your marketing efforts (social and other) need to be driven by customer insights. 75% of the factors listed above (the first nine items) are driven by consumer behaviors. Only 25% (the last three items) are industry or technology factors. As you build out your marketing strategy, that is the right ratio … 75% should be a function of your consumers and 25% should by a function of technology innovation. Put that all together and you have an approach that is appropriate to how consumers behave with and use technological innovations. It is not about chasing the shiny object, but rather following what shines for your target market.
Now you have half the year left to drive success. Go ahead …
Make It Happen!