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Why Social, Why Now & What You Must Do About It

Understanding social through the lens of e-mail

By LEN SHNEYDER

I recently sent my 1,000th tweet. It was the middle of the day – I was at our North American user conference. The tweet went something like this: “This is my 1000th tweet.”

Terribly clever, right? That’s OK if you don’t agree on the cleverness of that tweet or if the 1,000th tweet is a milestone worthy of kicking off an article on social media and the power of e-mail, but it is a jumping-off point. There are tweeters out there with tens of thousands of tweets, novellas or even Victorian novels in the making. So here we have to pause for a moment and ask ourselves if volume = engagement.

Let’s step back for a moment and review some of the basic concepts, precepts, not so long held tribal knowledge and assertions about how social media has influenced our businesses and the new world order that we marketers have to fit into.

For the record, all of these were tweets from our  Marketing Innovation Summit in Boston. Now that we’ve managed to get the full disclosure out of the way, let’s think about the logic and rationale of these little gems plucked from the weighty boughs of marketers pontificating on marketing through the social channel across social media.

Earned Media, the Circle of Trust and Truth Serums

  • We are in the age of the empowered customer – 155 million tweets a day, 75% of consumers believe companies don’t tell the truth
  • 3 types of marketing media: paid, earned, owned
  • “Earned media growing roughly 30% per year”
  •  “Social Media is the truth serum for companies” says Yuchun Lee, GM of IBM EMM Group
  • Don’t expect to be able to market in social media if you don’t participate in it
  • Mobile is multiple channels in one device – phone, Internet, social and apps

You have more ways than ever to communicate with your customers, thanks to the proliferation of platforms and social networks in addition to e-mail and offline channels. Likewise your customers have more options than ever to endorse your good marketing efforts or alert the rest of their network to your blunders.

Every “like,” every post, sharing of a link, and/or forwarding of an e-mail isn’t a tacit endorsement; it’s an active one. The more media and hype you earn the wider your net is automatically cast. From what we’ve seen, those who rack up earned impressions ultimately increase their conversion rate because ratings and user feedback garners more attention from prospects than anything you can write on your blog, site or in an e-mail.

Users trust each other because for many years it was consumers vs. companies and the latter was quite literally “the man” who couldn’t be trusted. In today’s world “the man” is still untrustworthy, but the lines have blurred and there are more routes to establishing the businesses that are worth spending your money with and those that aren’t.

If your product and brand rely on the retail market in order to achieve success, then you have to participate in social media. Participation means creating content, developing a strategy and accepting that you can’t force an opinion or perception in the social realm that isn’t real. One must participate in order to engender the sharing of information, knowledge, brand and, ultimately, product.

Incorporate, Expand and Empower Your Channels

It’s easy to fixate on the shiny new toy and forget that you have a dedicated presence and following across what we can call traditional digital channels. Yes, at this point e-mail is a traditional digital channel and we take for granted the fact that it’s fast, cheap, easy, and measurable. The rage right now is social and mobile, networks and apps that appear to be the vanguard of a more profitable future.

Stop and think for a moment; has anyone abandoned e-mail-marketing campaigns in lieu of these new channels? Quite the contrary; it’s important to understand social media through the lens of e-mail because it’s not only possible, it’s quite likely that you’re driving a fair amount of traffic in the social sphere through your e-mail.

E-mail is content! Let’s just strip away all of the other assumptions and call it that – e-mail is content you deliver to your customer. Social media makes it possible to share content; therefore you should be investing in your e-mail as a primary driver and “feeder” into social networks in order to create a cohesive digital messaging strategy.

Here’s the beauty of e-mail: we already know how to measure it every which way imaginable. It’s an incredibly data-rich empirical channel on which to base future decisions. With that said, we should be able to ask questions of that channel about our social media presence – assuming we can leverage it as a jumping-off point to generate earned impressions of the content we send in e-mail.

Don’t Be Afraid To Dip Your Toe in the Water

Think of social media as an ocean, a body of water at the edge of a digital frontier where life is maturing and slowly crawling out of a primordial soup. This is the infancy of our social media channel and we’re all a bit wet behind the ears.

If you’re just getting started, or just getting around to start thinking about a social media strategy – don’t lose heart – you’re not the only one. The beauty of the social channel is that it’s rather forgiving for the same reason it’s rather frustrating: volume. There’s a ton of volume moving through the channel, you can start slow and work your way up. If we thought the in box was a crowded place, then a twitter stream is like a World Cup finals match played in a stadium the size of the state of Texas. It’s really that vast.

In the second part of this article (published here on Thursday) we’ll discuss some of the internal and external actions you can take to help establish a social media presence that’s humanizing, one that engenders engagement and practical approaches to executing on that engagement.

 

Len Shneyder is a San Francisco-based product marketing manager with Unica, which is part of IBM’s $22.5 billion Software Group. With nearly a decade of e-mail marketing experience, Shneyder addresses the concerns and needs of the top global e-mail service providers and manages relationships with clients and partners. He handles marketing for IBM Unica's OnDemand product line including Marketing Operations OnDemand, eMessage and E-mail Optimization. He is a regular contributor to the Deliverability.com blog.