August 24, 2011, iMedia Connection: http://bit.ly/LMOgupta
Your initial efforts in social media have paid off. The interim goal of achieving a critical mass on Facebook has been achieved. Congratulations! But success doesn’t end there. Now that your brand has a big following, the next step should be to leverage the power of this group to further your goals — business goals, not just marketing goals.
Leverage fans like a focus group
Test your development marketing messages or product offerings. This is applicable to any industry or brand as there is always a need to get a read on market perception before a full roll out. Whether it’s a creative concept or a seed of a product feature, a read on how it will resonate with consumers can be gathered.
Get an ad effectiveness read
Conduct an ongoing advertising effectiveness study to measure the continuous impact of your advertising. Usually, audience and media studies are conducted at the time of the launch of a new advertising campaign. Once the study is complete, rarely is their active effort to measure the effect and penetration of the marketing message. The Facebook platform can be used to keep tabs on the penetration of the ad messages on the ongoing basis. Directional answers to internal questions, such as the following, can be gathered: Are the ad materials still having an impact on consumers? Are the consumers paying any notice? Has the campaign reached its saturation point? Is it still cutting through the clutter?
Proxy for prediction markets
During the new product development process or during a market test, it is critical to get a measure of customer response to the product/service being tested. Large corporations invest in complex prediction markets. Running statistical analysis on the quantity of posts or tweets can serve as a cost-effective proxy. For example, directional predictions can be made for a movie by measuring the buzz from the release of the trailer to the opening weekend.
Convert them into customers
Ideally, the fan base that you have gathered over time is of quality, for example, the majority of them are in your target customer segments. The fact that they have ” liked” your page suggests some level of awareness of your product. Per a marketing funnel, there is a baseline level of awareness. So the next step should be bringing your product or service in their consideration set and finally closing a sale.
In cases where the make up of this group is unknown, I suggest a three-step process:
Step 1. Understand who makes up your fan base. Demographics are readily available through the page’s Facebook Insights. More granular information should be available through a social management platform, if you’re using one. Additionally, understanding the psychographics and interests of your fan base is important to make the connection. A few ways to get a directional read on this would be by using Facebook’s Question / Poll Product. This would require defining the traits of each audience segment and asking the right questions. The U.S. Marines and NPR are good examples of brands that are using the Question product to know more about their audience’s “likes.” Each brand can customize the use of this Question product to suit individual needs. An Offline Survey also works well. Activating a customer segmentation survey that lives elsewhere online but is triggered only through Facebook can be effective. Yes, the completion rate might be low, but it could be improved by tying in suitable incentives.
Step 2. Provide custom content to increase consideration and engagement with each of your customer segments. A strategic requirement for this could be content and messages for each audience segment. Implementation would be a lot more efficient through the use of a social management technology platform or through Facebook’s Open Graph API. AT&T is an example of a brand providing custom content categorized by its audience’s interests.
Step 3. Provide consumers with a platform to make the transaction. This is where social commerce solutions like Storefront come in handy. 1800flowers.com is a good example of complete commerce integration. If your journey to a sale is signing up members, collecting leads, or fundraising, tabs can be customized to host that functionality.
Turn them into brand ambassadors
Invite your Facebook friends to “see under the hood.” Give them newsworthy information and let them spread the word.
Include them in the brand’s activities
Public service and non-profit organizations have a natural ability to physically involve the community in their activities. Commercial establishments can invite consumers to experience the brand first hand. For example, invite them to the opening of a retail location, or to see the product in making at the manufacturing facility. Scale with this will be predictably small, but it will create a viral effect of a much higher credibility. If your business is involved in community outreach, recruiting volunteers for the event from Facebook is another way. Starbucks held a Global Month of Service initiative in marquee locations by inviting all of its customers and partners to get involved.
Since this large consumer group has the ability to openly share sentiment, positive or negative (instantly), it behooves brands to provide customer support right then and there. Flipboard has resorted to a well organized customer support management solution. Ideas, praise, questions, and problems are categorized separately and responded to with the required urgency.
These are just some of the ways to harness the power of social media and take it far and wide. My approach to social is that it’s another channel in our arsenal, and with growth, it provides solutions that can enhance independent ROI and aid in achieving the corporate goals.