Facebook has more than 150 million monthly active users. Twitter visits have skyrocketed 1 400 percent in the past year. And according to a recent Nielsen report the time consumers spend on social networks has increased 73 percent since 2008. Yes social media is exploding all around us. Even our moms are giving it a go.
Yet despite its popularity the social networking space is a vast and tricky medium to activate in.
Come on too strong and you’ll swiftly become a pariah. Shy away and you’ll appear out of touch. Attempt to gauge your impact without understanding the signs of success and you’ll waste precious marketing dollars chasing the wrong data.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and are wondering where to start who to engage and how to track the action you’ve come to the right place. Grab a highlighter and take a swig of that ice cold Red Bull. The event marketer’s guide to getting jiggy with social media begins now.
Like any strategic marketing effort social media engagement requires an intimate knowledge of who your customers are. “It’s not so much the more the better; it’s understanding your target market and understanding where your target market might be spending their time online ” says Joel Warady principal of Evanston IL-based marketing consultancy Joel Warady Group.
In the past year consumers 35 and older became the fastest-growing segment on Facebook. But just because your mom has a page doesn’t mean that Facebook is the only social network worth investigating. There are as many sites as there are consumer sub-groups. Popular age-based sites like eons.com for example reach the 50-plus demographic. Others like tbd.com specialize in the over 40 but under 50 crowd.
Facebook has taken over much of MySpace’s mainstream mojo but MySpace still plays a very significant role especially when it comes to music events says Andrew Strickman vp creative/managing director at San Francisco-based Ammo Marketing. “Every band has a MySpace page ” he says. “‘Come visit my MySpace!’ That’s the vernacular; their page is their space.”
Research the nuances of your target audience and the specialty sites where they might be engaging and you’ll find a greater simpatico between your brand and your audience. Plus you’ll have an easier time tracking activity from events. For example post an offer on Facebook to come to your booth or event but make a different offer on other sites you’re targeting. “Then when they do come we have a way of requesting information on where they heard about us; that helps us determine the ROI on the different platforms ” Warady says.
At ning.com you can build your own social network or search for specific consumer-created social networks by keyword. Marketers can use the site to zero in on sub-targets ranging from moms who Twitter to Barry Manilow fans in Brooklyn.
Bloggers can be very helpful allies in the quest for positive word of mouth but with 80 000 new blogs coming on the scene each week where do you begin? Once you understand who your target market is Warady suggests you identify bloggers who cover broad subjects your target would be interested in and then start digging down and weeding out.
“If we have a product that’s fitness related we’ll identify bloggers covering yoga Pilates and running ” Warady says. “Then once we find them we’ll read five to 10 blog posts to make sure they’re the type of blogger that we want they blog on a regular basis and we measure their readership. It’s only if they meet those qualifications that they make our list.”
Warady suggests further sub-grouping blogger target lists into tiers putting those with the biggest readership and who blog most frequently at the top. Then contact about 10 at a time to create a dialog. Sometimes it takes an exchange of five to seven emails before he gets the first blog mention. “Most companies will send something to all bloggers and hope they write about it ” he says. “We see it as a systematic approach.”
You should never ask outright to have your product or service written about. Blogger outreach has to be very subtle. Warady suggests breaking the ice by saying “This is a new product or new service and we’d like your opinion as to what you think of it.” The approach puts the blogger in control and more often than not Warady says they will come back and ask if they can blog about it.
If you’re going into a blogger outreach program set up Google alerts not just for your product but for your competitor’s products too. “That way we’ll know what bloggers are talking about in our category ” Warady says.
Don’t Sample: Tryvertise
Mixing sampling events with social networks gives marketers a unique opportunity to start a dialog and then keep it going long after the live event has wrapped. Tryvertising a term coined by trendspotting.com means advertising through trial. Instead of sending samplers out to street corners to give the product away “with tryvertising it’s more about having people try the product and then eliciting feedback from them through the social media platforms ” Warady says.
