How to Do Social Media Marketing Right

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Find out how to best launch your campaign with these industry examples and supporting research.

“How can I leverage social networks to generate value for my brand?”

This was the number one pressing question at the top of marketers’ minds on Tuesday during the Online Marketing Summit in Atlanta, one in a series of regional events designed to share interactive marketing best practices.

It’s a question I’m prepared to answer with specific advice. Along with Joe Marchese, CEO of Archetype Media, I presented the keynote session entitled, “Integrating Your Brand into Social Media.”

The session was intended to help marketers understand how to evaluate opportunities in social media and solidify cost-effective partnerships, ensure their brand is not tarnished, avoid tactics that kill a social media campaign, and measure success.

Even though social media has been a hot topic for at least a year now, many executives don’t truly understand what it means. So we started the session by defining social media as the digital representation or enhancement of real-world social interactions. It includes all media that facilitates participation and dialog in order to connect people. What makes it unique is that people create it and consume it; they are participants, not passive recipients. Sites classified as social media can include the following functions: networking, community, fan/passionate interest, photo sharing, artwork gallery, mobile networking, review and more.

Social media is not the same as user-generated content or broadcast media over the internet. For example, YouTube and Vimeo are primarily user-generated video platforms whereas Meetup and Dogster are social media communities.

Why is this type of media vital for advertisers to understand and tap into? For many reasons, such as the fact that some of these sites are currently the fastest growing destinations on the web, the percentage of time web users spend on these sites versus company-generated sites is exploding (see eMarketer graph below for details), and as youth continue to rely on interactive communication via community sites they are influencing older generations to join in social media communities as well.

Benefits of tapping social media
Advertisers know they must follow these eyeballs, especially as they see the ineffectiveness of traditional advertising and new ways to use interactive platforms to brand and sell through.

Many advertisers who have incorporated their brands within social media have seen huge benefits. These include immense branding potential (making your brand an intimate part of the conversation), the ability to target your consumer by way of choosing a particular publisher, keeping your brand current/cool/relevant by association, learning from consumer feedback in real time (it comes straight from consumers’ own mouths, and they see it as entertainment), and the ability to measure the strength and quantity of these conversations.

Of the U.S. marketers that JupiterResearch polled, 38 percent in 2006 said they were planning to use social network marketing tactics in the next year, as opposed to 48 percent in 2007.

It’s obvious that marketers want to play a part in social media, but how exactly to do it is where they get confused. Many marketing executives have said to me, “Rebecca, I keep hearing about social media and user-generated content, but I’m not sure what to do about it with my brand,” and “How do I empower my consumer to evangelize my brand while I protect it in this risky environment?”

The AAF’s “Survey of Digital Media Trends” in June 2006 found that 67 percent of the marketers polled are concerned about the ability to control their brand or product image. Sure, the majority of these environments aren’t strictly edited for quality control, but remember that no opportunity is ever going to be perfect, so assess your risk versus reward. The tendency of advertisers to overestimate harm has many missing opportunities that provide significant results.

Social networks can eliminate this content safety concern for advertisers. My company’s site, DivineCaroline.com, for example has a unique submission process in which every user-submitted story is reviewed by the company’s editorial team (only inappropriate content and misspellings are edited) and then published within a day or two. And the women who contribute the stories are happy because their stories are now visible on a sophisticated platform that makes them look like a professional author.How can I leverage social networks to generate value for my brand?”

This was the number one pressing question at the top of marketers’ minds on Tuesday during the Online Marketing Summit in Atlanta, one in a series of regional events designed to share interactive marketing best practices.

It’s a question I’m prepared to answer with specific advice. Along with Joe Marchese, CEO of Archetype Media, I presented the keynote session entitled, “Integrating Your Brand into Social Media.”

The session was intended to help marketers understand how to evaluate opportunities in social media and solidify cost-effective partnerships, ensure their brand is not tarnished, avoid tactics that kill a social media campaign, and measure success.

