Entrepreneurs and startups often ask if they should use social media for marketing, digital media, or traditional media. The answer is yes to all, and the challenge is how to choose how much of each, and how to integrate them for maximum impact and the least cost. None should be considered mutually exclusive to any other.
The place to start today is if your company only uses traditional media for marketing, or no marketing. According to a Harvard Business Review article, only 60% of companies today use social media at all, and only 12% of those feel that they are using it effectively. These have the biggest potential for adding social media integration, and the best base for assessing its value.
This integration, or fusion with traditional marketing, is discussed in detail, with examples, in "The Fusion Marketing Bible," a recent book by Lon Safko, author of bestseller "The Social Media Bible." He outlines five steps to the proper utilization of integrated media as follows:
- Analyze your existing media. Every business should look at its cost of customer acquisition (COCA) and return on investment (ROI) twice a year and after each campaign. This is independent of whether your existing marketing media include traditional or social media, or both. The tools and measurements are the same for both.
- Focus first on the social media trinity. Don't try to tackle all 20 major categories of digital social media at once. The big three, which have 90 percent of everything you need, include blogging (Wordpress or Blogger), microblogging (Twitter), and social networks (Facebook or LinkedIn). These give good customer connection and SEO.
- Integrate your social media content with some traditional media. Traditional marketing is sales-focused, one-way push. Social media is relationship-building, interactive, two-way pull. To get first-time buyers today, you need push for coupons and business cards, and you need relationship pull through social media for customer service.
- Assimilate available resources to determine the level of rollout. Available resources are a function of management buy-in, staff, and budget. Of course, more resources are "better" for marketing, but re-allocating existing resources can be equally effective. Pay attention to in-house skills, skilled contract workers, and even students for social media.
- Iteratively implement and measure value received. You can't manage what you don't measure. Digital and social media all go through a computer at one point or another, so it's much easier to measure than billboard "impressions."
The goal of these steps is to create a seamless interface between getting your message out there and heard, and listening and responding to customer feedback. This will insert your brand into the online and offline conversations, drive traffic, and drive sales, at the lowest possible marketing cost.
With integrated marketing campaigns, Lon asserts that companies like SAP and IBM are reporting that targeted prospects are responding at a 3 to 5 percent rate on the average, which is an increase of 73 percent compared to standard e-mail campaigns. Others, like TransUnion, have declared an improved ROI after integrating social media, with $2.5 million in savings in less than five months while spending about $50,000.
But don't jump into social media or any marketing program without a plan. Lon references one Fortune 500 company he worked with which accumulated more than 19 million friends, all chatting about its products. But he could not find any evidence of monetization, or even a strategy. I talked to a company recently who identified 37 employees with social media in their title across the country. I wouldn't want to do the ROI on that one.
The importance of effective marketing has never been higher, for every startup, in this age of information overload and customer relationships. How integrated is your marketing, and how carefully are you measuring your marketing investment? The success of your business depends on both.