I’ve been busy over the last few days attending sessions of DC’s Digital Capital Week — you can follow the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #dcweek. Today, I want to share a perspective gleaned from those sessions regarding social marketing versus social engagement.
DC Digital Capital Week
DC’s Digital Capital is an annual event and takes place at venues around the city. Most of the sessions are FREE. This month’s edition of Sweets and Tweets was on the agenda and included a panel discussion with the women named among the most influential in technology along with cupcakes and wine (an interesting combination, but not one I’d recommend). The panel discussion was great, but I thought a lot of the panelists would have rather talked about the technologies that led to them being identified as tech leaders, rather than a feminist discussion of women in technology. And, I say this as a pioneering woman entering the technical side of marketing several decades ago, we should focus on supporting and bringing in more women, not on feminist agendas.
The focus of Digital Week is on technology, whether that involves coding or using technology in any aspect of business. For instance, beacons and AI (artificial intelligence) offer great opportunities to support business profits. Digital Week offers lots of great presenters and good conversations between speakers and participants as well as networking among attendees.
The sessions on social media I attended on Wednesday were superb. As part of the Government 2.0 sessions, Ogilvy (360° Digital Influence) hosted one-on one-consulting for registered non-profits. Session panels also featured non-profits, like the Humane Society, AARP, and others demonstrating how to use social marketing to promote your non-profit (or even your for-profit) business.
One of the most important take-home messages for me was that social media (social networking) is changing rapidly and that firms need to constantly update not only the content they post on their social media sites, but their social media strategies. Thus, in addition to listening to your audience and what they’re saying about your product, you have to listen to what social media leaders are saying about what they’re doing and what is working in social media today.
For instance, trends are moving away from some social networks and toward other social networks — as an example the movement from Myspace to Facebook and, more recently, toward new platforms like TikTok. Trends may also involve new measurement tools to monitor your social communication strategy and offer insights for improving performance.
Probably the BIGGEST trend in social media is a recognition that social is not so much marketing as it is engagement with a social audience.
What do I mean by that?
Well, social marketing misses the boat in that it focuses too much on the promotional aspects of communication and not the engagement aspect. Now, that might sound funny coming from a marketing professor, but it’s because practitioners often misunderstand what marketing is and think it is only advertising and promotion, which are both one-way strategies. It is this narrow definition of marketing that most are using in their social networks and it is this type of marketing that has NO place in social networks.
However, marketing is really so much more than just advertising and promotion. It involves marketing research — knowing your target market, what they think, where they go (online), what’s important to them, how they prefer to communicate with each other … It involves engaging the target audience. Marketing also involves pricing, distribution, and product marketing, as well.
What does this mean for social marketing versus social engagement?
It means changing your strategy and metrics to prioritize social engagement over simply building large following on social platforms. By engaging users, you not only amplify your message when users share, comment. ReTweet, and like your post, thus showing them to the users’ connections, but engaged users purchase more product, trust your brand, and remain loyal to your brand over the long run.
Thus you must drive engagement with your social media strategy, not building big follower counts, something we call vanity metrics since they have almost no impact on market performance.
Help users solve problems
Face it, no one cares about your company and its products but you.
So don’t tell them about how wonderful your products and prices are — that’s traditional advertising and promotion. Show them how your products solve their problems and why your product solves their problem better than competitors’ product. After all, consumers buy solutions, not product.
If you have a product that’s complicated, share instructions, workarounds, and fixes so they get more out of usng your product. When you assume your product is used with other products, suggest novel solutions from these combinations, such as recipes. As a drug company, discuss other ways of managing their disease.
Or, better yet, let engaged users help others struggling with issues related to your brand. Such user-generated content is both more believable and offers suggestions in the vernacular of others.
Improving your social posts in terms of fun and entertainment, encourages engagement. You can make posts better by introducing interesting contests, short media pieces such as songs or movies, or games (look at how many hours people wasted the day Google turned its homepage into a video game).
Don’t overdo the sales in providing fun and entertainment. Remember, you’re providing a service, not MARKETING (using the old definition). Experts recommend an 80/20 split with 80% of your content focused on providing value, while only 20% is overtly promotional. Think about what your target audience finds interesting then create content around those topics.
Make conversation two-way
To truly engage your target market you must acknowledge their ownership of your brand in terms of attitudes and beliefs. This goes along with my recent blog posts on who owns your company’s brand. The answer is that your market controls your brand. So turn it over to them (and reap the rewards). For instance, I suggested a client who wanted a name change hold a contest and let their market both suggest a name and vote to decide on the final choice. This ensures the name resonates with your market and creates engagement that brings customers back time after time.
The rewards from this strategy are vast. First, it gives you permission to market to the market. Marketing is a tit for tat arrangement and you have to give before you can receive. Next, it encourages the market to spread the word about you so more people join your social networking sites. This expands your communication network to make every communication effort more successful.
However, avoid these DON’Ts
- Enforce registration to get the information
- Make visitors watch an ad to see your content
- Include too much promotion on your site or social networks
- Intrude on users’ conversations, just take part in them
Everything you need to know about social engagement comes from Emily Post: be nice, be polite, say please and thank you, act responsibly and in a trustworthy manner.
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