Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why Should Your Company Care About Social Marketing?

LM Comment: A lot of marketers think launching a Facebook fan page equates to a social marketing strategy. This article provides a good sense of what social marketing really entails.

October 2, 2009: summarized from 1-to-1 Media -- For anyone who's grown up in the world of traditional marketing, some of the terms getting tossed around these days, like social media, social networks, and online community, can be extremely confusing. Even more abstract is a concept that integrates all of these terms—social marketing. Whatever happened to easy-to-understand concepts like newspaper ads, direct mail, email marketing, and search engine optimization? With these more traditional terms, all are discrete activities and their name tells us exactly what they mean.

As someone who's spent time in both marketing camps—traditional and online—I'm here to offer a little clarity. Let's start by explaining some of the terms mentioned above and why they are different before we drill down into social marketing:

Social Media: The facilitating of conversation around any type of content—expert or consumer generated—using social tools like blogs, ratings and reviews, videos, and life-streaming services like Twitter.

Social Networks: A collection of like-minded individuals focused more on "who you know" versus "what you know." Social networks like Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn are often heavy on user profiles with some light tool functionality mixed in. (This is quickly changing as public social networks realize that they need to do a better job getting their members to engage.)

Online Community: Most experts have come to define "community" as a place where social tools like those mentioned above in the definition of "social media" meet online profiles like those mentioned in the definition of "social networks." To that end, online communities combine the concept of "who you know" with "what you know" and often rally around lifestyle topics or areas of practice (e.g. search engine marketing).

Now to social marketing, which is a blend of the tools and techniques listed above. Building upon the three other definitions, social marketing is the ability to drive measurable and meaningful results by creating expert and consumer-generated content with managed online communities to help improve things like customer loyalty, engagement, and advocacy.

Hopefully those definitions provide a little clarity around the concepts of "social" and "online community." So the bigger questions are, "Why should you as a marketer care?", and "What could you expect if you were to add social marketing programs to your existing arsenal of tools and techniques?"

For one, the current economy is forcing us to get more done with less. This means less money for acquisition vehicles like email, direct mail, and online advertising. If your budget is shrinking, now is the perfect time to focus on customer retention, cross-sell, and ultimately referrals. A company that has done a great job of this is Boston-based Hubspot. While it may not be a big name brand, the company does a great job at engaging its customers through great content and social tools like its blogs and Twitter.

One thing to keep in mind is that any of your marketing efforts—social or traditional—will work best when done in conjunction with one another. Just like you wouldn't choose to do online advertising instead of search engine marketing, you should think about how combining search engine optimization strategies, email marketing, direct mail, and social marketing will maximize the way your acquire and engage with your customers.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/hImc3

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