Even though social media has been a hot topic for at least a year now, many executives don’t truly understand what it means. So we started the session by defining social media as the digital representation or enhancement of real-world social interactions. It includes all media that facilitates participation and dialog in order to connect people. What makes it unique is that people create it and consume it; they are participants, not passive recipients. Sites classified as social media can include the following functions: networking, community, fan/passionate interest, photo sharing, artwork gallery, mobile networking, review and more.

Social media is not the same as user-generated content or broadcast media over the internet. For example, YouTube and Vimeo are primarily user-generated video platforms whereas Meetup and Dogster are social media communities.

Why is this type of media vital for advertisers to understand and tap into? For many reasons, such as the fact that some of these sites are currently the fastest growing destinations on the web, the percentage of time web users spend on these sites versus company-generated sites is exploding (see eMarketer graph below for details), and as youth continue to rely on interactive communication via community sites they are influencing older generations to join in social media communities as well.

Benefits of tapping social media
Advertisers know they must follow these eyeballs, especially as they see the ineffectiveness of traditional advertising and new ways to use interactive platforms to brand and sell through.

Many advertisers who have incorporated their brands within social media have seen huge benefits. These include immense branding potential (making your brand an intimate part of the conversation), the ability to target your consumer by way of choosing a particular publisher, keeping your brand current/cool/relevant by association, learning from consumer feedback in real time (it comes straight from consumers’ own mouths, and they see it as entertainment), and the ability to measure the strength and quantity of these conversations.

Of the U.S. marketers that JupiterResearch polled, 38 percent in 2006 said they were planning to use social network marketing tactics in the next year, as opposed to 48 percent in 2007.

It’s obvious that marketers want to play a part in social media, but how exactly to do it is where they get confused. Many marketing executives have said to me, “Rebecca, I keep hearing about social media and user-generated content, but I’m not sure what to do about it with my brand,” and “How do I empower my consumer to evangelize my brand while I protect it in this risky environment?”

The AAF’s “Survey of Digital Media Trends” in June 2006 found that 67 percent of the marketers polled are concerned about the ability to control their brand or product image. Sure, the majority of these environments aren’t strictly edited for quality control, but remember that no opportunity is ever going to be perfect, so assess your risk versus reward. The tendency of advertisers to overestimate harm has many missing opportunities that provide significant results.

Social networks can eliminate this content safety concern for advertisers. My company’s site, DivineCaroline.com, for example has a unique submission process in which every user-submitted story is reviewed by the company’s editorial team (only inappropriate content and misspellings are edited) and then published within a day or two. And the women who contribute the stories are happy because their stories are now visible on a sophisticated platform that makes them look like a professional author.

Preparation and community immersion
Marketers know that they cannot simply place a banner ad on Facebook and expect tremendous sales results. Emily Steel, journalist at the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote, “Pity the poor banner ad. Cutting-edge just a few years ago, this pioneer of web advertising is now scorned as hopelessly out-of-date, a neglected stepchild in an era of web video, widgets, mash-ups and social networking.”

If standard media buying is not the most effective method for leveraging social media, how can you prepare and find a way to engage users?

“You must do your homework and understand the specific community’s message is just as important as communicating your brand’s message,” Marchese explained. “Find the overlap between your brand’s message and the social media you wish to advertise within.”

“Creators and loyalists of social media are driven by personal expression and interpersonal communication,” I added. “So you have to respect this at the very least and then determine a way to enhance their actions.”

Across markets, social networking users consistently expressed their desire for brands and organizations to treat them less like customers, and more like friends.

Before you spend a great deal on one campaign idea, first test messaging and the strategy within the community, then prepare multiple messages for distribution.

We then walked through several important tactics advertisers should use: experiment with letting go of the message, don’t try to create a new message (instead, borrow or match the message of the medium), and remember the buzz worthy theme of 2007: widgets, widgets, widgets. For instance, Nike’s “Team Elite” branding widget has been popular on MySpace.

“Since social media is participatory by nature, the advertising should be also,” I said. “Focus on creating message ‘pull’ through story-telling, versus pushing your product or service onto consumers.”

Examples of social media campaigns that “pulled” in users to participate include Yoplait’s banner ad invitation for women to share their healthy lifestyle goals, last year’s call for secrets to spark buzz about “The Number 23” film, Hilton Hotels/Homewood Suites’ call for vacation photos on DivineCaroline.com, and AT&T’s “My Video Battle” contest on hi5.com.

