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Do social media conversations about your brand convert to sales?

October 11, 2013

Some observation and suggestions by Mike Abel and Sean Bonthuys

visual: TVESKOV

visual: TVESKOV

There is almost no self-respecting communication and/or media strategy today that excludes social media – and certainly one that would exclude Facebook and Twitter.

But what many plans still fail to distinguish is the difference between social media as a network, a channel or a tool. Or any combination thereof.

Let me explain…

Social media networks merely describe the act of people connecting and communicating with each other on the Internet, as in the obvious examples of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but also on any other platforms that facilitates peer-to-peer communication.

Social media channels are hubs where content is consumed, interacted with and shared, such as YouTube, Instagram, and SlideShare. These channels make it easy for people to comment on and share different kinds of content across their networks. The content covers virtually anything: a song, video, animation, photo, graphic, presentation, podcast, article, map, game, app or tool. The purpose is to inform, entertain or be useful in some way.

Social media tools enable interaction with these types of content by encouraging sharing, bookmarking, downloading, rating, signing up, commenting, etc. Examples include curating tools like Pinterest, bookmarking tools like StumbleUpon, sharing functionality like AddThis, rating systems such as Facebook’s “Like” button, high-score tables, challenge-a-friend mechanisms and easy ways to embed content. The key to these tools is the minimal effort required to use them.

Social media only becomes powerful when using these three elements in an integrated way to deliver defined objectives in which, typically, valuable content is created that sits on social channels and is willingly shared across social networks through the use of social tools.

To get it right, the upfront distinction of roles is critical.

For example: uploading your ad to YouTube. Why?

YouTube is being treated as just another channel to see your ad. I would hazard that almost all ads uploaded to YouTube are simply the tv ad on your computer/tablet/mobile screen and fail to realize that you are not watching the ad on a static device but a dynamic one where a specific and relevant call to action at the end of the ad may well lead your customer somewhere that just “reflighting” the uploaded tv ad wont.

Now I’m not talking about all the amazing and innovative things one can do with YouTube in addition to uploading the ad, I’m simply talking about the basic first step of “tailoring” – even just the end of the ad to understand that you have a dynamic and transactional tool in the customers’ hands at this point.

So, when discussing Social Media as part of your strategy, the most critical question to answer before embarking on any work, is what do I want to achieve through its use ie what is the specific role of social media in my marketing plan – and what do I want my potential or existing customer to do?

Many Clients measure the success of their activities on Likes. Well, it’s a great first step as you then open the door on your Facebook page to start receiving content. But then what?

A Like will deliver very little unless it is simply the first step to unlock a more relevant series of conversations. It’s a door opener – but now you need to step into the “home” and stay there because you are useful, charming and engaging, eg: We currently have a challenger brand client that has fewer “Likes” than the market leader yet far greater engagement and conversations with its community.

Another example: Linkedin. I have seen so many car banners that again are brochures or links to the commercial but don’t allow you to book a test drive? This is a business environment where people are usually quite focused when in this “world” – surely inviting them to book a test (it can be linked to a promotion eg test drive & win). The number one objective for a car launch is usually to get people into the dealership and relevant “bums in seats”. So why just upload your tv ad or run a “rich media banner”. What do you want your customer to DO? The viewers IP address can easily serve you the closest dealership/s to where you are viewing the ”ad” so it all becomes a little easier to take the next step.

Financial Services: Most people online are not “unbanked” as is the jargon. So either you want them to a) switch to you b) to get a greater share of current wallet through new offers c) to get a portion of a potential customers wallet eg home loan, car finance etc. So why run just an ad or a banner on Linkedin? Has anyone asked the question “What is the optimal use of Linkedin in helping me to sell?”

It seems traditional viewership is currently the overriding objective mostly currently versus managing behaviour.

Many reading this piece at first glance may think I am teaching “grandma to suck eggs” but I am not. Most of the activity I see on the social media platforms is simply regurgitating the above the line work or is designed to get views, likes or even competition entries. It is unfortunately not being practiced as digital commercial psychology ie how am I going to get the desired bahaviour towards a sale – overtly or covertly.

So, before you embark on exciting conversations around “social media” put defining the exact role of it at the very center of the conversation, clearly defining the role that each network, channel and tool plays in pointing people to pieces of branded content. Once people have engaged with this content, they can be guided toward wherever the sale is made. Only once consumers are on your branded website or inside your physical store have they effectively stepped into the shop and given you permission to sell to them. The secret is to move people gently, with their permission, from social media to branded channels and websites, building trust at every touch point.

To do this, marketers must rethink the purpose of these categories of social networks, channels and tools, because their marketing purpose is different from their social purpose:

Social Purpose Marketing Purpose
Social Networks Connect and Communicate Point to content
Social Channels Entertain and Inform Stimulate a positive response
Social Tools Rate and Share Self-filter and promote


One Comment leave one →
  1. Andre Bonthuys permalink
    October 12, 2013 1:36 pm

    A very thorough overview for the “lamen” as well as social media experts !!. Well done Mike and Sean.

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