Social marketing is one of the most important new trends in online retail promotion. It is effective, builds customer relationships, and offers a better return on investment than some other marketing techniques. But often, online merchants don’t realize that they are already engaged in a form of social marketing: email.
Social marketing—which is sometimes called social media marketing or digital word-of-mouth marketing—is the concept of engaging with customers and potential customers in authentic, human-to-human-like relationships, which may or may not be directly aimed at the sale or promotion of a product. Social marketing seeks to benefit customers and potential customers similar to the way people become friends in order to mutually benefit from the relationship.
On the Internet, the social marketing relationships often center on the exchange of information that is of interest to both parties—the marketer and the audience. Frequently, this exchange of information takes place on sites like Facebook, Digg, Twitter, Meme, Tangle, or YouTube, to name a few. But more established forms of social media could include blogs and the aforementioned email.
Creating a Virtuous Cycle of Tweets, Facebook Posts, Blogs Posts, and Email
Email marketing is a powerful social marketing tool. It can speak directly to customers and prospects, even using a first name or user name. The content can be customized to address known interests, and the frequency can be controlled so that data arrives at intervals that recipients appreciate.
So, almost by definition, email is a form of social marketing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that email marketing is working for you. If this is your situation, there are many things that you can do to improve the effectiveness of email marketing, such as combining it with other social marketing tools.
Specifically, Liz Johannesen, an email and social media marketing professional from VerticalResponse encouraged attendees of a recent Practical Ecommerce webinar to establish a virtuous social marketing cycle wherein content could be created for an email newsletter or blog post, sent out via email, programmatically tweeted or memed, and posted on Facebook. Or, as another example, Johannesen showed companies that encouraged visitors to register for informational newsletters from Facebook and then linked back to Facebook from the newsletters. As newsletter recipients or Facebook fans forwarded content, the virtuous cycle generated more and more relationships (registrations) at an increasing rate, enabling marketers to find new prospect and engaging those prospects.
“For those of you that have yet to dip a toe into the social media game, think about some of the ways that you may already be interacting online or reaching out to customers, friends,” Johannesen said, adding “if you’ve ever [clicked a] ‘forward to a friend link,’ those links have actually been acknowledged as some of the first instances of social media marketing. If you have ever sent a URL to someone via email or if you’ve ever commented on a blog post, you are already a social marketer.”
The next step is to add activity on sites like Twitter and Facebook to what you are already doing so that you can take advantage of social momentum.
Johannesen went on to describe several ways that you could get started in social marketing, using the effort you already put into promotional emails as a springboard to other ways of engaging customers. She even included a “Steal this Idea” section, offering examples of what other online merchants are doing to connect with customers.