5 Ways for Marketers to Integrate Social Media

Social media provides organizations the potential of capturing the voice of the customer, and providing organizations with a deeper understanding of how to engage their customers on their terms.

Here are five ways that marketers should be integrating social media into the marketing mix.

Social Intelligence

We have entered the age of intelligence. Social intelligence is about observing, listening and asking customers in a manner that enables organizations to gain insight into what customers’ wants and needs are, as well as their attitudes towards the brand. It’s about gaining insights from the conversations that customers are having.

But the key is not a particular technology, it is the manner in which social listening tools, online communities and online measurement technologies come together to empower marketers with insight that can be turned into action. Social and digital technologies provide an unprecedented opportunity to gain insight into what customers are saying, doing and sharing at the pace that marketers need to make decisions.

Data Analytics

Turning that intelligence into insight and then into action can no longer take months. Marketers don’t have the luxury of time. It has to be accomplished in weeks or in some cases, days. But how do you do this with mountains of research, ongoing data feeds, and volumes of data that can take down even the fastest super computer?

Data analytics is not something new, but the tools to enable faster, more efficient insights into customer attitudes and behaviours have reached new heights. Tools such as Environics Analytics’ PRIZMC2 segmentation or Generation5’s predictions have changed the way marketers can derive insight into digital and social behaviours. A simple postal code can now tell a marketer all the digital, social, mobile and online retail behaviours of a customer, not in weeks, but in minutes.

Social Media Programs

The key to this is the word programs. Most marketers look at social media as a campaign. But campaigns don’t deliver return on investment. Sure, you might run a contest on Facebook to get people to like your Facebook page and you may even get tens or even hundreds of thousands of people to ‘like’ the page. But then what? Does that translate into sales?  Usually not.

Social media needs to be integrated into the fabric of the marketing mix. It needs to build and be managed on an ongoing basis. Social media isn’t a one-off campaign, but a program that needs to be nurtured, fed and evolved. Social media enables an organization to dialogue with its customers, and like any relationship, it needs to be maintained. The opportunity that this brings is increased engagement with a brand or organization, and with increased engagement, comes results.

Voice of the Customer Platforms

To gain the social intelligence from a relationship developed through social media you need a platform to capture the data. Voice of the Customer platforms are transparent. They motivate customers to participate. They engage customers on their terms by asking them to provide feedback. They inform customers how their feedback will affect their products and services. They make customers feel that their feedback will make a difference. A Voice of the Customer platform will not only provide valuable feedback, but it will also build incredible brand loyalty, because customers will know you are listening.

Horizontal Integration

The fifth way to integrate social media is one of the most challenging dilemmas facing organizations today. Horizontal integration involves addressing the fact  that social media should not reside in one area of the organization. Rather, it crosses many different areas of an organization. Especially, when the true benefit of incorporating social media in the marketing mix is to gain social intelligence. It includes customer service, marketing, research, product development, human resources and even the office of the President/CEO.

Social media readiness within organizations must be determined not only from the context of the organization, but relative to its customers. If you have a highly social media-engaged customer group, but the organization is far behind, then the strategy is to catch up to the customer. If the organizational social media readiness is ahead of the customer base, then  it is the organization’s role to guide its customers. But this does not come out of one department. All areas of the organization need to have representation.

However, the challenge for many organizations is that they are still quite siloed and the act of trying to create a multi-departmental group to deal with social media can take forever. But this is a challenge and not an excuse, and it needs to be overcome in order to truly see the potential of social media in the marketing mix.

A New Perspective

Social media fits into the marketing mix, but it requires a new perspective to be able realize its potential. Social media supports the marketing mix. Listening to your customers and bringing them into the boardroom is a new and challenging proposition for some organizations. But considering the fact that digital technologies have now reached critical mass in people’s lives and the fact that the next generation of consumers understand the control that social media provides them, taking a new perspective to understanding how social media fits in the marketing mix can be refreshing rather than daunting.

I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic at Environics Analytics’ 5th Annual User Conference, held yesterday at the Toronto Board of Trade. My presentation is included below.