Canadian grocery store chain Loblaws knew they had a great BBQ sauce based on customer comments. But they didn’t understand why sales were so dismal.
Until they invited customers to post product reviews on their website. Only then did they discover the problem was the bottle – it was too tall to fit in refrigerator doors! They redesigned the bottle and their sales immediately increased.
That’s user-generated content directly leading to an increase in sales. That’s the power of social media marketing.
Are you still sitting on the sidelines when it comes to social media marketing because you know you can’t control the conversations about your company, your products and your services? And because you have no idea how to respond to negative comments?
“Give up control and drop the ego!” says Liana Evans in her book, Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media. Compared to traditional marketing, “social media is a totally different ballgame. The people in these social media communities talk about you whenever they want, however they want, and to whomever they want. The conversation goes on with or without you!”
So wouldn’t it be better to actively participate in these conversations? “Consumer-generated content is having wide-ranging effects on both the perception of a company and whether a purchase is eventually made,” writes Evans. “Can your company afford not to participate in the conversation?”
She uses comic books as an example of the difference between traditional Internet advertising and social media marketing. Comic book collectors all over the world began communicating with each other online in the 1990s. They used online bulletin board systems (BBS) and CompuServe and AOL forums.
But when comic book publishers jumped into online advertising, they just created banner ads and other flashy promotional ads. Even if they placed these ads in forums, forum members just ignored them.
Why didn’t the comic book publishers just ask an employee to join the forums and start responding to other members’ messages? “This would have garnered a lot more engagement and interest than a banner advertisement ever could have,” writes Evans.
This Is Not Your Father’s Marketing
And that’s the difference between traditional marketing and social media marketing. In traditional marketing, you throw out a message where it will be seen by millions of people who couldn’t care less.
In social media marketing, you find the people who are already talking about your message and join the conversation. It’s really that simple and that complicated.
It’s complicated because you have to know your audience so well that you know exactly what social media platforms they use regularly. Is it Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? Digg?
Why create a Facebook fan page if your audience never uses Facebook? Why open a Twitter account if they never use Twitter?
As Evans repeatedly emphasizes in her book, understanding your audience is the first step in creating a social media marketing strategy. Here are the rest of the steps:
#2: Define your goals.
#3: Choose your metrics.
#4: Open accounts on the platforms your audience uses.
#5: Listen to what your audience is saying on those platforms.
#6: Respond to their concerns.
#7: Provide content that they value.
#8: Measure the results.
#9: Repeat steps 1 through 8.
Yes, I said “repeat steps 1 through 8.” Because just as real-life communities change, social media communities also change. “If you had included Twitter in your marketing plan in early 2007,” writes Evans, “you would have been very disappointed by its results.”
Follow Your Audience Wherever They Go
Suppose one of the top “influencers” in one online community leaves and joins another community? And what if your audience follows that person? You’d better be prepared to join a brand new platform.
So you must constantly monitor your audience’s participation in various social media communities and learn how to use new platforms.
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but as Zappos and Southwest Airlines have discovered, creating and managing customer relationships using social media can be very profitable. Even Dell overcame its “Dell Hell” reputation using social media.
And Evans strongly recommends that you do all this work in-house. Don’t outsource anything, including blogging and tweeting. “Social media sites can propel a person’s experience with your company across the globe within seconds. Not being active in these social media sites can be detrimental to your company, whether that customer’s experience was good or bad,” she writes.
She even includes tips on how to select a company that develops social media marketing campaigns for its clients. Ask all prospective consultants the following questions:
- Will you create our website entirely in Flash? (Flash isn’t search-engine friendly.)
- Do you focus on one or two strategies to the exclusion of all others?
- Do you define success as the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers?
- Do you recommend following a “laundry list” of tactics because everyone else is using them?
If their answer to all those questions is “Yes,” keep looking.
This book will NOT tell you how to create a Facebook fan page, customize your Twitter background or upload a video to YouTube. It doesn’t tell you how to measure anything, how to use Google Analytics or how to SEO your website.
Instead, Evans takes you by the hand and leads you through the entire process of creating and managing a social media marketing campaign. No tech stuff, just solid, practical advice from a professional who “has been active full-time in search marketing and social media since 1999,” according to her bio on the back cover.
The book has 45 chapters, all of which are fewer than 10 pages long. And every chapter has several informative subheadings, so you can quickly zero in on the information you need when you need to know it. Or you can read the entire book from front to back.
If you already know a lot about social media marketing, this book isn’t for you. It’s for those of you who are still standing by the social media pool, wondering if you should jump in.
Come on in, the water’s fine!
Social Media Examiner gives this book a 4-star rating.