How do you express the value of social media to direct response gurus? Geoff and I are co-chairing the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s upcoming Electronic Media Marketing Day. We were obliged to co-author an article for the member newsletter – anything to help prime direct marketers for electronic engagement.
Boiling “electronic media marketing” down to 700 words for beginners is a lesson in impact. A strong case is required indeed, especially with an audience of traditionally offline marketers who have all but perfected their processes.
It came down to the return on investment for social media. The following thoughts will be shared with DMAW’s readership, but we wanted to give you the un-cut preview (much of this was edited out from the final draft). What would you add?
Cultural norms continue to shift as the Internet evolves. As our interactions change with each other online – and over the mobile Internet – so do our expectations of organizational information. To capture new hearts and minds, communications must play by the new rules of the social web, while intelligently blending traditional marketing calls-to-action.
For the nonprofit, government or corporate entity, this evolution demands focused engagements that can spread. While “viral content” is the goal du jour, there’s another side of the coin: Relevant, mutually beneficial, non-invasive content that proliferates among qualified audiences. Organizations cannot overtly promote; the aim is providing valuable information and community participation. Therein lies the challenge to deliver return on investment.
How do you engage the right people in a meaningful way that produces results? This truly is the conundrum for online communicators within the social web.
If you’ve ever pondered the benefits of creating “the Facebook for food banks,” you’re on the wrong track. Most online communities fail, according to The Wall Street Journal, which found that 35% of the branded communities surveyed have 100 friends or less. Twitter and blogs might not be the right answer, either. Research is imperative to figuring out the best solution, but you can’t start without a goal. In the words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
Here’s a starter guide to help focus your initiative:
Phase 1: Define the Goal
- Start with your objective. The purpose of your organization or campaign. The thing that has to happen in order to achieve your mission.
- Then name your primary and secondary audiences – the people who will ultimately influence whether or not you reach your objective, who can reach them.
- What is the measurable outcome that will demonstrate that you have reached your goal? You won’t be able to move your effort forward in a cohesive manner without an eye toward this metric.
Phase 2: Research and Understand the Social Media Universe
- Do your homework before trying to fit in. Who is saying what about your brand and your issue? Where are they saying it (just blogs or message boards? What about wikis and social networks?). What triggers remarks? What are the communities’ relevant issues?
- Hint: The quantity and quality of existing conversation will reveal whether or not you have potential advocates, and how much room there is for you (we’ve never seen a saturated issue), and what topics you can “own.”
- Understand what will compel your audience to act.
Phase 3: Strategy and Tactic Development
- After you have a handle on key opportunities and obstacles, then tackle integrated strategy development. Deliver a value proposition that matches community’s interest – an organizational offering.
- Select tactics: For example, influencer relations, a Facebook application, social network participation, or blog.
- Hint: This is a defining moment. You can choose to turn away from desires for a podcast series only if you acknowledge the fact that your audience does not listen to, subscribe to, or download podcasts. Similarly, if during research,you discovered a blog that covers your issue and reaches your audience, reaching out to that blogger could have much greater results than starting your own blog.
- Infuse personality into the effort. Think social!
- Create intelligent, non-intrusive calls to action.
- Integrate so social media and traditional marketing support each other. Social media is not a silo.
- Evaluate against measurement goals on an ongoing basis. Evaluation is a critical aspect of setting the bar for larger, organization-strategy, resource allocation, and determining the return on investment of your efforts. Use key performance indicators to demonstrate progress against the measurable outcome you originally set.
To deliver social media return on investment, you must integrate. Integration with direct response is complex but has great payoff. Your Facebook, email and mailing lists must converge, otherwise you are left with a branding and awareness campaign. That may be what the organization needs, but long-term relationships require more, specifically self identification by the socially engaged as a party that’s interested in a deeper relationship.
Perhaps most important for the communicator to remember is that this medium truly is social. We’re not targeting potential quotas, rather people who want to be part of something. Help them get there and you can produce a win-win for your organization and your stakeholders.