At its events gluten-free food brand Enjoy Life Foods distributes samples along with a card that invites consumers back to the brand’s Facebook page where they can share their opinion on the product and receive additional offers of coupons. “Again what we’re trying to do is complete that circle and start that dialog with the consumers ” Warady says.
Once you’ve identified your target bloggers check their traffic stats reader demographics geographic reach and more at quantcast.com.
And it’s all free.
Promote Your Presence
Marketers put down your fish bowls half-filled with business cards. It’s time to bring your audience acquisition strategy into the new millennium. At your next event put up a sign that says “We want to be your friend on Facebook.” Better yet get them to “friend you” (Facebook lingo for becoming friends) on the spot at a computer station. You’ll be surprised by the response. “It goes back to the psychology of selling ” Warady says. “If you go up to someone and say ‘I want to be your friend ’ it’s really hard for human beings to say ‘No get away from me.’”
Enjoy Life Foods launched its Facebook MySpace and Flickr pages last year. Every two months the brand executes an online event to keep the flow of friends coming in. At its virtual Halloween party customers could submit photos of their kids in costume in exchange for coupons. (The brand got 180 new friends in two weeks.) For Valentine’s Day people could create their own candy heart phrases. (This earned 130 new friends.) Enjoy Life also frequently sponsors FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) walks for the food allergy community. At the events they take photos and announce that they’ll be posted on Flickr and Facebook.
The key is to use every opportunity to drive consumers to your social network. Once they’re in it becomes easier to keep the conversation going.
“A lot of our consumers are very active and there are a lot of blogs and resource websites for kids with food allergies or allergy moms where they go to ask questions and get answers ” says Brita Brownstein marketing and p.r. associate at Enjoy Life Foods. “They’re looking to share and get information so they turn to the internet and turn to sites that have an interaction with them as a form of information.”
Post-event you can easily measure how many people became friends of your brand just by watching your friend count increase.
In March Facebook made some changes to the way its pages are set up. Now brands can operate on the site in much the same way consumers do. A few tips courtesy of Ammo Marketing’s white paper Four Killer Uses of Facebook Pages: Post short Status Updates that show up in your fan’s News Feeds. (Short authentic messages are best). Create a richer branded landing page experience by using Customized Tabs. Use Discussion Boards to engage fans in two-way chats about new product features or new ad campaigns. (It will make them feel like they’re a part of your brand.) And take advantage of better backend analytics via an Insights tab within your brand’s fan page. It delivers rich data on traffic time spent gender makeup number of times videos and photos are viewed and streamed and other items.
Turn Friends Into Evangelists
The more that fans talk about your brand on Facebook and Twitter the more influential they become. Put a plan in place to track that fan activity and then begin rewarding those who are more active. Warady suggests qualifying fans like you would leads. “They start out as a fan where everyone is equal. If they’ll actually post on the [Facebook] wall and say how much they love your product move them up on your list and identify them as an evangelist.”
Next step: see how many friends your brand fans have and then reach out to those with the most. “We’ll say ‘We know you have 600 friends we’d like to send you 20 coupons for our products plus 10 t-shirts and hats. Would you be willing to give them to your 10 best friends?’ If they say yes we move them up to brand ambassador ” Warady says.
The whole process from friend to fan to brand ambassador can be tracked back to the event the relationship started at and that can help generate a trail to the initial investment.
Create Bloggers and Tweeps
Choose an executive product expert or known luminary in your company that people would be interested in hearing from and then set them up with a corporate blog and Twitter page. Don’t worry everyone has something to say. The key is to stay committed be brief transparent and casual. Messages should encourage a direct response be updated every day and give followers a reason to stay connected.
“As the president of the company I’m trying to just be authentic about what it is that we’re doing ” says Daphne Mazarakis founder of Better Whey of Life a protein-enhanced yogurt brand who tweets on a regular basis. “We want to use it as an awareness-driving tactic for people who are interested.”
