Merchants Need to Adopt a Social Media Mindset; 10 Principles
I often find small business owners are very focused on learning how to use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. However, more important than embracing the toolset is adopting the proper mindset. Put another way, before you learn how to use the tools, it is best to first learn why to use them. In this article, I outline 10 principles that are foundational to building a successful social media marketing strategy.
1. Everyone Has a Voice and Every Voice Matters
The social web has given people the opportunity to share thoughts, ideas and opinions on a scale never before seen. Even my 79 year-old mother is on Facebook! Though her circle of friends is small, I can attest that her influence within that community carries weight.
While everyone who uses social networks has influence, some have more than others. This is something to which ecommerce merchants should pay heed. A better strategy than attempting to reach the entire target market is to focus efforts on reaching those that have the most influence.
Judging the degree of influence was the topic of a recent article - 5 Social Media Influence Measurement Tools - so I will refer to to it for more information on how to find and measure the value of these influencers.
2. Word of Mouth is Now More Important Than Ever Before
One of my favorite marketing-related cartoons - which is taken from a book entitled This One Time, at Brand Camp - testifies to the power of word of mouth. You will notice that a certain product is being advertised in many different ways. However, the man seated at the table across from the woman says to the waiter, "I'll have what she's having." It is not the same product.
It's become a well-understood fact that people do not trust marketing and advertising messages as much as they used to. In its place, people have come to trust each other. Word of mouth has great influence in this social media-inspired ecosystem that is the web.
3. Listening is the New Marketing
It stands to reason that, if people are talking to each other and those conversations have influence, merchants should take time to listen to what is being said.
Three things are useful to listen for: who is talking, what they are saying and where they are saying it. With that information in hand you know who to talk to (the influencers), what to talk about (topics) and where to talk to them (social networks).
Listening is the on-ramp to engagement and I would not pursue a social media plan of action without first taking time to listen.
4. Lose Control of Your Content
Marketers spend a lot of time crafting a persuasive brand message, and we don't want anyone messing around with it! Unfortunately, that's not how the web works today. Once the message is broadcast, it becomes free game for anyone with an opinion and access to the internet.
Rather than resist consumer attempts to remix the message, how about partnering with them instead? That's exactly what Cadbury Schweppes, the UK-based confectionary owned by Kraft Foods, did with its Cadbury Gorilla and Cadbury Eyebrows viral video campaigns.
The company created these videos for use on television, but also posted them to YouTube encouraging customers to get creative and remix them, then post their own versions to Youtube. Hundreds of people did exactly that and Cadbury says it had a positive impact on the bottom line. For instance, the company credits the Cadbury Gorilla campaign with a five percent increase in revenue.
5. Information Has to Be Findable and Sharable
What I am referring to is the combination of search and social. If your company can't be found on the first page of Google returns for relevant search terms, in the mind of that consumer it does not exist. That is where social media can play an important role, due to the fact that so much of it is content related.
Not only that, all major search engines use what is referred to as universal search. That is, search engines look not only at traditional webpages, but to sites containing all forms of media, as well as social networks. Having a presence on sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others can only serve to help your search marketing optimization efforts. Truly, the line of demarcation between search and social has largely been erased.
Social media makes information, once found, easy to share thanks to tools like Share This, Facebook's Social Plugins, and others. Make content easy to find via search engines and easy to share via social media and you'll be amazed at the difference it can make.
6. Information Today is More About "Shared Connections" and Less About "Information Silos"
Once upon a time, having all your information stored on your company website was fine. That is no longer the case. In order to make information both findable and shareable, it is imperative that it be linked together in a hub and spokes arrangement, with the website serving as the hub and social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn serving as hubs.
If you connect your website to all the other places where your company maintains a presence online and connect all of those places, where possible, back to your website, you create a reciprocal linking arrangement that can not only help your SEO - assuming these aren't all "no-follow" links - but create synergy between each of the channels. Though individual channel serve a unique purpose, each should be one part of an integrated whole.
For example, your company website is a place where you maintain a greater degree of control over not only the type of content, but, from a design standpoint, the look of it as well. You are able to reach your entire audience and can present the data in a manner best suited to drive conversions.
On the other hand, even though you may be able to exert a lesser degree of control, having a presence in social networks is vital, even expected. They are where customers are gathering and where they spend increasing amounts of time. Increasingly, sites like Facebook and Twitter are where people are first introduced to your brand.
7. The Watchwords of the New Web
The four major trends that merchants need to be aware of, which I refer to as "watchwords," are: global, local, mobile and social.
The web is breaking down barriers across borders and enabling merchants to conduct business in places they never would have been able to heretofore. Conversely, the web is also becoming localized. For example, a report from research firm BIA-Kelsey stated that "nearly all consumers (97 percent) now use online media when researching products or services in their local area."
Increasingly, with the advent of smartphones and other mobile technologies, the web is moving to a mobile environment. An article in technology website GigaOM, reports that Mary Meeker, internet analyst for Morgan Stanley, has said that within five years, we will access the web more via mobile devices than through laptops or desktops, and that access will be via apps, not browsers.
Finally, it almost goes without saying that the web is now a social environment.
8. Facebook is the Operating System of the New Web
Facebook has long referred to itself as a "social utility." It wants to be the default network where consumers go when they go online. For more than 600 million people and growing, it has become just that. To many, Facebook has become the web - a 21st century iteration of America Online.
To support this effort, Facebook has morphed into being an all-inclusive online ecosystem where users can not only interact with each other socially, but purchase products, send emails and instant messages, and create business-oriented pages. Facebook's platform fully supports these activities and it will come as no surprise when the company continues its progress toward literally taking over the web.
9. The Web is Real-Time and All-the-Time
Thanks to mobile devices, we now have the capability to be online 24 hours per day in real-time. It is not unusual to see people walking down the sidewalk head down tapping out status updates, email or text messages.
Though it is by no means a foregone conclusion that all ecommerce merchants need to have mobile sites, merchants are beginning to recognize the need to consider incorporating mobile technologies into the marketing mix.
10. Using Social Media Does Not Have to Be Expensive
One of the most attractive principles underlying the use of social media is that it does not have to be expensive. While it is certainly not free - time is, after all, money - using many of the tools is.
There is no better example of this principle than what has become known as the "Will It Blend" phenomena, which is a series of inexpensively produced videos - the first ones were done completely in-house - by blender manufacturer Blendtec.
Not only have the videos become the company's marketing tour de force, they have been attributed to making a drastic difference in revenue in the hundreds of percentile range.
What I have been referring to in this article is the way the web works today. That's different than how it worked 15, 10 or even five years ago. Consumers now have a powerful voice that has influence and impact with other consumers. Not only do we as marketers need to listen to what they are saying, but get engaged in using social technologies to participate in and influence the tenor of those conversations. Doing so may mean the difference between whether you remain relevant in the mind of the 21st century consumer or are even in existence within a few years.