Paul Gillin on Social Media and Direct Marketing
I'll begin with your question: What on earth does social networking have to do with direct mail? Not much ... yet.
Look at this statistic courtesy of TechCrunch: In November 2008, Facebook drew 200 million unique worldwide visitors; more than one in five people who accessed the Internet that month visited the site. That's a lot of folks; that's a veritable community that may be more friendly to direct mail than you think, especially if you mix the two together skillfully.
To get the right recipe, I spoke with Paul Gillin, author of the recently released "Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business!", which was a follow-up to "The New Influencers: A Marketer's Guide to the New Social Media." Former editor-in-chief of TechTarget and Computerworld, Gillin now advises businesses on how to use social media to support their marketing initiatives.
Boldt: Many direct mailers consider social networking as an unrelated, foreign channel.
Gillin: It's true. I haven't seen a lot of initiative coming out of direct marketing organizations; rather, it's usually been on the public relations side, or the more conventional marketing communications side, that takes the initiative. It's a career-enhancing move to lead the social media charge. It doesn't have to be the marketing department.
Boldt: You write, "Community is content." Can you explain?
Gillin: There are several dimensions to that. Community support can be a very cost-effective and rich alternative to dedicated paid support. ... You have a problem with your PC; you can find a forum where there is a community of people answering questions. I also find that a community can generate content that can be used in different ways, and there are branded social networks that are doing this—where the company is not actually contributing a lot of content to the group; rather, the company kind of seeds the group with questions and provocative thoughts and gets people stirred up and talking, and the people take it from there. You'll see this on any successful blog, where all of the content is contributed by the readers—so you don't have to have one to two authors who are doing it all. Of course, the more members there are, the richer the content is.