Measuring results
How can you determine if your campaign was successful or not? Measuring the results of a social media campaign must be aligned according to your initial goal (not just traffic or the number of “friends” added, for example). It is fair to compare the results to alternative branding methods.

A report and study commissioned by MySpace, Isobar and Carat questioned, “What if the measurement model of value isn’t just a message sent from a business to a consumer (B2C) where the impact ends with the consumer who receives it? What if the initial communication is B2C and then the message takes on a life of its own as consumers use it, forward it and share it C2C (consumer to consumer)?”

The report claims that social media marketing is distinguished from traditional marketing because the B2C marketing is only part of the impact; there’s also C2C impact. This value is created by two paths: consumers visiting the brand’s custom community and consumers who don’t visit the custom community, but hear about the brand through their social network.

It’s time someone created an effective metric that measures the strength of this viral marketing exposure through social communities, instead of making marketers rely on metrics based on ads served.

What else is next in social media?

Expect to see leading-edge and influential consumers watching TV within social networks, visiting more outbound links, and finding new ways to express their own personal “brand.”

Preparation and community immersion
Marketers know that they cannot simply place a banner ad on Facebook and expect tremendous sales results. Emily Steel, journalist at the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote, “Pity the poor banner ad. Cutting-edge just a few years ago, this pioneer of web advertising is now scorned as hopelessly out-of-date, a neglected stepchild in an era of web video, widgets, mash-ups and social networking.”

If standard media buying is not the most effective method for leveraging social media, how can you prepare and find a way to engage users?

“You must do your homework and understand the specific community’s message is just as important as communicating your brand’s message,” Marchese explained. “Find the overlap between your brand’s message and the social media you wish to advertise within.”

“Creators and loyalists of social media are driven by personal expression and interpersonal communication,” I added. “So you have to respect this at the very least and then determine a way to enhance their actions.”

Across markets, social networking users consistently expressed their desire for brands and organizations to treat them less like customers, and more like friends.

Before you spend a great deal on one campaign idea, first test messaging and the strategy within the community, then prepare multiple messages for distribution.

We then walked through several important tactics advertisers should use: experiment with letting go of the message, don’t try to create a new message (instead, borrow or match the message of the medium), and remember the buzz worthy theme of 2007: widgets, widgets, widgets. For instance, Nike’s “Team Elite” branding widget has been popular on MySpace.

“Since social media is participatory by nature, the advertising should be also,” I said. “Focus on creating message ‘pull’ through story-telling, versus pushing your product or service onto consumers.”

Examples of social media campaigns that “pulled” in users to participate include Yoplait’s banner ad invitation for women to share their healthy lifestyle goals, last year’s call for secrets to spark buzz about “The Number 23” film, Hilton Hotels/Homewood Suites’ call for vacation photos on DivineCaroline.com, and AT&T’s “My Video Battle” contest on hi5.com.

Measuring results
How can you determine if your campaign was successful or not? Measuring the results of a social media campaign must be aligned according to your initial goal (not just traffic or the number of “friends” added, for example). It is fair to compare the results to alternative branding methods.

A report and study commissioned by MySpace, Isobar and Carat questioned, “What if the measurement model of value isn’t just a message sent from a business to a consumer (B2C) where the impact ends with the consumer who receives it? What if the initial communication is B2C and then the message takes on a life of its own as consumers use it, forward it and share it C2C (consumer to consumer)?”

The report claims that social media marketing is distinguished from traditional marketing because the B2C marketing is only part of the impact; there’s also C2C impact. This value is created by two paths: consumers visiting the brand’s custom community and consumers who don’t visit the custom community, but hear about the brand through their social network.

It’s time someone created an effective metric that measures the strength of this viral marketing exposure through social communities, instead of making marketers rely on metrics based on ads served.

What else is next in social media?

Expect to see leading-edge and influential consumers watching TV within social networks, visiting more outbound links, and finding new ways to express their own personal “brand.”

by Rebecca Weeks

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One Response to “How to Do Social Media Marketing Right”

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