I’ve never been the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps it was a fear that I’d be admitting that I was not perfect the year before. Or maybe I just had too much work to catch up on after the holidays to focus on myself. Either way, this is the year that all changes.
As social marketers, we are instrumental in bringing about change — specifically changing the way people perceive brands and the means by which we communicate with one another. So what better way to embark on this new undertaking than to base my resolutions for 2010 within the larger context of social marketing? At least by focusing on all of us, I’m not admitting any personal imperfections…
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Remember when Facebook was just one of many niche communities popping up and competing for our attention? Sometime in 2010, Facebook will surpass 400 million registered users worldwide, though the notion of “Facebook fatigue” is being circulated (probably wishful thinking by some of their competitors). Yet there are still plenty of social networking sites and communities that cater to more focused targets that we, as marketers, cannot ignore.
Even Google’s new social tools, Google Wave and Sidewiki, are showing how social can be integrated into something bigger rather than consolidated on a “private” platform like Facebook. We recommend an audience-centric approach: Understand what your consumers are doing online and where they’re doing it, and then develop programs to engage them where they live.
Be a Better Listener
Sure, you’ve got a lot to say. That’s why you’re in marketing for a living. But sometimes talking less and listening more can provide greater value to an overall communications strategy. Whether you engage them or not, customers and potential customers are talking about your brand and products in online communities.
Understanding what they are saying and where will help you to make a more informed decision about how to interact. Involve community members in your process, be willing to put some control in their hands and listen to the feedback from your “virtual focus group.”
Find a Happy Balance
We can follow the trends and stick to the same old methods and tactics, but thinking outside the box in social marketing means striking the right balance between paid media and earned media. Embrace new outlets for your marketing messages, including new technologies, platforms and blogs. As more newspapers and magazines shut down, blogs are reaching your audience with increasing impact. They’re continuing to grow in power. Oh, and if 2009 was the year of the Mommy Blogger, let’s make 2010 the year that Daddy blogging. Last time I checked, men still make up 49.9% of population…
Think Global. Act Local.
Social communities dominated our computer screens in 2009. But 2010 could be the year that both new and existing technologies will take over our smartphone and PDA screens. Just a year ago, only a handful of early adopters were talking about the potential of Twitter as a marketing tool. Now those same influencers are talking about foursquare, a mobile program that combines community integration tools, search and social gaming to make social networking a local and mobile activity.
Foursquare rewards users for “checking in” at real locations like restaurants and stores. Right now, badges and “mayorships” are your reward for ongoing engagement, but that may soon change. We’ve seen the integration of Twitter and Facebook into marketing strategies, so imagine what the future of hyperlocal content creation and advertising could mean. You can either wait for others to pioneer marketing and partnership opportunities or start thinking about location-based offers, shareable promotions, loyalty programs and other participation-based rewards right now.
Do Good for Your Fellow Man
As you plan for 2010, keeping your bottom line in mind is obviously important. But what if you can meet your objectives AND do some good in the community at the same time? Many companies and brands already have existing philanthropic programs, but tying it to social and partnering with your customers can amplify and maximize the measurable impact of your contribution.
There are a number of ways to make a positive impact ranging from a match-and-grant program with Causes.com, one of the largest Facebook applications with over 12,000 official non-profit partners, to CauseWorld, a new mobile app still in beta that adds in the offline “check-in” factor of foursquare. Find the right program that works within your overall strategy. And if it turns out that it doesn’t fit in your marketing plans, we hope you’ll consider working giving back in ways that may not be as public.
Get Back to the Gym
Okay, so this one has nothing really to do with social marketing, but if your office was anything like ours during the holiday, the cookies, candy and other sweet treats were always around and, well, you’re a little rounder as a result. And next year, please just send virtual cookies and help us cut back on the calories.
Be More Supportive of Others
Scaling your existing social campaigns beyond one-off marketing and communications initiatives can lead to increased brand awareness and a greater insight into your customers. But consider the benefit of serving your customers more effectively through social technology. Best Buy’s Twelpforce is an army of employees providing customer support on Twitter. By answering questions and taking part in conversations, they are developing brand loyalty and bolstering brand advocacy one customer at a time.
Spend More Time with the Ones You Love
Let’s admit it… We’re often too busy to spend as much time as we would like with the people who are most important to us. No, I’m not talking about family or friends. We log more hours calling and emailing our clients, vendors, partners and colleagues than we’d care to admit. But when working on demanding projects, making face time and maintaining priorities can get lost in a hurry. And while this isn’t strictly a social marketing matter, spending more quality time together and being more social (in the traditional sense) is a win for everyone… even if that just means video chatting on Skype.
Companies that can to respond to the needs of their customers in real time will find success in 2010, plain and simple. Companies that cannot will find their customers moving on. Speed matters. Advances in communications technology have led to a new reality that conversations can take place immediately and has resulted in an even greater demand for instant gratification. Preparing messaging strategies for multiple contingencies in advance will help make things faster when the moment comes. In general, however, a good rule to live by when it comes to timing… if you have to stop and consider how best to respond, you’re already too late.
Do Some Serious Soul Searching
Despite your best website optimization efforts to maximize search results for a product or service you offer, you may be lost and not even know it. SEO has been beaten into your heads for years now, right? But just when you thought you had it all figured out, the game is changing. Enhancing your search visibility in the coming year will mean incorporating your social platforms into your SEO planning as Google and Bing have already integrated Facebook posts and Twitter updates into their real-time search results. Time to sharpen your focus, syndicate your content and get involved in the conversations to increase your standing.
Good luck with these… and of course, if you have any trouble adhering to our resolutions, feel free to give us a call. Happy and healthy New Year to all!