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Three (more) Rules for Making Social Marketing Work

As promised, I’ve decided to share (and test) my next three rules of social media marketing, as a follow on to my last post.

These are loosely inspired by the “immutable laws” from Ries and Trout, and are based on some of the models my firm is developing.  They also aim to be observations and discussion starters as much as recommendations.

I welcome your feedback, critique and ideas for additional rules, and will plan to post more real-time thoughts and updates via Twitter.  So here goes.

It’s better to be better, than it is to be first

I know, I said this list is loosely inspired by Ries and Trout – but I just couldn’t help this one.  Traditional marketing says that you should be first.  But I’m convinced that social media rewards the fast follower.  Not only are switching costs dropping (to zero?), but the nature of social media makes it incredibly easy to share hot tips, create buzz and look for the lower price or better option.  Take MySpace vs. Facebook.  MySpace was first, but by the middle of 2008 Facebook passed MySpace in monthly visitors and hasn’t looked back (note that MySpace still has the second-highest market share of US visits for social sites).  Plus, many early social marketing campaigns were essentially market tests with little or no way to really measure ROI.  Some worked, some didn’t.  Now, better tools and emerging ROI models allow us to create better campaigns and user experiences and returns for our investors – and build on the successes (and failures) of others.

Social conversations continue (or start) offline as well

Last time I mentioned that social media is the ultimate discussion starter.  But it’s not the only discussion starter (or finisher).  Communities, and user groups and focus groups existed long before social networking!  And in work environments, organizations that have the most effective knowledge sharing have created a social infrastructure (business platform) that not only supports multiple social channels but also traditional channels like email.  Social marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  And just as radio didn’t go away when television came along, traditional marketing programs won’t either.  For this reason any reasonable Community Marketing Model (yes, I have one) needs to include both online and offline touch points and a seamless weave of social and traditional marketing as you move from conversations, to deep discussions and learning from the community.

Social marketing IS a battle of perceptions (and good content)

To get the part, you have to play the part.  If user-generated content and connections are the primary currency of social media, effective social marketing needs to not only be informational or clever or offer unique content, but also establish the company or their representatives as regular, trusted members of the community.  A number of successful B2B social networking sites and portals have done just this, by promoting both the benefits of reaching peers and having ready access to unique content or research, experts, news feeds etc (see common ground for a great example).  In traditional marketing, the message shapes perception.  In social marketing, the community increasingly shapes your brand.  Before, perception was an outcome of good marketing.  Now, having a good perception in the market may be necessary to even getting your message out!

What do you think?  Do these three new rules hit the mark as well as the first three? Any other ones?

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?