The Three Rules for Making Social Marketing Work

John F Moore recently wrote in his blog, and Paul Greenberg concurred, that we need to move beyond just Customer Service for Social CRM.  Today I am privileged to have Allen Bonde write a guest post on Social Marketing.  In case you don’t know Allen, he was the head of his own research group (The Allen Bonde Group) while I was at Gartner (he was one of the few people outside of Gartner that it was OK to read).  We also worked together at eVergance, where he was the CMO, and he is now starting his own consulting firm (EvokeCRM).  He has a well established career as a CMO, and knows more about marketing in the this new world that I would ever care to learn.

As someone who recently completed a stint as CMO (with our esteemed blog host) and is now spinning up a new consultancy focused on the convergence of social media, marketing and CRM, I’ve been thinking a lot about the rules of social marketing (loosely inspired by the “immutable laws” books from Ries and Trout).  I also think that despite the current buzz around cool ways to use Facebook (see the new Vitaminwater app) or Twitter (see Esteban’s Comcast interview) or other social tools to connect with customers, things are getting a bit too “frothy!”  Perhaps businesses and marketers just may want to take a breath and look at not only what works with social media and CRM – but also where it misses the mark.  After all, from a service and sales perspective, social media really is just another channel (mostly!).

So…here’s a starter-set of 3 rules for social media marketing, with more to come.  I’d love your feedback and ideas for additional rules.

1) Social marketing is a cornerstone for Social CRM

It’s not just the marketing of your Social CRM project (still really important).  It’s the marketing potential in SCRM.  If all relationships begin with a discussion – a core belief behind many of the marketing program I’ve created over the past decade – social media is arguably the ultimate discussion starter.  From forums, to reviews, to feedback, social media can “fully activate the brand” as pointed out in a recent post.  But I think it’s even more than that when combined with multi-channel marketing and CRM.  Communities may in fact define your brand.  And your products.  And what makes your products fun or useful or even impossible to live without.  That’s why core aspects of marketing, from targeting to messaging to feedback, need to be in your SCRM efforts from the start.

2) Each social channel has its own persona

This is where the old mantra about brand consistency kind of goes out the window.  The roles a company and its employees (and customers) play on a corporate blog vs. a personal blog, or on Facebook vs. LinkedIn, really are quite different.  The audience in many cases is unique, and the expectations about how personal (or not) the exchange is or what information or offer is being made requires very different tones and even authors.  In other words, each channel (or site) has its own persona.  Take Twitter for example: somewhat friendly, connected to a lot of people, but short attention span.  A great listener, and good source of breaking news, but kind of anonymous (followers are NOT = friends).

3) Social campaigns get better over time – and with more connections

Just as the effectiveness of social networking grows with the size of the network, social campaigns and the “Community Marketing Model” I’ve started to define gets better over time.  Each new post or review offers additional perspectives for the community and potentially additional data points for social search or other analytics tools to capture insights and improve the experience (and kick-out leads).  At the same time, I have found that the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns is improved with more “cross links.” For example, using LinkedIn for promoting regional events has worked well for my team.  Inviting LinkedIn connections to follow us on Twitter for real-time event updates works even better.

What other rules would you suggest?

11 thoughts on “The Three Rules for Making Social Marketing Work”

  1. Three very useful rules to understand.. I cannot find one reason against any of them..

    An addition to the first one maybe. You state clearly (and I agree) “Communities may in fact define your brand”..

    On top of this I believe the most powerful of communities to build your brand on are Social Object Communities (Mark Tamis wrote a good post on this here: http://marktamis.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/social-media-communities/ ). Social Object Communities are about the “job” Customers are trying to do, like the reading-books example in Tamis’ post, or like “running” in the Nike+ example (http://www.eccvenkat.com/Ramaswamy_-_S_L_-_Co-creating_Value_through_Customers__Experiences_-_the_Nike_case_-_S_L_2008.pdf ).

    If one can automatically have Customers relate a “job” with a brand you have more than covered the bases.. A social object community (or SOC 😉 provides a great opportunity to connect the dots..
    .-= Wim Rampen´s last blog ..What A Social CRM Strategy is all about.. =-.

    1. Wim – thanks for reading and pointing out the SOC reference. I think the job concept may be like the idea of “context” in KM and search. Let me think a bit more about that!

      – Allen

  2. Allen and Esteban.

    Great post. It’s encouraging to see that we are moving from dreamy expectations into tangible guidelines for leveraging Social Media.

    I think Rule #1 is far and away the most important. I don’t think there is any argument that “social media is arguably the ultimate discussion starter.”

    Rule #2 brings up an interesting point. IS IT POSSIBLE to maintain brand consistency across channels while leveraging Social Media? I’m still thinking on this one, but I am not sure that I fully agree that “brand consistency goes out the window”.

    Finally, I would add some iteration of the following:

    “Start with the end in mind”.

