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Essential steps for social media marketing in a cross-channel world

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12th Dec 2014
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Cross-channel marketing requires marketers to think differently about the way they engage with their customers, and this remains one of their biggest challenges. Simply broadcasting regular messages via a few set channels is no longer effective.

Social media consists of billions and billions of interactions across a variety of different channels, creating platforms for communities and for conversations worldwide. It is essential for brands to jump in and become part of these ongoing conversations otherwise they are in danger of losing out to the competition.

Some take an over-simplistic approach to this problem and just auto-replicate already existing marketing content to multiple social channels. However, there are many better ways to create engaging campaigns. In social channels success requires a tailored approach which is built around engagement with customers. Instead of simply recycling the marketing messages from other channels, marketers need to think carefully and create the right social strategy for their business. So where to start?

Defining a purpose for social channels

The first thing to do is to be clear about the goal of a brand's social presence, then evaluate and define the mutual benefits between the brand and the customer. This is a key step in determining the best way to communicate with customers.

A ‘social purpose’ could be as simple as a pledge to enhance customer service, meaning interactions would mostly involve responding directly to the complaints and concerns of customers. By speaking with customers in a conversational, more available manner via social media, brands can deliver a better service proposition and if done properly, see great benefits to the brand.

Social media also provides a massive opportunity to engage in ways that other channels do not allow. Creating new conversations allows customers to talk about topics that are not just limited to business-as-usual.

Agility

In order to be successful in social media, flexible processes need to be put in place that allow quick and effective reactions and the organisation itself needs to become a “social business”. Employees, teams and processes should be centred around the real-time interactions that take place in social channels. The entire attitude needs to be agile in order to be able to engage in conversations that don't just stop for days and wait for responses to be signed off.

Organisations can empower their teams or agencies to make decisions on their own to achieve full potential, since social governance models and command centres that can still bring in an element of control. Yes, there are risks – and governance models and streamlined processes will help mitigate this – but the rewards can be great if you retain agility.

Understanding relevant communities

Mark Zuckerberg once said, “Communities already exist…think about how you can help that community do what it wants.”

More often than not it is an illusion that brands will bring communities to life. Relevant communities are already established – it is more a matter of finding the right ones, gaining the trust of the people within and interacting in a way that will add value. If the social purpose is focused on increasing engagement and creating more conversations with customers, it is usually quite simple to identify the best groups where people are already interacting within this environment.

Listening to and analysing the conversations that occur within these communities is really important to be able to bring value to them. What do people get excited about? Who are the Influencers? What social networks do these people tend to migrate towards? Understanding the issues will make it possible for brands to bring actual value to the conversation. Bringing relevant content to the community is how brands can offer more.

Content, content, content

Ultimately, success in social channels all depends on one thing: content. One can plan, strategise, define processes and implement governance models, but if the content is irrelevant to a community, or simply lacking creativity, then engagement with customers is going to be limited.

Bringing it all together

The key take away is that social media IS a great way for brands to communicate and interact with customers.

It creates excellent opportunities for engagement and enables brands to add value to the experiences of their customers. The three core practices for success again are:

1.      Clear purpose – Plan out and strategise what is expected of the social media campaign and how the customers will benefit from it.

2.      Adapting the culture – Cut the red tape and enable the custodians of the social pages to respond and engage to foster an agile environment and to create constant interactions.

3.      Inspiring and relevant content – Provide value and engage followers through relevant, interesting and quality content. Understand the community and be there to interact with them.

If implemented well, interactions within social communities can add so much depth to marketing efforts and ensure that customer needs are served.

Simon Martin is managing director of cross-channel marketing at Experian 

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