Strategy Session: Anti-social Media
Do you remember the musical "West Side Story"? There was a song in it called "Gee, Officer Krupke," and one of the lyrics went:
"It's not I'm anti-social.
I'm only anti-work.
Glory-osky, that's why I'm a jerk."
So, at the risk of seeming anti-social (or worse, a jerk), I have to confess I just don't understand all the fuss about social media. You'll find articles on it on the cover page of virtually every industry publication, and it's all over the web-social media is obviously the next big thing. Here's why:
1. Because of the horrific economy, marketers are looking for more economical ways to communicate with people. Talk-and chat-is cheap.
2. Most traditional media aren't working as well as they used to. Response rates from direct mail and e-mail are going down.
3. Some of the larger media channels are just about disappearing. TIME magazine just ran a cover article on "How to Save Your Newspaper." It was a little ironic that the issue itself was the thinnest one in years.
4. Finally, we are all naturally attracted to the new, the fresh, the different-but will that be social marketing?
But does the emperor have any clothes? Sure, there's no better, faster or cheaper way to connect with people-and connect with their connections-than social networking. And if you're looking for a job, it can work very well.
But what role does social networking or social media play in marketing? And how can you leverage it for your organization? Let's take a closer look.
Are You Linked In?
LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is one of the premier business sites, with more than 35 million users. It enables you to connect with people you may have lost touch with-and who are now in a position to do you some good.
They may be able to recommend you and your work and "introduce" you to people you should know, or should know you. LinkedIn also allows you to post questions that relate to: recruiting, promoting your services or job seeking.
LinkedIn also shows you which companies your connections work at (or previously worked at) and include descriptions of the companies. So you can ask one of your connections about working there and explore job opportunities.
LinkedIn also has a fascinating feature called Network Statistics, where you can see how many connections are in your network, how many connections they have and how many connections their connections have.
In other words, using LinkedIn, I can contact more than 32,600 people who are connected to one of my connections. (Your total may be higher.) Network Statistics also shows me how many of my connections are in which areas of the country. And also which specific industries they are in.
LinkedIn is advertiser-friendly-something many social networks are not-and it sells a variety of banner ads, which can include animation. Its main selling point is targeting-it claims that LinkedIn profile data is 10 times more accurate than typical registration data because it's self-reported.
Are You a Twit?
Twitter (www.twitter.com) is less business-oriented. Twitter allows its users to send and read other users' updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters. You also can "follow" what other people are doing.
But do I really need to know that my friend Mitch is getting ready to watch Boston College play Duke? President Obama used tweets in his campaign-alerting followers to upcoming events and speeches.
Twitter has strict rules against advertising. And your account will be suspended if Twitter believes you have violated its terms of service. These include "Publishing, posting or sending unsolicited e-mail, junk mail, ‘spam,' chain letters, promotions, or advertisements for products or services."
According to PR agency Affect Strategies, Twitter can be used very successfully in PR to generate awareness and seek and create media opportunities. It has some case histories on its website at www.affectstrategies.com.
Other sites similar to Twitter include Pownce.com, Jaiku.com and Plurk.com. (Other sites that sound like they may be real but aren't include Twitch, Burp and Floose. Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
Can You Face the Facts?
Facebook (www.facebook.com) is the world's most popular social networking site, with more than 175 million members (about 36 million in the U.S.). However, it is less business-oriented than LinkedIn and more focused on students. In a 2006 USA Today study, Facebook was named the second most popular thing among undergraduates-tied with beer (iPods were No. 1).
Facebook does accept advertising-and allows you to target your ad by age, gender, location and other criteria. Plus you can pay by click or per impression. In addition, Facebook has an online tracking and measurement tool that allows you to track your advertising in real time and then make modifications to maximize your results.
There is an extreme limit to the words you are allowed-for example, your headline can only take up 25 characters. You also can give your daily budget-how much you are prepared to spend every day, before your advertisement is removed.
To test its effectiveness, I placed an ad on Facebook offering my Free 101 Ways to Improve Response. According to Facebook's daily reports, my ad was exposed to 16,665 marketing professionals. So far, I have received two responses for 54 cents each. Based on these results, Facebook is not going to be a major media buy for me going forward.
Facebook also offers 10 suggested best practices for advertising, which apply to all social media. They include: identify your advertising goals, target the audience you want, use keywords that resonate with your audience or offer, make your product stand out, keep your ad simple, use a strong call to action, use an image, use a landing pages, keep the user experience in mind, and evaluate your campaign performance and make the necessary changes. You can find a complete description of them at www.facebook.com/ads/best_practices.php
Are You Out in the Blogosphere?
Blogging is the first use of social media-and about 25 new blogs have appeared since you first started reading this article. Recent estimates by Technorati (www.technorati.com) report there are more than 112.8 million English-language blogs and about the same number of blogs in other languages.
There are probably twice as many inactive blogs as active ones. And Facebook and other social media are outcompeting blogs and growing more quickly-because they allow for a lot more user engagement.
Can blogs be used in marketing? Absolutely-but again, there are real limits to how much of an impact you can make. It is probably more effective for smaller companies or PR opportunities.
So ... Does It Work?!
I googled "2008 Case histories of social media," and there were more than 21 million results. I won't pretend I went through all of them.
However, I did find that there were many cases of social media being used to "spread the world," send along viral videos and plenty of PR applications. But not a lot about actual, measurable marketing.
Mashable, which positions itself as The Social Media Guide (www.mashable.com), had a list of 35 examples of corporate social media in action. It included Coca-Cola Conversations, a blog written by company historian Phil Mooney that focuses on Coke collectibles; Dell, leveraging a variety of social media platforms for customer engagement, including an island in the virtual world of Second Life; and HP, using Twitter to power a scavenger hunt at a recent conference.
The only problem? None of the 35 examples had any sales or conversion numbers.
So, can social marketing really make a difference in your business? Or will it distract you from doing the basics of marketing?
I consulted my good friend and mentor, Jim Carey, adjunct professor of direct, database and e-commerce marketing at Northeastern University. He says, "While I share your skepticism about the current, scalable commercial applications, I think this will be ready for prime time one day. Too many people are in it, the technologies are advancing rapidly and there's too much money chasing it."
So maybe I'm missing something. That's why I'd like to link in with you, "tweet" you, invite you to write on my Facebook wall, or you can just e-mail me at ARosenspan@aol.com and let me know:
How are you using social media? How do you know it's working?
Alan Rosenspan is president of Alan Rosenspan & Associates, a direct marketing consulting and creative firm. He and his teams have won more than 100 awards for creativity and results. For additional articles and a free newsletter, please visit www.alanrosenspan.com.