Marketing as a discipline has taken decades to mature, indeed supported by the growth in syndicated data assists as well as new technologies and tools to support the interrogation and analysis of large data volumes. This has helped companies take yet another step towards one of the key goals of marketing: provide the right product at right time and price to the right audience, using the best medium and a tailored message.
These lessons have taken some time to be adopted in the expanding world of digital marketing. From broadcast emails to placing banner ads to capture eyeballs, the metrics have gravitated towards something new, including actions, conversion, click-throughs and even amount of purchase. Different companies, and even internal groups within companies, use different metrics to determine success. The metrics can be proactive based on strategy, or reactive based on other internal or external factors. Sometimes the approach is forced by competitive pressure, in other cases by the need to track performance against broader objectives such as budgets or margins. As businesses become more used to the digital arena, segmentation and profiling play an increasingly important role in targeted campaigns.
Enter the new frontier of social marketing. Many questions arise for marketers, generating much discussion in industry groups and conferences: Which platform should I use? Which metrics should be tracked? What is the ROI? What does it drive? Also growing in complexity is the issue of revenue attribution in a multi-channel marketing world, and the role social media campaigns play in overall results. All valid questions, but a big challenge is that many seem to be forgetting a very fundamental question in marketing, regardless of channel, and that is: exactly who we are targeting? What is the difference between the 10 or 10,000 people who ”Like” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter?
What is the difference between the 10 or 10,000 people who ”Like” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter?
This is an important question because it raises the issue of relevancy. Look at the marketing efforts in other channels. Do we show the same ad on all channels? What about print ads in magazines? Is every customer or prospect sent the same piece of direct mail? The same offer? How about email? Even web pages are providing different experiences to different visitors based on what we know about them, including something as simple as a winter clothing offer that’s based on the IP address of the customer. It’s clear that marketing efforts are becoming more finely tuned and targeted.
One key strength of social media marketing is the ability to engage an audience, though this can be marginalized due to the one size fits all approach for social engagement efforts. The troubling question is: At what point does this approach become irrelevant noise or social spam? If I have one page for customers to like, in an attempt to speak to all of them I may not be speaking to any of them. The only case in which all messages are relevant to all the fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter is if they are essentially alike because I have a very narrow product offering. Let me describe the issue with social spam using a simple example. A national clothing retailer has customers who differ by age, gender and geographical regions. At the most basic level, the factors that segment the customers would be:
- Gender: 2 groups – male and female
- Region: 4 groups – West, East, Central and South
- Age: 3 groups -18-25, 26-34, 35-44
Potentially there are 24 different segments of audience (2x4x3 = 24). It is late Fall and if the retailer is sharing updates once daily on its Facebook page, how often will it post something that is relevant to a 19 year old male living on the West Coast? Say the posting on Monday is for light Fall jackets targeted for teenage girls on the West Coast. Tuesday it is for heavier jackets targeted for 30-something males in the colder East Coast, Wednesday the message is for 35-44 age women in South for accessories, and so on.
At what point should that message targeted to a 19 year old male living in the West Coast show up? Until that message is delivered, the other messages might be seen as irrelevant noise or even be considered social spam. By attempting to engage fans and customers the retailer could be sending the wrong signals ¾ i.e., you are just a number. How long until this customer/target/fan stops paying attention due to irrelevant messaging day after day? It takes one simple click to stop seeing all or most of the retailer’s updates thereby losing the attention of someone who at one time was interested enough to like the retailer’s Facebook page.
So what is the answer? We have to go back to the basic principles of marketing. A social strategy has to be targeted and customized. We must be able to answer basic questions like: Who is our ideal customer? How much do we know about this person, and what is or is not of interest to them? This will help fine tune all aspects of our social channel efforts, segmentation and, eventually, drive strong results.
Profiling and segmentation are critical. We don’t send the same direct mailer or email, or offer the same landing page to all customers, so why force them to the same feed on a social media channel? The answer is to have more specific feeds, whether it’s pages, accounts or albums. The good news is that the right information is available to be able to segment. This includes all kinds of syndicated consumer information, as well as information available specifically in the social channel itself. There are many views and approaches to calculating the value of a “Like” on Facebook or a follower on Twitter, but regardless of how the value is calculated, the more specific your messaging is to the customer the higher the value will be. Remember the channel or tool may provide additional capabilities but the fundamentals have to be followed to make the best use of any channel.