I've been listening to marketers' input at events, online and yes, in social media. Based on what I'm hearing, here are nine emerging principles that can relate social to your general and performance marketing planning.
1. First and foremost, social is about conversations and engagement; about building relationships over time. It is not about asking for the order or conventional lead generation. It is about mutually beneficial relationships.
There are four ways to engage through social: Communicate, collaborate, educate and entertain. All of this interaction can get monetized over time, but not in traditional, transactional ways.
2. Adapt a different view on how to build those relationships. Let customers vent -- even if it's not good news. Sometimes having a sense of humor or self-parody can help, particularly if you want to reach younger audiences. And remember what Oscar Wilde said: "It's better to be talked about than not to be talked about."
3. Acknowledge you don't have control any longer, but you do have influence. It is like democracy, where the consumers are now the voters and they have a greater say in the process. You can provide the forum for discussion by setting up communities -- and attempt to set the terms of engagement. Think of AmEx Open Forum. Criticism will come when you ask for it, but how you react to criticism or how you solve customer issues is most important.
4. Never ask for the order directly. "Buy one get one free" or "Give me your data to get this White Paper" doesn't work in social - it just feels wrong. It would be like a cocktail conversation about PDAs interrupted by someone who tries to sell you his BlackBerry. No way -- it's better to provide some insight or expertise, and try to build trust over time.
5. Social is a new opportunity to get the tone right, to humanize your company or product, and show how smart and customer-focused you are. A great way to do this is to answer questions on Yahoo Answers or LinkedIn. This lets you demonstrate that you're a knowledgeable and trustworthy expert. Encourage readers to contact you and your database builds.
6. Don't expect to know all the answers now. Maybe the best perspective about social is that we're hearing conversations now similar to what we heard about e-commerce in 1995: Everyone knows they want it, but nobody really knows what it is. Everyone expects to make money from leads via social, but nobody really knows how.
Social Media Bible surveyed 1,000 business owners: 2/3 couldn't define it, but 99% knew it was going to have a significant impact on their businesses and their lives. That gap spells opportunity. Further, I recently received an email from LinkedIn that there are more than 40,000 members in the Social Media Marketing group. That's a lot more than Financial Services Marketing (6,000), online lead gen (11,000) and nearly as many as Media Professionals (53,000).
7. Don't try to get involved with every aspect of social. One of the reasons many organizations don't progress with social is because they're overwhelmed by choice. Pick several social avenues that appear compatible with how you want to build relationships for your product and company. Getting started is far better than being spread too thin. And you still get points for experimentation, even if not successful. There's still some first mover advantage.
8. Social is your ear to the ground. Remember that the crowd that might praise or condemn your brand can do the same with your competition. Think of an ongoing focus group without the cost or the bad snacks.
9. Smart conversion strategies are vital in social, even more than through standard lead generation. Because you're building relationships, you'll want to learn more about your prospects to segment them. This lets you customize ongoing messaging, offer and frequency based on the value of each segment. Marketers who gather volunteered information but don't tailor continuing campaigns are wasting a huge opportunity to close more business.
This list will grow and it will change. What are some of the important ideas I'm missing?