Relationships are more than a few Likes.

Time was that email marketing was seen as the silver bullet to reaching as many people as possible in a ‘direct’ way, without the high cost of creating individual direct mail pieces and the inflexible NZ Post rate card. Marketing directors’ dreams were fulfilled and an onslaught of email comms ensued.

But quickly people learned that to make eDM effective, it still needed to have a strategy for engagement and real insight into opens, clicks, sales, and behaviour.  Masses of time has gone into subject line testing, creative version testing, even plain text vs html testing to get past those corporate email systems that reject images. Many have now got it down to a fine art, but it’s fair to say that many are still playing with the basics.

Faced with all that, the shiny new world of social media represents the ‘new new’, but we are seeing that many are struggling to convert ‘Likes’ into sales.  And what is a ‘Like’ worth?  54% of New Zealanders are on Facebook – that’s 68% of all online users in NZ and, according to Comscore, one in six minutes spent online is on social media. We all know the exponential value of ‘amplification’ via (for example) the newsfeed on Facebook. This can provide much valued ‘free advertising’ for brand managers.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that involvement in social media is a really important component of a marketing strategy, provided you put it in the context of a wider strategy. It delivers brand engagement, it allows you to socialise new products or services and, perhaps even more importantly, gives your customers an easy way to moan. This moaning channel is great because it focuses it all and allows you to do two things: firstly, others might resolve the moaners issues so you don’t need to say a word (nothing as satisfying as seeing one customer correct another!); and secondly, at least they are in one place and if you handle it right then you address multiple moaners effectively and get a positive outcome.

But how is it working as a sales or comms channel? Engagement stats are very different from ‘Likes’, and those brands that have gone out and harvested ‘Likes’ have a real challenge to keep people actually involved – especially when the younger demographic will ‘Like’ almost anything and then move on to ‘Like’ the next thing seconds later. It’s hardly a relationship.

Let’s think about it. I’ve got say 100,000 ‘Likers’ of my corporate page. I’m posting interesting content. Maybe up to 100 people are commenting on some of my fascinating posts, maybe relinking and so on. Wow this is awesome! So how much am I selling? Sorry? Selling? Who knows? People’s newsfeeds are great, but there’s now so much traffic on them it’s easy to miss so much in a short space of time unless you are checking all the time.

Now compare this to marketing directors who are investing in CRM and strategic marketing assets that they OWN and can build on over time, rather than trying to leverage a channel where they are at the whim of an American website and the needs of the shareholders of that website to extract a return. Owning the route to market, and the insights, rather than renting them, means that you can be much more aggressive and dynamic. You can control your messaging 100%, you can choose to have all manner of engagement media within eDM and drive to site, and of course you can join it up with Facebook and other social media sites and integrate them as part of the strategy. You can time your drop and, with eDM and smartphone at least, there are lots of metrics to see the effectiveness. Through CRM, you can learn about your customers and nurture the relationship over time.

So what I’m really saying is that it’s very early with social media and savvy marketers need to be using multiple channels, not just the cheapest or coolest, especially if they want to own the relationship with customers. A relationship certainly isn’t a ‘Like’. It involves reciprocal behavior and, in the language of sales and marketing, that means we want to sell more.

Author: Ben Goodale