Social Mixing: What Role Should Social Marketing Play in Your Media Plan?

It seems that everywhere you turn there is a discussion or reference to social marketing. With more than 600 million profiles on Facebook alone, the reach is pervasive. Your executive staff and your franchisees may be clamoring for the social marketing "silver bullet," and they all want the game-changing traffic impact enjoyed by popular food trucks with huge Twitter followings.

There are a lot of good reasons that social media should be a part of your overall mix, and even more reasons for a brand not to rely on social media as its primary marketing effort. Social media is a great way to get immediate customer feedback and insights and to provide a higher level of engagement and customer service to your fans and prospects. Evangelistic fans referring their friends to your brand are your best and most cost-effective sources of new business. Who wouldn't want that?

The common perception is that social marketing is free. Staff time isn't free and the most effective social marketing campaigns are accompanied by online and offline spending. Think of how often you've seen the Facebook logo on a TV ad or an online banner. Most brands are supplementing social marketing with advertising that drives customers to their Facebook page, and targeted Facebook advertising has become increasingly popular as it can be targeted geographically, demographically, and pychographically.

How much of your budget should go into social marketing?

The answer is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Consumer brands are much more compatible with social marketing than business services, and an evaluation must be made as to how much and how often a fan wants to hear from your brand. While there are many reasons to engage in social marketing, the activities can be segmented into 1) content creation and 2) listening.

To give you an idea of the content creation impact, a survey of large companies indicated that while the vast majorities of brands now have some social marketing presence, on average they make four Facebook posts a week, 27 tweets, 1 or 2 blog posts, and 2 or 3 videos. If your brand is conducive to video, that is likely to consume a big portion of your budget. A growing body of data is emerging that indicates brands that abuse their fans by an overwhelming amount of low-interest content risk increased "unlike/unsubscribe/hide" rates. If you are making four Facebook posts per day, you need to question the value and utility to your community.

On the listening side come the activities related to determining which fans are your influencers and evangelists, reviewing user content for appropriateness, monitoring competition, addressing customer service issues, evaluating fan suggestions, and engaging with the community.

In-house or outsource?

Larger companies have dedicated staffs. Gatorade, for example, has a Social Media Command Center with multiple monitors and seating for five people. With 3.1 million Facebook fans and commercials featuring well-known endorsers, Gatorade can produce a voluminous amount of content. Most brands won't have content as compelling, and an evaluation of how much community dialogue is going on can be a guide to how much resources are needed. Many brands find that outsourcing some of their needs for content creation and monitoring to an outside agency or consultant is an ideal approach to augmenting their internal staff resources. If social marketing is closely coordinated with search advertising and online marketing (as it should be), outsourcing can be a scalable option to in-house staff who have other responsibilities.

Creative is an important element that will determine if a community will embrace the brand, or if they will tune it out as another source of advertising a daily sale or special. Here's a recent post from Jack in the Box that embodies the spirit of their campaign:

Jack: If burgers could talk, they'd say "Eat me." And I'd say "That sounds dirty." And they'd say "We're just burgers, we don't have the capacity for word play."

Developing a voice and feel for an online persona that is not overly sales-oriented may be very challenging for some brands and staff members.

What to expect?

Reading case studies of social marketing programs for various brands may give the impression that traditional media have been replaced by the Internet. It's true that all the growth and excitement is online and mobile, but only about 20 percent of total advertising dollars are spent on digital media.

Many franchise brands are brick-and-mortar or location-based operations. In a review of a few well-known brands, the number of Facebook fans divided by the number of locations generally yielded a couple of hundred fans per location. Most Facebook pages have active users who amount to 30 to 50 percent of their fan counts, which may further dilute the impact of social media. While social marketing fans are likely the most enthusiastic and important customers because of their ability to generate word-of-mouth advertising, it's not likely that a social marketing initiative will result in hundreds of customers at every franchise location next week.

Building a community through social marketing is an ongoing process that will strengthen a brand's ties with its customers, leverage existing brand users as referral sources for new business, and extend the overall marketing message at an affordable rate. Each brand must develop a strategy for using social marketing, establishing realistic goals, evaluating results, and optimizing their marketing mix.

Michael Sick is an independent marketing and business development consultant and writer and founder of Sick Consulting. He is a former marketing vice president who has worked with Jack in the Box, Pearle Vision, and Arby's, among others. In his free time, he is a black-diamond skier, an underwater hockey player, a BBQ chef, and a fiction writer. Contact him at 858-509-8930 or mike@GetTheSickness.com.

By the Numbers: Facebook Fan Penetration

A quick look at Facebook communities on a per-location basis.

Brand

Facebook
fans

Locations

Fans per
location

Weekly
posts
(brand)

Fan
comments
per post

Taco Bell

6,100,000

6,800

897

7

500+

Jack in the Box

372,000

2,200

169

7

100-200

P.F. Chang's

132,000

200

660

<1

20-50

Great Clips

24,094

2,800

9

5

15-25

Published: April 25th, 2011

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