To keep friends and fans engaged cross-pollinate. Include your Twitter link on your website blog email newsletters and email signature. And why not include it on your product packaging?
Do you Squidoo? At squidoo.com bloggers come together on subject-specific interactive pages called “lenses” that feature rich content like eBay auctions YouTube videos Flickr photostreams and more. Use it to find like-minded consumers or build your own branded page.
Crash a Tweetup
Tweetups are consumer-created social events where folks who use Twitter (a.k.a. “tweeps”) get together in the real world. DiGiorno recently launched a flatbread pizza by reaching out to tweeps with strong followings and offered to provide free food for their events. The brand sent the hot pies to tweetups in major markets like Chicago Dallas and New York in the hopes that the tweeps will spread the (good) word.
Provide a Service
Zappos ceo Tony Hsieh famously tweets with his customers to keep the brand’s accessible personality alive. Comcast uses Twitter to address customer service issues with its customers in record time. Not all social media efforts have to be tied to marketing campaigns. Goodwill and prompt customer service can create a positive halo effect for the brand too. “The current opportunity is to understand what consumers think of brands by monitoring social media right now ” says Strickman. “We’re in the awareness phase right now where any sort of activity can be seen as positive or it could have been more positive.”
At this year’s South By Southwest Music Film and Interactive festival Pepsi created an online tool to monitor Twitter activity around the event (pepsicozeitgeist.com). The site analyzed and combined all the Twitter feeds buzzing around the festival and then presented them on a website called the SXSW 2009 Twitter Visualizer. Attendees could check out tweeted comments that were overheard see a visual map of where fellow tweeps were hanging out and check out what words were tweeted most for the day. There was no hard sell for Pepsi products; just a fun complementary service consumers could associate with the brand.
“They may not be activating it yet but they are behaving appropriately in the space ” Strickman says.
Nielsen’s BuzzMetrics is similar to a clipping service used by public relations pros. You tell them what you want to track (online behaviors brand mentions customer opinions) and it measures and analyzes all the relevant activity on the internet and within the blogosphere (nielsen-online.com).
Drive Foot Traffic
To promote its GoGear MP3 player last fall Philips took over a loft in the heart of Austin’s music district and opened the Philips FullSound Loft where 14 influencers (bloggers musicians and industry insiders) hosted events over two months for more than 1 400 guests at a time. To stir additional excitement in the music community Philips activated the Undiscovered Austin Music Search which gave local bands a chance to compete against each other. News of the program was posted on Flickr Facebook MySpace YouTube and Twitter (Ammo Marketing handled). The brand sent tweets to drive traffic to various venues like “I’ll be at Mohawk tonight—come and meet me for a drink and it’s on Philips.” Philips also used Facebook and Twitter to announce the event’s closing night secret show; people didn’t know the performers until the day of the event. “We seeded rumors via Facebook and Twitter we announced it and had a huge crowd that night ” says Strickman. “It was not a passive Twitter feed—it was all about driving people to events.”
Take photos at your events and then post them to flickr.com.
You can track photostreams (the number of times the photos are viewed) and map that activity back to your event.
Shoot for the Retweet
A retweet is when a Twitter follower receives a post from a person or a brand and forwards it to everybody on their Twitter list without any major commentary. This pass along can generate exponential buzz if the content is current and interesting. At a natural products trade show Enjoy Life Foods sent out a test tweet announcing that the brand had new information on a product that is not currently available to the public. Attendees were invited to stop by for the secret information. Ten minutes later about five people showed up.
Brands can track the number of times their tweets are retweeted on their own Twitter page. “One of the strongest measurement metrics that brands should be considering is if something they’ve created in the twittersphere goes out how often is it retweeted ” says Strickman. “It’s a great measurement of a specific event versus a string of events—how often are people tweeting about it.”
Use Twitter’s Settings navigation tab to add a bio customize your profile page and add a link to your website. Or post your Twitter feed directly to your website or Facebook page. Visit twitter.com/badges to create a widget.