Viral marketing is tantalizing. The promise of vast coverage with minimal cost is alluring. The problem is bad news travels faster than good. Creating campaigns designed to become the next trending topic on Twitter is risky behavior. When attempts to manipulate the marketplace are discovered, the negative response irreparably damages the brand.
Using social media to engage your customers is a better investment. It improves loyalty, increases sales and reduces costs. The secret to successful engagement is having conversations that are interesting to the participants. And this requires talking with your customers one at a time. If you do it well, there is a chance your message will go viral. But that isn't the objective. It is a bonus feature.
The lead attraction is improved customer relations and brand awareness. Publishers Clearing House Online Network of Port Washington, NY, is seeing good results from its strategy. According to Alex Betancur, vice president and general manager, "For everyone that follows us on a social perspective, we get about three to nine times interaction on our network of sites. For us, this is helping to retain our existing customers by keeping them informed of our daily winning opportunities."
The PCH social media team is active on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. In addition to their outgoing messages, they monitor and respond to every mention. When consumers question if anyone really wins the PCH sweepstakes, members of the social media team provide external links that show pictures and winning responses.
Understand that good results begin with a good strategy. PCH chose to dedicate two full-time team members to its social effort. It began as a stand-alone project with plans to integrate it with PCH's traditional marketing campaigns and add staff as the development requires. PCH's strategy is effective because it fits the organization.