Posted by Nicole Hambleton / Article, Email and Direct Marketing, Facebook /

Marketing a business in the social world is becoming more sophisticated now, with additional resources, mediums and outcomes. Facebook is one way but it's only the tip of the iceberg, combined with Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, Google+, LinkedIN, eDMs and YouTube to name just the most common avenues, it's a strategy in its own right.

"91% of people have gone into a store because of an online experience" (Source: Marketing Land)

As a maturing component of the marketing mix, social media needs to join the holistic marketing strategy that drives brand perception and generates real figures on the bottom line. Businesses need to transition from 'online versus offline' to understand that you can't create these these powerful strategies in a vacuum, they need to marry up to deliver the best results.

Effective social media campaigns

With global media channels and the consumer having more information at their fingertips than ever before, it's clear that companies now live in an age that is dominated by social media. Most companies have transitioned from just advertising to their customer, to engaging with them and providing entertainment and interaction. Some companies do this better than others, for example Red Bull. 

For some businesses like Red Bull, social media is at the centre of their marketing campaigns. A strategic decision that seems to have paid off in the marketing world. Red Bull understands that entertainment, engagement and giving the customer what they want is all part of the social media mix. Just having a social media presence isn't enough, if you are not actively understanding and engaging with your followers. Their engagement model doesn't just rely on having a presence, it centres on providing real content that appeals to it's followers, that makes them seek out information and show a real time interest in what the company is all about. In short it's all about content and implementation.

So while Red Bull might take it's content to the extremes, it does that because that's what the brand is about. Extreme sports and pushing boundaries support the brand for them.

Creating Trust

Consumers trust the opinions and feedback of other consumers and they use this to make decisions.

72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Source:Search Engine Journal)

It's hard to ignore the facts when they are staring us in the face. People want to engage with a company, a brand, in a way that was almost unheard of 10 years ago. They expect transparency, accountability, two way communication and social awareness. If the company doesn't provide it, they will seek it out in forums, blogs, consumer review sites and Facebook pages. Most consumer facing companies are recognising this and engaging with their customer, taking the first step so they don't get left in the cold.

They key as always though is to pitch the message the right way. Make the interaction about them, not about the company. Too many companies still feel social media is a great way to get on the megaphone and tell people how great they are. However the modern consumer is a bit more savvy than that, they want to hear other people's stories, they want to see how the company is helping the environment, taking a stance on important social issues or helping them, all while promoting the values of their customer base.

Accountability is key

78% of consumers say that the posts made by companies on social media influence their purchases. (Source: Forbes

This doesn't mean that people are necessarily making purchases online, social media influences decision makers to purchase from stores as well as online facilities and that is why it needs to be woven into the whole marketing strategy.

You have to be able to measure how social media is enhancing the overall business strategy and this can only be achieved if social media is factored into the strategy from the outset, linked to the overall business goals and objectives.

Assign a budget: Some aspects of social media are free, but a lot of initiatives, while they may appear to the consumer as non-commercial, do cost money and time to implement and then manage.

What's the ROI: You need to understand role the social media will play and what ROI you expect it to generate. If you are willing to spend the money, it's usually with the expectation that it will either directly or indirectly pay dividends.

Metrics: Measurement should be made in relation to tangible figures that hold value. For example an increase in sales, increase in visitors to your online site, more sign ups to your newsletter or loyalty card. While a lot of companies still look at social media counters these are not tangible results that affect the bottom line of your company. You need to follow the metric that can be measured and used to further develop additional strategies.

Measuring consumer behaviour: Sometimes the value is not quite as easy to establish. For example social media might be instrumental in changing consumer opinions or challenging values. If this is the end goal of the social media campaign you need to find ways to measure this to ensure you are meeting your target. If you are trying to change your demographic or entice a new market, you need to have metrics that can measure this and often these metrics are also used for other marketing strategies in the business.

Tying it all in with other strategies

Social media isn't and shouldn't be a lone wolf. It's designed to support, enhance and power other strategies. These might include loyalty programs, competitions, games, event days, promos, online stores, brick and mortar stores.

This is where applications that include games, activities and competitions help to engage the user. They focus on something the user gets excited about, something they willingly want to be involved in. Yes they are playing a game on you social media but it's not about you, it's about them. This is what social media is, it's about the consumer. When done right, social media strategies shouldn't look like blatant marketing efforts, they should appear organic and self-propelling, driven by the consumer themselves. 

So to summarise social media should be included as part of your overall digital and marketing strategy, it should be measurable with tangible figures that align with the marketing plan and it should focus on the consumer.