At the foundation of marketing and advertising are the arts of persuasion and inference: Try to persuade an audience to take a specific action through some sort of communications program, and then infer the relative success of the program through a series of metrics that were designed to draw correlations between the communications and the audience’s ultimate behavior.
And thus we have a multi-billion-dollar industry.
All parties involved – advertisers, media experts and statisticians alike – acknowledge that drawing anything more than a dotted line between an advertisement, promotion or other brand communication and a consumer’s action is much easier said than done. Nevertheless these analytics and metrics are the best we have had for generations for gauging the relative effectiveness – the ROI – of these programs. Indeed, for over 2 generations all manner of major business decisions have been made based on them.
Then social media crashed the marketing party, bringing along its own vocabulary comprised of reformulated Sesame Street-level concepts: friend, share, like, tweet, conversation, and others. Brands that ignored social media did so at their peril, because today places like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Pinterest are where many customers choose to spend their increasingly precious free time, exchanging experiences with others both known and unknown. Social media has bypassed being a passing fad and has instead grown into a bona fide behavioral pattern. Businesses as a result now need to predicate their broader marketing decisions at least in part on what happens in online exchanges they neither create nor control. By welcoming social media into their operations and decision-making, any sort of organization can move toward becoming a social business.
We here have covered what it means to be a social business on almost every different level. Nevertheless many marketers remain somewhat confounded by the relative lack of hard analytics to help define success in the social realm. How, when stood up next to the analytics-fuelled, metrics-driven conventional marketing program can one plausibly make room for – much less take seriously – social media as a driver of business?
It might help at this point to get to know a little Feng Shui.
A Balance Of Energies
With a rich history that reaches back to 4000 BC, Feng Shui defies definition in a pithy sentence. About.com comes closest, describing it as “a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune of people inhabiting it.” As much as it can be boiled down, Feng Shui is an approach to life that encourages us to take steps to facilitate “positivity” instead of trying to force a desired outcome.
A little wispy, perhaps. But for those who straddle the worlds of marketing and technology this notion of balancing energies resonates strongly, particularly in the age of mobility and social media. Being a social business may mean adjusting focus and adapting methodologies, but above all it means balancing the need for the brand to control its message with allowing the brand’s constituents the freedom to define the brand for themselves. It means using social media – whichever platform or combination of platforms makes the most sense – to allow people into the brand instead of dictating the terms of their engagement from a distance.
With this in mind, here are 4 tips for integrating social into your business as a complement to and partner of your traditional marketing program:
- Maintain a healthy presence in the social space by listening, not just monitoring. Use your social media presence to complement your regular media messaging as well as to inform yourself on how your audience might respond to different avenues for advertising and promotion.
- Start the process of social integration throughout your online presence. Some companies simply put up an AddThis or ShareThis widget and call it a day. More complete audience engagement comes from adding features and opportunities for users to participate with the brand and with each other through the brand. Possible solutions could be user-generated content (whether user reviews, ratings, or some other commenting feature), media sharing (relevant photos or video are highly effective), or location-based features.
- Be selective about what you ask and how. Find balance between asking and asking too much. This means taking the long view of your social media relationships, because you will need time to amass a truly valuable store of user insights and behavioral patterns. And this is OK, because over time you will want to adjust what you ask and how.
- Make it mobile friendly. Probably the single best way to raise user engagement levels is to make every interaction on your web site mobile friendly. Look for ways to enable responses without requiring the user to type. Envision the places where your user is using. Or, better yet, use your social media presence to ask them!
Achieving the balance required to be a social business is not mutually exclusive from the statistical rigor required to be an analytical marketer. In the truest sense of Feng Shui, becoming a proper social business can amplify the impacts of analytical marketing; Feng Shui doesn’t make your success, but it paves the way for success to find you. Being a Social Business, with all the customer-friendly practices it engenders, is very much the same.
Image credit: utnapistim
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