In less than two years, social networking has transformed the way we communicate. And for brands, it has opened up new ways to engage with consumers.
Display advertising is certainly a viable ad model in social environments, but the real opportunity for marketers is to leverage the unprecedented community-building aspects to build their brands. Marketers are experimenting while getting better attuned to consumers’ opinions of their efforts.
However, it isn’t easy to join the communities that your customers have formed. Read on for the six ‘C’s of social influence marketing.
In 2007, for better or worse many companies experimented with social networking environments. Brands like Victoria Secret’s loungewear line PINK and Nike seem to thrive in the space, giving consumers access to unique content they can’t get anywhere else. Access to valuable tools and content is a key factor in a consumer’s decision to interact with a brand.
Regardless of their goals, brands need to think about customizing bite-sized, portable content or experiences for their most prominent target segments—content that their “friends” would be proud to display, share, or support.
Users crave the ability to customize, post and share content. On social networks like MySpace or Facebook, users define themselves through their personalized profile pages and the elements that they choose to display. On sites like YouTube and Flickr, users are building custom video or seeking content that represents their particular likes, interests or sense of humor. While not all user generated content is positive, the genuine quality of it can add a significant dimension to a brand among a community of influencers.
Marketers need to empower consumers to express themselves.. In most cases, brands can craft the framework of a social media campaign, but the customization of content and the dialogue is up to the consumer.
The foundation of every community is a relationship rooted in trust and mutual interest. Brands need to understand the community they are convening with and what holds them together. Marketers should think carefully about how to personify and express their brands appropriately.
The adage “build it and they will come” is not applicable here. To build community within social media campaigns, brands need to achieve several things:
• Give users a reason to interact with your brand frequently by providing unique content, value or engagement.
• Let your content travel by distributing it across widgets and other mechanisms beyond your Web site.
• Consider adding social networking experiences on your site relating back to your brand pages on social networking sites.
Many consumers represent aspects of their personalities through the brands they associate with, advocate or even criticize. Dialogue is happening openly among consumers, which creates both an opportunity and a challenge. Brands can tap into positive buzz and build a network of advocates to support customer relationship building and new sales. But brands must also accept the negative conversation and hear the signals that may help them mitigate a problem before it escalates.
Social networking environments are public, but from the point of view of consumers, it is still considered private space. Brands need to respect this and explore how they can create benefit with consumers that will warrant their welcome and continued conversation.
Standards and metrics for measuring success in the social media space are not yet well defined and vary based on the advertiser, type of campaign and the environment. The metrics you lay out in the beginning of a campaign need to factor in the environment and its nuances. The coming year should bring additional progress in establishing metrics for engagement, buzz monitoring, and reputation management across the social Web.
There is one factor around social influence marketing that can give marketers more immediate satisfaction: commerce. Brands can gain a return on their investment beyond customer relationship building or branding. However, tread lightly when trying to establish social influence marketing as a direct driver of commerce. The community has not come together to help companies sell products.
Consumers expect brands to bring some kind of benefit to the community they foster. Any brand can enter the social media space on a campaign level or experimental basis, but those who can actually make a commitment to building a presence, a community of friends and a steady amount of new content to keep their communities engaged will benefit most.
Dave Friedman, president of the central region for Avenue A | Razorfish, is a monthly contributor to Chief Marketer. He may be reached at Dave.Friedman@avenuea-razorfish.com.
NOTE: In his book, Join the Conversation (October 2007, Wiley), Joseph Jaffe provides what he terms the new six Cs of marketing, which are markedly similar to the six Cs of Social Influence Marketing. His six Cs are content, commerce, community, context, customization, and conversation. We explicitly want to acknowledge his six Cs although the similarity to the Avenue A | Razorfish six Cs of Social Influence Marketing is a coincidence. You can read more about Joseph Jaffe and his points of view at www.jaffejuice.com or http://www.crayonville.com.