Social networks have caused a huge shift in how companies frame and execute their business. The success of Best Buy’s Twelpforce blurred the lines between marketing and customer service, using videos that feature the 1,000+ Best Buy employees on Twitter offering efficient, direct service. Dell’s Outlet on Twitter earned $9 million in sales.
Is there really ROI in the social-media space? Yes, there is.
Yet without expertise, this social business culture can be challenging, perhaps even becoming a time sink rather than a profit center. We’ve contacted the speakers and panelists of SOBCon2010 — a yearly think tank of the top social-media strategists, thought leaders, and practitioners — to ask their advice on social-media best practices. Our questions were aimed at how to get the best return on social-media resources in raising awareness and building customer relationships, as well as in direct returns.
These interviews appear as part of our upcoming special report, “Driving Your Bottom Line.” The first part of the report publishes on Tuesday, March 23, and the second part will be sent out on Thursday, March 25; if you’re not already a SmartBrief on Social Media subscriber, sign up today so you won’t miss them!
Once a company develops a strong community and deep engagement, how can it then use those assets to drive revenue without alienating fans?
Liz Strauss: Strong community and deep engagement are words that represent people we attracted and people who have invested in us and each other. We don’t need to use them. We can rely on them if we value and respect what they have already contributed. If we allow them to talk to each other in ways they want to and give them somewhere it’s easy and fun to do that, you can bet that they’ll talk about you in ways that reflect your best attributes. If you let them help you build it, they will not only protect it, they will bring their friends to see what you do and why it’s so worth investing it.
Hank Wasiak: If a company is providing meaningful engagement with people that opt in to a relationship around their product or service, and it genuinely delivers on its positioning and brand promise, then “asking for an order” at the right time, in the right tone and manner should not alienate anyone. In fact, it most likely will be welcomed and appreciated. Relax. That’s the beauty of social media used smartly.
Lisa Haneberg: Fans want to buy from you, or they would not be fans. Make the social-media environment as flexible and malleable as possible so that community members don’t feel they are being led down a predetermined path. Creating love and connection will improve customer loyalty, interest, and the inclination to buy and tell their friends to buy. Drop the obvious marketing-ese and create a real community designed to fascinate and delight customers. A social-media site that is thinly veiled as a selling tool will fail fast.
Chris Garrett: The key way to drive revenue with social media is to integrate it into your existing, proven marketing and communications. Go out into social networks to engage and attract the person back to your own Web site, where you can offer a deeper, ongoing service or valuable content in order to get permission to contact them through e-mail or offline. You can potentially also use exclusive to social-media voucher codes and coupons, as Dell has done so successfully.
Jonathan Fields: Not too long ago, I raised some eyebrows when I wrote a post called “Busting The Social Media Marketing Myth” that came out [and] said the people and companies I know making real, measurable ROI with social media are the ones treating it with a direct-response sensibility, meaning:
- They tap a variety of strategies to get people to their Twitter pages, blogs and Facebook fan pages and become followers. Sometimes, they leverage content to attract folks, tap relationships or search for people with relevant interests and follow them. Local businesses are getting creative; some restaurants are adding calls to action on menus compelling diners to follow them — the direct-response equivalent of finding a list of affinity buyers and e-mailing/mailing a lead-gen offer.
- More and more, local businesses and content creators are incentivizing the follow[-up]. On blogs and Facebook fan pages, incentivizing subscriptions and fans is very common now.
- Then they mix in a healthy dose of noncommercial tweets, high-value, resource and engagement-driven posts or updates — the functional equivalent of direct-response list warming.
- Then, after building a bit of a relationship, showing a little personality, establishing value and spending a bit of time priming the reciprocity impulse, they begin to ask their communities what problems they need help solving, they mine them to find the gaps in current competitive offerings … they listen intensely to the conversations around relevant topics, problems and keywords.
- Finally, they create differentiated solutions based on what the market tells them is needed, then mix in the occasional purely commercial, response-driven offer that either (a) leads to a sale, or (b) leads people out of the social-media setting and into the external customer acquisition and sales funnel for that solution. And, at times, it is even easier. If you’ve got a killer cappuccino cart with a product people love, your content can be as simple as a few customer exchanges followed by …
- Fact is, if you’re consistently engaging and providing value, your community will be pretty tolerant of the occasional commercial insertion. Same if you build the account from the beginning with the transparent intent to share a larger amount of information that followers value, while also having commercial intent. An example of the latter would be a pizza franchise interacting with followers, but also sending out daily or time-sensitive offers on a regular basis.
Steve Woodruff: If what the company is selling actually has value for the community, then making people more aware of the offerings is not offensive, it is helpful. People expect us to promote what we do, but to do so in a human, natural manner without beating them over the head or seeking some instant sales result.
Drew McLellan: The short answer is — remain a servant and keep the “making money” as the “as well.” That’s not to say you need to give everything away for free. It just means that you need to keep the faith, if you will. You need to continue to believe you are doing good by sharing your knowledge. Then, you can create opportunities for those who are interested to get more of that knowledge. It might be more in-depth knowledge, it might be applying your knowledge to their specific problem or opportunity or it might mean getting you alone (as opposed to in public on your blog).
When you’ve truly built a community around your area of expertise — those people do not begrudge you making money. In fact, they want you to make money. They’re happy to help you make money. So now you can call upon them to help you. And they will. Not because you pay them an affiliate fee (although that may be a good tactic) but because they believe in you and what you have to offer.
Want more? Check out parts 1, 2 and 4 of the interview!
- Chris Garrett is a professional blogger, Internet marketing consultant, new-media industry commentator, writer, coach, speaker, trainer and Web geek.
- Lisa Haneberg is the vice president and OD consulting practice lead for Management Performance International, where she manages the planning and growth of MPI’s organizational-development business unit.
- Erno Hannink is a consultant, author and blogger.
- Drew McLellan created McLellan Marketing Group in 1995.
- Liz Strauss is the CEO and a founder of SOBCon and author of Successful-Blog.com.
- Hank Wasiak is the co-founder of The Concept Farm. Wasiak is also a best-selling author, keynote speaker, teacher, an Emmy-nominated producer, and three-time Emmy award-winning television host.
- Steve Woodruff is the founder and president of Impactiviti.
Image credit, YellowPixel, via Shutterstock