I recently had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the Luxury Interactive conference where I heard from dozens of retailers about their social media marketing efforts. One thing I heard repeatedly is that their social efforts are being run at two key intervals: daily monitor and respond; and two or three big brand efforts. Occasionally, they’re running a contest or something similar to drive engagement, but surprisingly, no one has a calendar or cadence built on products.
This got me thinking of the opening scene of “The Jerk” where Steve Martin just can’t seem to find his rhythm. While he snaps with excitement, he’s behind beat. Similarly, while many marketers are going through the correct motions and making the right noise, they are out of sync with the music, if you will, of social interaction and engagement.
Now, I am not saying that responding to customers in real time or following a brand calendar are bad things, but by increasing the cadence of product promotion to match the rhythm of social, marketers will see higher returns from their social media marketing efforts. Here’s how:
1) View social through a product lens
Thinking about social properties as a place to promote and sell products, as counterintuitive as that may sound, is proving to be the right mindset. With the rollout of Facebook Timeline and the explosive growth of Pinterest, social streams are getting visually richer and richer, and this trend shows no sign of slowing.
Forward-thinking brands such as Nike, Burberry and Macy’s are leading the way, boldly promoting products and driving more discovery and exploration than ever before by combining visually rich product content within the streams. This is proving to be smart because capturing the attention of fans in their streams is the most important part of a social media marketing strategy. For, without engaging posts, marketers can’t drive meaningful earned impressions that drive product discovery. And without posts that make fans click, efforts to drive product exploration and purchase considerably underperform.
2) Find social products
Now that you’ve decided to integrate a product strategy into your social efforts, the next step is to determine which products to promote. That is to say, which products are most social? Helpful questions to ask to determine this include:
- Do you have an exciting new product to get in front of your most rabid fans?
- Which products in your portfolio get people talking and sharing most?
- Which products are innately visual and/or “fun” to explore and play with?
- Which products have deeper stories that can’t be told in 140 characters?
- Do you have products you need to liquidate?
- Are there products in your portfolio that are part of a signature or celebrity-endorsed line?
- What products will help you engage an important segment of your audience?
Combine this analysis with your market segment goals and sales goals and a defined set of products will emerge.
3) Social is a marketer’s dream end-cap
Many analogies could be made here, but the idea is that social media is not static and it does not operate only in line with a typical brand calendar. Just as the products on an end-cap in a physical store rotate depending upon the time of year and promotion, so too should your social product promotion efforts. And while end caps obviously support major brand calendar milestones such as Super Bowl or Christmas, they also continuously support business goals by promoting products 365 days a year.
Enterprises such as Wal-Mart have amassed terabytes of data that analyze which products sell best on which end caps at any given day of the year. And while social product promotion has not yet gathered data points to inform this level of insight, organizations that start down this path now will find themselves at a distinct advantage.
While many brands have now amassed millions of fans, the good news is that you don’t have to worry if this doesn’t describe you, because what’s most important is getting your most engaged and rabid fans to explore and share. This subset of your overall community is more likely to engage with your products because it’s more powerful to them and to their friends and is more likely to impact consideration and purchase. As you develop and promote your product experiences, always be thinking about activating your most rabid fans.
Many of us have a mix of planned seasonal and brand calendars that drive our efforts outside of day-to-day posting. This is a great start to build from. What I’m seeing from the retailers I work with is that a monthly cadence of product-specific marketing is what really drives success. The more integrated your product promotion, messaging, experiences and offers are with the cadence of social-mobile customers, the more successful your efforts will become.
Marko Z Muellner is senior director of marketing at ShopIgniter and has been a digital marketer for more than 18 years. He has spent his time learning how digital marketing is applied at nonprofits, international digital agencies, dot-com startups, global sportswear and beer companies, and a top-tier Web analytics and optimization company. He can be reached at via e-mail at email@example.com and via Twitter @markozm.