Hard-headed reasons for a strategic social media marketing plan

Your customers are not just using social media to access the Internet and engage with friends and contacts: most of them are treating social media as the Internet. Websites may be there  for transactions but, for many other activities, social media is a primary focus. This applies whether you are in B2B or B2C.

LinkedIn changes

LinkedIn is adding several new options for companies and users that follow them

Consumers, and business customers, are making buying decisions based upon what their friends and followers are saying on social media. A recent study from Pingdom notes that, across all age groups, advice being sought is coming from either colleagues or social media sites. If you’re on social media, you have a chance to influence those purchasing decisions.

You can monitor and analyse competitor social media in real time and have very fast insight into marketplaces and trends. Collecting and analysing data in social media is now a mainstream marketing activity and a precursor to your own initiatives.

Your customers are looking for an opportunity to share  your brand with their friends and contacts. If you’re on social media with decent profiles, content and activity, you can give them that chance. A portion of your customers are just looking for an opportunity to become an advocate for your brand or business and social media facilitates that in very simple ways.

LinkedIn is an intrinsic part of many business-to-business manager’s working lives and they are influenced by strong profiles and activity for company and employees. As I write, LinkedIn has announced key changes to the functionality of a Company Page.

Your competitors are on social media but they may be dragging their heels in a series of internal debates about what to do. Steal a march on them: arrive, like Napoloeon did at Waterloo, and catch Wellington in a ball! Don’t, however then split your forces and attack two numerically-superior opponents established in strong defensive positions. And the Imperial Guard? Forget it.

Social media is still evolving but shows every indication it will become the medium through which much of the Web will be accessed, particularly from mobile phones. A younger generation is growing up on social media and older generations are flocking to join them. Planning a relevant social media marketing strategy will give you an early mover’s advantage.

Social media is a cost-effective investment: what you don’t spend in media costs is often made up for with staffing. If your marketing department is overwhelmed and understaffed, consider outsourcing social media to a third party provider.

Return-on-investment? There are arguments about what should be measured but what is not in debate is that nearly everything can be measured. The real skill is extracting numbers that matter and feeding them into a dashboard which aids feddback and decision-making.

Question on LinkedIn: how are you helping traditional clients embrace digital?

There are two strands to an organisation’s evolution into digital thinking.

The first is a communications challenge: this involves integrating website, email marketing, social media presence, SEO, blog…with the internal processes behind content production. Allied to this reorganisation is a change of attitude to one of listening to digital buzz, analysing and adapting to feedback from relevant communities.

The second challenge is realignment to new thinking: in the hearts and minds of senior management. They are already under pressure but time must be made for a workshop on how digital interaction needs a new management philosophy, one of openness, transparency and honesty.

Under traditional command and control hierarchies, this doesn’t come easily. Information used to be power. Now sharing information is power among the digital communities talking about your business every day.

Digital embraces recruitment, customer service, marketing, sales and manufacturing.

My help consists of a programme of workshops allied to some direct, hands-on help in getting marketing communications systems re-engineered. The returns can be phenomenal.

Email reinforces social network marketing

Given the popularity of the social network environment in B2B marketing, where the LinkedIn audience has more than doubled in the past year and even Facebook has become a de facto business network, B2B marketers are reconsidering the social network environment*.

What does this mean for email marketers? Does communication through social network channels make well-planned email marketing campaigns redundant?

Definitely not!

House lists still contain considerable marketing equity and, while social networks may play a part in attracting audiences, email is essentially a retention marketing channel. Once attraction through networking  is converted into a sales cycle, well-planned email messages help prospects through the sales pipeline.

Existing customers may well see brands in a new light through social networking effort but, ultimately, it will be quality email communication that will maximise retention.

*  According to eMarketer Reports