Social & Email: Friendly Prospects
Social prospecting is still young in marketing years. Finding the best way to reach qualified prospects requires trial-and-error testing. The basic rules are similar to other direct marketing methods: Give people a reason to connect and get as much access to communicate with them as you can. Instead of accumulating likes, follows and pluses that do little to grow your business, use the platforms to capture email addresses so you can connect with customers and prospects on a one-to-one basis. Here's what marketers can do:
Should Be Fun
Combining fun and functionality is irresistible, as shown by P.F. Chang's "Year of the Dragon" marketing campaign (see image in the mediaplayer to the right). It uses Facebook to share a story while acquiring consumers' email and street address information. The adventure begins when visitors land on P.F. Chang's Facebook brand page. An invitation to like the page for a chance to win prizes and reveal good fortune greets newcomers, and the experience continues for five views.
Each step along the path—from the invitation to finding the fortune—has a consistent theme and teasers. Once the like button is clicked, the landing page is replaced with a short history of the Chinese New Year and a teaser to click to find good fortune. The third page is a request for an email address. Submitting your email address opens a page requesting your name, address and birthday. Completing this form takes you to the fortune page. My fortune turned out to be: "Prosperity can be obtained through time spent with friends." Finally, there is the opportunity to share it with social connections.
2. New Media,
More traditional direct marketing motivational tactics work well in social media, too. The P.F. Chang's campaign trades the chance to win prizes for contact information. Free e-books, discount coupon codes and other motivators can be substituted for the prize program. People will opt in to your email program with the right incentive. Test until you find the ones that work best.
There are a variety of fun ways to engage consumers and get them clicking within your social platforms. Here are three examples from major brands that have a good start, but unfortunately miss the mark on collecting email data:
• Allstate Insurance offers a countdown to the Sugar Bowl Fan Fest, and has an embedded video and invitation to join the Allstate Fan Fest VIP Community. Unfortunately, Allstate drops the ball here because, when you click the link, you land on a new page with no instructions or email acquisition option. This is most likely a technical issue, but it's also a lost opportunity.
• Marriott International invites visitors to "Like us to find your world." The invitation is filled with promise, but accepting it takes you to Marriott's Facebook wall. Why not use the "the world is your oyster" approach to offer its newsletter in exchange for an email address? This is another lost opportunity.
• The heat is on when visitors arrive at Miami Heat's Facebook page. They have a photo puzzle that needs sorting: Simply click and drag the squares to the right place. Who can resist? Completing the puzzle correctly generates a message, "Congratulations, You Solved the Puzzle! Share this puzzle with your friends now. Check back next week for a new puzzle!" Only the Facebook share button is included. Another missed shot at connecting with fans.
3. Keys to Integration
Creating an integrated campaign that captures email addresses via social media requires some planning, but it's economical and effective. Facebook is currently the best platform because of its functionality, but there are options for the others, too. To plan a successful strategy:
- Only ask for the minimum information needed to add people to your marketing cycle. The less information required, the more people will opt in. Test different levels of requirements to find the one that works best.
- Know how the data will be managed. Information captured via social media has to be connected to your house files to measure the effectiveness of your strategy. Even if part of it has to be done manually, include it in your plan.
- Keep it as simple as possible. People have short attention spans. A campaign like P.F. Chang's that requires clicking through five pages before finding the fortune may lose your prospects along the way.
- Plan the path from activity to cash. Remember that all successful paths lead to sales. Likes, fans, followers and pluses aren't bankable.
- Use every opportunity available to capture email addresses. Because Facebook is currently the most user-friendly social network for acquisition, use it as your primary tool. Use the other platforms to send people to Facebook.
- Avoid technological barriers. Is including a CAPTCHA really necessary? People prefer "easy" and are more likely to share information if they don't have to jump through hoops. If unsure, err on the side of easy.
- Watch costs carefully. There are apps that and programmers who can create effective acquisition pages at a reasonable price. Make sure that there will be a solid return before investing heavily in bells and whistles.
- Start simple and expand as you learn what motivates your prospects. No one knows exactly what works without testing. Starting simple and testing everything creates a solid foundation for growth.
- Encourage prospects and customers to share your offers with their communities. People who love your company are your best marketers. They know your business and have friends likely to love it, too. Make it easy for them to share with a click.
Capturing email addresses is the first step of an integrated marketing campaign. When people share their information, quickly respond with a welcoming email and follow up with consistent messages.
Debra Ellis is president of Asheville, N.C.-based Wilson & Ellis Consulting. Reach her at email@example.com.