A Practical Guide for Monetizing Social Media, Part 1 - Understand and Identify
As consumers continue to flock to social websites, marketers are spending even more time — and money — figuring out how to reach them there. The challenge for most brands is that traditional methods for marketing to consumers simply don’t work on the social web.
Consider this example: You and three friends are having dinner at a Stir Crazy restaurant at the local mall. You're right in the middle of discussing personally relevant topics when all of a sudden a retail sales clerk from a store around the corner plops himself down at your table and begins touting the benefits of his products to you. I can’t imagine that you, your friends or the restaurant would look positively on that experience. Therein lies the problem for marketers looking to sell via social media.
If direct marketers don't change the way they engage consumers, they run the risk of not only hurting their brands, but also diminishing the value of the social networks their consumers are using. If Stir Crazy allowed retail sales associates to “pitch” their patrons while eating, they'd soon find their establishments devoid of diners.
As marketers seek to leverage social media to drive brand impressions and revenue conversions, they must do so responsibly, preserving the integrity of the social web and growing their businesses at the same time. How do you do that? By building advocacy within your consumer base and motivating consumers to deliver your brand messages on your behalf. Friends want to hear from friends, not brands, on the social web.
Brands that can identify, motivate and track the behaviors of these advocates and influencers are the ones that'll multiply program results on the social web. To allow proper exploration of each area, I’ll start by addressing the identify concept in this article, followed by motivate and track in subsequent articles.
It’s hard to get somewhere with a new initiative if you haven't figured out the starting point. A brand looking to use the social web must identify the following two things:
- its current footprint within social communities; and
- which of its current customers are active on the social web.
Determining your social footprint isn't as difficult as it may seem. There are several solutions in the marketplace that help companies analyze social presence. Companies like Techrigy and Radian6 offer web-based services that enable brands to quickly access and track social presence. With Techrigy's solution, brands can get their arms around a variety of valuable metrics, including the following:
- Social tone. Is the tone of comments on the social web positive, neutral or negative toward your brand?
- Social presence. What social websites are most active in discussions around your brand? How does conversation volume on MySpace compare to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.?
Understanding these aggregate data points will help you analyze the impact of the social programs you deploy, while allowing you to develop strategies that help drive the business.
While understanding your social footprint is key, perhaps nothing is as valuable as knowing which of the people in your database are potential brand influencers. Understanding a consumer's aptitude for and involvement with the social web allows brands to target socially motivating programs at those individuals to develop a core set of influencers.
We refer to this as the "influencer segment." Companies like RapLeaf have developed data sets that can be appended to marketers’ housefiles to help identify the most likely influencers for their brands.
This is the first installment of a three-part series on monetizing social media. In part 2, which will be published in the Sept. 24 edition of eM+C Weekly, I'll examine how to motivate influencers to share.
Ryan Deutsch is vice president of strategic services and market development for StrongMail, a Redwood City, Calif.-based provider of commercial-grade solutions
for marketing and transactional email. Reach Ryan at email@example.com.