I’m a firm believer in scientific, analytical, fact-based marketing. I also believe in the importance of storytelling, building customer relationships, and making things worth caring about. When discussing these subjects — particularly the usefulness of social media — the discussion tends to pit these beliefs against each other.
Either social media works, or it doesn’t.
I’m not sure this is the right approach. It would be better to discuss where and when social media fits into a robust marketing plan.
How can we develop a resilient marketing engine to power a business, and how can social media fuel that engine?
A brief aside on what brought this subject up…
Two recent posts got me thinking about where social media fits into the big picture. The first, Quitters by Fred Wilson, in response to an NY Times Magazine piece on The Facebook Exodus, showed some of the miraculous growth of Facebook and Twitter. The second, Back to Digital Reality by Ken Burbary, discussed the state of digital marketing & advertising in the world today.
According to comScore, there were 13.6 billion searches last month by online Americans. Google maintains the lion share of that volume, at 65%. Google’s continued dominance in search is why they continue to rake in the cash, generating $5.52 billion in revenue for Q2 2009.
I find it hard to swallow, in all my techno-snobbery, that Google accounts for only 65% of search engine usage.
It’s easy for us snobs to get excited about the best technology. Take cell phones: the iPhone is king, but the vast majority of people don’t have one. It’s instructive to look at the best to see what the future holds for the mainstream, but the real world of cell phones is still rinky-dinky dumbphones.
And 35% of internet searches happen somewhere other than Google.
In social media, Twitter and Facebook are the current technology darlings. They’re useful tools, but they can’t be the center of a strategy. They’re peripheral, and the sites themselves are not so important as the state of mind using them requires; the big “ah ha” is that individuals and their relationships matter.
So I thought: maybe it’d be helpful to prioritize these things. Maybe instead of “social media is good” or “social media is bad“, we can talk about where it properly fits in a broader landscape.
If I were making a marketing plan today – which I am – and I had to cope with a limited budget – which I do – I would start from the most important core tactics and work my way outward:
Email-based loyalty campaign
The most inexpensive marketing is to people who already know you and buy from you. Why do we obsess over these flashy new leads when we can do so much more with the customers we already have?
Get permission to be in a relationship with your customers, then do a damn good job of staying in touch. Email is the best way to do this. The rest of your marketing should lead to this permanent, growing business asset (the almighty “list”), rather than put-put-putting along with one-off messaging campaigns. It’s about the people, stupid.
Okay, fine, but how do you get those emails in the first place? Build a website with the focused purpose of converting traffic into email subscribers. This might require publishing a newsletter, offering discounts for frequent shoppers, or something else creative you come up with.
Your website should be a destination worth caring about, but that’s not enough if you’re a marketer. It also has to lead somewhere.
Now that you have the engine of your website running, trick out the body. Pump out content, tools, and dowloadable content – all the things that would encourage someone to link to you. Say something smart, funny, or controversial. Do something creative, new, or crazy. Add to it constantly.
Paid search advertising is the perfect way to test out your messaging. It’s not cheap, but at least you only pay if it works. As you learn what works and what doesn’t, optimize this campaign so that you’re spending just enough money that the visitors you attract convert into subscribers at a ratio where you’re minting money. Then this is an investment, not an expense.
Only after you have those first four core tactics in place should you be getting yourself seriously into social media. You have the engine running, the people and money are flowing, and you have a purpose to your social media. With the right metrics in place to measure your marketing engine, you have something to compare the social media against — both in cost of time and money.
Remember, social media is a cocktail party. Go out, shake some hands, and find out what makes people tick.
Now, you’re talking to the fanatics in your industry. You’re getting a feeling for what the web community around your product or service is like. You know who the players are, what the big ideas are, and where the eyeballs go on a daily basis.
Pull out the checkbook and buy some ads on targeted websites. You’re bound to find some hidden gems that don’t break the bank.
What about everything else?
There’s a lot more to a marketing plan than these tactics (or tactics at all, for that matter). My point today is just that social media should be the candy coating around a healthy marketing pill.
Wait, it was an engine analogy…
Social media is your car’s odometer, speedometer, and the new paint job that attracts pretty girls.
Wait, social media was supposed to be the fuel…
I give up. Go tweet yourself.