So you have millions of fans and followers… now what?
In the past few years, the explosive popularity of social media has led brands to collect massive followings on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks in what seems little more than a popularity contest to build out a “social presence.” Now that most major brands have spent money and time focused on collecting Likes and followers, the question posed to social media marketers is rapidly shifting to: "What comes next?"
Connecting directly to millions of people with affinity for your brand is not an easy feat, and is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing social media as a marketing and sales channel. Now marketers must begin to focus on how to activate fans -- turning them into brand advocates and essentially evolving their social media presence into a research lab, idea store, and full-fledged peer-to-peer marketing channel.
The "popularity contest" is over
As a marketer during the rise of Facebook and Twitter, it was important to embrace social communications as consumers began to focus their attention and spend more time on online networks. The first phase of social marketing was a frenzy to be a leader and stay ahead of the competition in a mad dash to collect “fans,” “likes” and “followers.” But getting the most people to “like” your brand will not ensure success in this channel any more than collecting the biggest CRM database will. While those are both great assets, success lies in leveraging the community in better ways than the competition to drive true brand value.
Crowd activation is beginning
We don't have to look back too far to see how fast things evolve in technology and online. The start of the Internet brought on a rash of brochure wear, the most expensive of which contained an overload of Flash. The next phase brought about user-centered design, user-generated content, community and utility. Social functionality marked the start of a whole new era of Internet and marketing strategies, and the first phase of this is just ending as marketers realize that collecting people on the hottest platforms is not in itself the key to success. The value of social marketing lies in harnessing the value that social technology provides with a brand’s most passionate audience -- their “brand crowd.”
Marketers should now be thinking about the value of the audience they have built and how stronger collaboration with specific crowds within this audience can be the key to their brand's future.
Four ways that brands drive value in social marketing
1. Real-time Insights -- with the proper tools, a brand’s social audience can be turned into an advanced tool that keeps a company completely connected to the needs and wants of their broad audience and sub-audiences.
2. Crowdsourced Ideation -- the guesswork of marketers brainstorming ideas they think consumers will connect with will greatly lessen as tools make it easy to co-create new products and marketing campaigns with communities that brands have built on social channels.
3. Peer-to-Peer Influence -- while talk often centers on targeting uber influencers, it is a consumer's tight-knit, trusted group of real friends and family that influence purchasing decisions. Now scaling “everyday influencers” is becoming feasible, and brands have already built a great audience to start recruiting from.
4. Offline Advocacy -- offline word of mouth still is the key to shaping purchasing behavior. While online sharing and curation is hot, utilizing online tools to mobilize advocates offline at scale can really move the needle for brands that want to sample products, bring people in-store and create experiences around their brands.
The next phase in social marketing will undoubtedly be more difficult to navigate than the first, but will reap rewards for those brands that make the leap now. Further advances in technology are enabling brands to easily scale and measure ROI, and will make deep collaboration between a brand and its core crowd of enthusiasts a permanent -- and essential -- component of every marketing plan. Marketers that start to shift now and focus on unlocking the true value of their fans and followers, rather just collecting numbers, will be best aligned for success.