Five Best Practices for Marketers to Keep in Mind When Advertising on Social Networking Sites
As more customers engage with social media networks, brands are following suit in the hopes of intercepting them with advertising messages.
Brands that are deciding to market within the social media space need to think carefully about engagement. In fact, "engagement" is probably not even the correct word, given the personal nature of the social gatherings occurring online. The tips for marketers deciding to forge conversations with customers in a social network are analogous to social etiquette at a party.
Know the social network you're entering. The importance of customer insight in today's marketing challenge cannot be understated. As marketers, we use the phrase "know your audience." However, this doesn't adequately describe the environment marketers enter in social network sites. The word "audience" presumes the marketer has the stage and permission to perform. This is simply not the case in a social network environment. Marketers need to understand there is a social event happening with or without their presence, preferably without. For example, if you're going to a party, don't you want to know who's going to be there? Are you even interested in these people and what they're talking about? Are they interested in you? What is appropriate to wear? What's protocol on what to say and how to act? Understanding the hearts and minds of the members of the social network is crucial before trying to engage them in a brand conversation.
Remember that you are entering a conversation. Marketers are used to controlling the message and broadcasting it at high volume. Social networks are conversations, and marketers are guests - maybe not even invited to join. Placing a one-way banner ad on a social network is like trying to run a radio spot during a telephone conversation between friends. When playing in the social network space, the marketer must enter the conversation as a facilitator of communication and offer meaningful value to the community, not expect to dominate the conversation with a marketing message. Remember the reason why people join a conversation in a social network - it usually isn't to find something to purchase. Understanding the engagement has more to do with a holistic advocacy relationship versus a purchase, which is important to remember.
Be authentic and transparent. This often is a tough one for marketers who are accustomed to tightly controlling the message and who like to be the magic behind the curtain. If you go to a party and don't really tell people why you're there, or are not honest about who you actually are, there likely will be negative consequences. The same is true for brands entering social networks. Brands need to be up front about why they're there and what they're about. If you think you can get away with behind-the-scenes manipulation or being something you're not, don't even consider social networks. There are brands that have tried this tactic only to experience an extremely negative backlash.
Provide committed value. The key to successful brand conversations is providing something meaningful and relevant to the community. Again, this means understanding the customers enough to provide something of value. Often, this also means innovative creative that goes way beyond traditional advertising. It may be employing technology or content that gives something meaningful and relevant to the community, and is consistent with the brand's positioning. Keep in mind that if the community does find value in the offering, they aren't going to be excited to have it suddenly disappear - remember this when developing the media plan. Engaging in a social network can be a long-term commitment if done correctly. Providing a valuable tool and then taking it away is potentially worse than not providing it in the first place.
Measure the conversation. It's amazing how many marketers have stated that they don't know whether or not their social networking programs have had an impact. One of the benefits of the digital environment is measurability. That being said, setting objectives for social network engagements should be similar to relationship-building marketing. The objectives and measures should be set from the beginning, not added as an after-thought. One example might include brand perception before and after engagement. If the brand is offering a valuable service, how many people took advantage of that service and what was their impression?
Social network benchmarks have not been established in many cases; however, networks can provide results from similar brand engagements. It is always a good idea to set a program goal in the beginning even if it is a first-of-its-kind program. Having the results will give marketers insight for planning future programs.
Don't forget to integrate the social network program with other digital marketing channels. This can provide further connections and keep brand conversations going beyond the individual network. Brands can engage in meaningful and productive conversations with customers on social networks. However, as marketers continue to plan these campaigns, they need to remember the rules of engagement have changed and plan their programs accordingly.
Daina Middleton is the senior vice president and director of Sunao at Moxie Interactive. Sunao is the agency's proprietary division responsible for customer insight, marketing analytics, and spotting the latest online and buzz marketing trends. Reach Daina firstname.lastname@example.org.