    You describe a number of characteristics of the power of Social Media marketing, but we have already seen some pretty significant failures (see http://bit.ly/YiXgZ and http://bit.ly/86Ts4 ) from lack of clear strategy.

    In the end, social media is just a tool and requires its own set of goals in mind. The media, network, or method that an organization chooses to participate in, is largely dictated by the end goal(s) in mind. Blogs and Micro-Blogging might be most effective for some organizations while Facebook might be best in other situations. I believe that some organizations will fail because they try to force community where there is none, or might try and create fan pages when they don’t have any fans, or try and distort reality by running from transparency (deleting blog comments, creating fake endorsements, etc).

    Sorry, but this actually brings up another point. In order to fully harness the power of social media in marketing or otherwise, a significant shift in culture will likely be required for most established organizations. If the culture is not prepared for turning its doors into windows and transforming their marketers from shouters into listeners, things could go bad quickly, turn viral, and could potentially do irreparable damage to the brand.

    My advice: Clearly align social media with organizational goals. Listen. Learn. Define target outcomes and methods by which you hope to achieve them. And as the participation gets louder, and the conversation gets richer, adjust accordingly as participants color in the lines of your initial framework.
    .-= Brian Vellmure´s last blog ..So how big is this Social CRM thing going to be? =-.

  3. Allen,

    Thank you for two things:

    1. Writing such a wonderful post. Its pretty profound that the communities might end up defining our brand! But I can see that happening. I guess its only a matter of time before it becomes mainstream.
    2. For writing something on Esteban’s blog that people can’t argue much about! Am glad we are not leaving this blog in tatters. 😉

    Allen, you have allayed my fears that the real social marketing doctors might not emerge in the sea of the witch doctors practicing social media marketing. I am sending this across to our MarComm team thats beginning to test waters with social marketing, but are largely sifting through the works of social media marketing, which do provide some good tips & practices but fall short of providing strategic insight.
    .-= Prem Kumar Aparanji´s last blog ..All roads lead to Social CRM; But "Hanoz Dilli Dur Ast"? =-.

    1. John / Brian / Prem – I appreciate the comments from you guys, but am disappointed I am not causing more of an argument! Perhaps my next 3 rules will be a bit more controversial 🙂

      In the mean time, I really like Brian’s question: Is it possible to maintain brand consistency while leveraging social media? My first thought is that Yes, it’s possible, but only by expending a lot of effort. My second thought is that if the community (over time) really defines your brand, it’s going to be really hard to maintain consistency in terms of personality and performance (awareness, association etc).

      What do you think? Are there brands you can think of which “act” the same across all online and offline channels? Maybe Apple?

      1. Ah, little grasshopper — you could not leave well enough alone. If they say they agree, you say OK and move on.

        Now we have an interesting question to debate…

        Can brands act online and offline equally?

        Expected answer: sure, they should (or rather – must) or they would not be brands that are worth much…

        Real answer: they can’t. they never did take the time to plan and implement cross-channel, or even multi-channel, branding parameters so jumping online or offline will cause a very different brand to show. Airlines, Banks (and their relative credit cards), Insurance (healthcare, payer side), government and that is just naming what comes to mind!

        I just don’t think that too many marketers, despite their claims to the contrary are actually even thinking of a brand that can reflect equally on both (or even in multiple online or multiple offline) channels. I would even go as far as to proclaim heresy: Apple got lucky. Sure, the design and operations of the Apple Store continue the easy methods of the iTunes store (supposedly – or viceversa) — but what if people hated it? after all, it is not common for people to just walk around an open space and be checked out with a handheld with an emailed receipt…

        what if they hated that? would you still say that they successfully managed to bridge online and offline? did they plan it that way? or did they get lucky?

        Very interesting questions to debate… let me see who I can find to send over here to read, comment, and start some trouble…

  4. Allen, Esteban

    Extremely interesting post and one that makes sense in the ‘sea of froth’ that Social Media is becoming. It’s a bit like the Wild West at the moment.

    An area that I’m looking into is the transformation of traditional Call Centres – where customers literally have to call the company to ask for support – to support where contacting the company is only necessary for the minority of enquiries. And then where the company guides you to their support teams. All the other support will be readily available wherever out customers are. Makes sense to anyone comfortable with Social Media and SCRM but very difficult to explain to traditional Call Centre directors.

    Thanks for this post. it’s helped me think some things through. It’s such an exciting time to be involved in the area. Keep it coming, guys.

  5. looking for contrarian opinions and i wasn’t invited to the party? 😉

    Esteban, “I just don’t think that too many marketers, despite their claims to the contrary are actually even thinking of a brand that can reflect equally on both (or even in multiple online or multiple offline) channels.”

    do you think marketeers should focus on having a brand equally developed/perceived across all channels?

    surely they should focus on those channels that give the brand the most traction?

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