The recession has been great for social marketing, in fact, I feel it’s spurred the industry on. With overall reduced marketing budgets, companies must innovate, and find new channels that are more efficient than the ‘carpet-bombing’ techniques of traditional marketing.
There are a handful of goals that companies can have with social technologies, from learning, dialog, support, and innovation (see Charlene’s deck, starting at slide 8 to learn more), I want to drill down in the following matrix to focus on the goal of spreading, and word of mouth, and viral. I call this “Advocacy”.
Marketers, who strive to find efficient ways of reaching customers at lower cost, seek ‘force-multipliers‘ or a method where using a small degree of energy (or the energy of another force) to your advantage. Do remember, there is a downside to any action, and with ‘advocacy’ there’s reduced control over message and therefore more risk. With that said, many marketers know the benefits of content spreading are worth the risks.
Matrix: Breakdown of Advocacy Marketing
|Sophistication and Description||Investments and Returns||Strengths:||Weaknesses:||Great For:|
|Sharing Tools||Baseline effort. Tools like Sharethis, AddThis, Gigya, and some features in Pluck, and Kickapps.||High. Low investment as it can easily be deployed on CMS templates. Continual returns of content spreading with no additional overhead or cost.||Easy to deploy, yet transactional||Do not build deep relationship with customers||Getting started, a baseline activity.|
|Viral Marketing||A basic technique. Word of mouth campaigns on Facebook apps, YouTube (see popular), or Twitter (see moonfruit example)||Low. Being able to hit the right elements of the content people want, timing, and other factors are difficult. Chances are, most campaigns that intend to be viral never are||Easy for media and interactive agencies to create and deploy.||Dime a dozen. Short term and cheap. Not conducive to building long term relationships.||Traditional agencies and transactional marketers that are trying to learn social|
|Social Network Connections||An intermediate technique. Facebook, Twitter Connect. Easy to comment systems on blogs, to sophisicated Huffington Post social recommendations, see Buddy Media.||Moderate to High. Allowing customers to login to your site with existing connections increase value of social sharing and chance to serve up contextual data. However there are considerable costs in creating contextual content and systems that are not yet mature.||Encourages people to quickly login, share, and find others who have interests||Challenges in collecting email leads as customers now ‘login’ using social connections.||Static websites who need to inject social interactions.|
|Advocacy Programs||An advanced technique, see this checklist. Longer term programs with customer advocates like Microsoft MVP or Walmart’s 11 Mom’s||High return but high cost. Companies can benefit from an unpaid army that will market, defend, and support customers, but this requires significant resources to launch, grow, and maintain.||Builds long term deep relationships with a customer group that will defend brand.||Requires full resources for program, takes time to build||Companies that can’t scale their marketing in a high touch customer experience.|
Companies Should Embrace Advocacy Programs
Organizations are already deploying these word of mouth tools, but often without a plan or strategy, get started now by:
- Deploy simple sharing features now. These cheap and easy to insert embeds should be on every content type where companies want the content to spread. From press releases, to blog posts, companies need to make it easy for their market to share with others.
- Reduce risks by providing proper support and resources. Organizations should first understand the costs, downsides and risks for each type of marketing program, with greater returns (Advocacy program) comes greater commitment of resources, and greater risk, so to reduce those risks, put the right resources behind it.
- Develop new measurement techniques. Measuring the spread of information is more difficult, as often companies won’t have web analytics installed on third party websites. Instead use a variety of mention and url tracking with brand monitoring software to track how far information spreads over time.