To complete our look at trends to review to include within your Internet marketing strategy in 2011, here are my suggestions on key issues to consider when considering your social media strategy in 2011.
Social media is nothing without content, your content, partners content and of course customers content. As marketers incorporate social media more to engage visitors in their brand or business, they will wonder how they can make use of the several profiles that have been set-up. It's my belief is that the realisation will be that the answer lies squarely with content. As social guru Chris Brogan commented about a year ago, "it's the firewood around which social campfires form". 2011 will see marketers see the results of content investment (ebooks, video, PowerPoint presentations) and test the waters en masse.
Though great content is born from the unique intersection between your brand and the needs of the market, start by simply unlocking the hidden content in your organisation. How many businesses have useful educational materials hidden on their corporate file server? Tools such as Scribd and Slideshare allow marketers to get their content online quickly whilst avoiding all the historic bandwidth costs, use tags and descriptions to help consumers find your content quickly. The number of visitors to these sites have doubled over the past year, and they will start to become a very viable way for businesses to reinvigorate existing materials in 2011.
In marketing and across businesses - we're seeing the increasing integration of social media tools as they become mainstream and the new services are born, at the same time more consumers are using the social technologies which makes the business case to invest even easier to argue.
Yet, so often, corporate social network profiles and pages remain detached outposts. Ask yourself, how easily can your social profiles be found online within customer journeys as customer interact with your brand, and how can they be used to help secure additional positions in the SERPs results?
Have you thought about campaign integration? Recall how many niche ads you see that get reported in the media - the noise created (not the end consumer) was their target. Millions of people know about them, however, because blogs thought they were so interesting that they wrote articles about them. One good test of whether your advertising can become a conversation: Would people notice if your ads stopped running? Clickthrough rate is not going to answer that question, easily measurable social chatter would be. Think of all the instant feedback you can garner as well. The forthcoming SuperBowl ad campaigns are a great illustration of this trend.
Consider web integration too - Facebook Connect is the most obvious example. Not only has the quality of this tool improved, but it's easier to implement and the number of people using it is on a sharp rise. Start simple such as incorporating Facebook comment boxes onsite to provide a feedback loop for consumers, having that purpose is what drives effective integration, or take the Zappos use of Twitter for commercial offers and specials. Corporate websites will increasingly become the corporate hub to aggregate and explain activity on social networks.
If you take the example of creating a customer feedback loop via Facebook, you can also see how integration starts to happen at the business level as well, colleagues with an eye on the customer and product management suddenly have a vested interest in the Facebook channel as well.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the English-speaking world, we know it, it's huge - bigger than Yahoo even. Yet why are there so few marketers using video effectively? Whenever I talk to people about video they nod their heads, they get it. But, they don't do it. My belief is that 2011 will see people experiment a little with video and the results will speak or themselves. Zappos, as one example, added videos of people holding shoes and moving them around to its sales pages and increased conversion rate from 6% to 30%.
And, it's so easy to do now - no bandwidth issues, easy upload and a plethora of tools to publish videos wider and integrate end-of-video outcomes.
I'm a big fan of Tim Ferris, esepcially his approach to business and marketing, I read this excerpt from Mashable about his recent book launch, "When I look at the traffic sources for my book [The 4 hour Body] trailer on YouTube, the biggest referrer isn"€™t my own blog. It"€™s The Huffington Post. I customized the existing video and text content to a niche (but still sizeable) outlet that didn"€™t exist two years ago: Huffington Post Books".
"With proper targeting and syndication [of content], this 50 second video almost immediately propelled my book from an Amazon rank of approximately number 150 to 30, now stabilizing at number four in all books. We used RankForest to track this sudden change", says Tim.
Impressive stuff: a relevant media format (video) with a powerful story positioned in a place where Tim's audience would best see and discuss it (The Huffington Post).
Email open rates continue to decline, the question is can your resurrect it? I think yes if you review what you offer through email marketing in 2011.
Email needs a revised purpose, whilst mass-broadcast to lists used to work (as a "numbers game"), the rules have changed and there's no excuse to communicate en masse anymore. The opportunity lies with the crossover with social media given that you have some level of connection with a social fan or email subscriber, by virtue of the tools you use to relate to them.
You will most likely see considerable overlap between your social and email audiences, tools such as Flowtown which help you find the social profiles linked to email addresses within your database. So. expect to see more cross-platform campaigns that use the unique qualities of social + email to create campaigns that are more than the sum of the parts
I believe that if you step back and think about the challenge, not the tactics, email addresses are possibly a safer long-term investment than individual social media networks. Sure email inboxes are busy but how often do you look at your Facebook inbox, even less!? On top of that - assuming you can get the "Like" from consumers, your message typically reaches the News Feed of only 5% of your fan base, so there's minimal penetration. Well segmented and integrated email marketing still seems a strong bet, not so much an either / or.
Smarter marketers should (and hopefully will) consider budgeting social media "acquisitions" based on lifetime value of an e-mail addresses, doing the maths to resource social media campaigns. Using the social channel to reveal people interested in offers and deals today, maybe using tools (like Groupon) for a short term acquisition but either way thinking about generating several purchases over time, email being a central tool to achieve that.
The problem for those responsible for budget is that predicting trends are one thing, but it's results that matters. I am therefore hopeful (more than predictive) that enough people will not treat socialmedia as a tick-box of different platforms, but instead realise social is so powerful, a fundamental shift in marketing, that it really needs making accountable, and it needs a measurable strategy in addition the the 4 points above.
Think about how you can start measuring *actionable* metrics, bring that social media data to the fore alongside search traffic, conversion, media ROI, site engagement and email open rates etc. Keep it to a minimum so as not to confuse.
Referencing point 1, integration, consider how to monitor indirect but nonetheless the actionable metrics, whether press mentions (including blogs) specific to a campaign, or even something that impacts product development. Tie it back, make social accountable.
Though a start, "listening" isn"€™t enough. Tracking the number of Twitter mentions tells you nothing, nor does counting "Likes". The bigger question is: What are you trying to build or deliver, how is that measured and how will you digest and action data?
The good news is that if you can do it, your competition will more than likely be oblivious or chasing the latest shiny web service.