Guest Blogger David Evans on “Social Media in Marketing”

David Evans is President of Digital Voodoo, a Social Media Consulting Company that our team has partnered with on behalf of several major clients. Dave’s firm is currenly developing a social media strategy for Meredith Corporation (via IQ Workforce) and has worked with leading companies such as Microsoft, HP, Southwest Airlines, AARP and PGA Tour on integrating Social Media into their marketing strategy.

Dave’s book, Social Media in an Hour a Day (Published by Wiley/Sybex) is due out July of 2008. It will be a practical guide for marketers interested in developing a working knowledge of social media.

Social Media in Marketing: The New CMO Challenge
Social media and its impact on marketing is a topic of interest for many CMOs. Ranging from the diminished role of TV and traditional advertising in the lives of Millennial consumers–early teens to just under 30years of age currently–to the rise of social networks and their use as advertising platforms social media seems to be everywhere. It is certainly an issue facing more than a few Fortune 500 companies.

What is Social Media?
Paraphrasing Wikipedia, social media is:
‘Participatory online media where news, photos, videos, and podcasts are made public via Social Media websites through submission. Normally accompanied with a voting process to make media items become popular. Social Media has a number of characteristics that make it fundamentally different from traditional media like newspapers, television, books, and radio. Social Media is not finite: there is no set number of pages or hours. The audience can participate in Social Media by adding comments or even editing the stories themselves.’

The most important aspect of Social Media from a marketer’s perspective is that Social Media is often a collaborative process involving consumers and prospects through which information relating to a potential purchase is created and shared. This consumer-generated information often enters the purchase process during the consideration phase, in between “awareness” and “purchase.”

Social Media and Marketing
From a marketer’s perspective, Social Media may appear optional or vague. Assume that what the crowd says is valid and accept that you have limited control over it. To a CMO, that’s scary. Yet, if you learn how to “manage the crowd” effectively you can actually create a significant and defensible market position. Social media works alongside your current marketing efforts to do just that. How do you manage a crowd? Listen to it. Tap it. Learn from it. One of the characteristics of social is that you can listen, measure, and track conversations relating to your brand over time. In other words, you can use social media to gauge and tune your current marketing programs.

Social Media as a Guidepost
One of the most valuable aspects of Social Media from a marketer’s perspective is in building and maintaining a feedback loop. Of course, getting the data is only part of the equation: doing something with it is where the real action is. Look at the Purchase Funnel from the traditional media perspective. The three stages–awareness, consideration, and purchase–define a pathway along which you move potential customers toward the ultimate goal, the sale. The purchase funnel offers both an insight into why traditional media works so well, and why marketers who rely on traditional media exclusively have difficulties with Social Media. The purchase funnel is a model that characterizes the process that leads from awareness through consideration to purchase as if they existed in a vacuum. A more contemporary variation on the purchase funnel incorporates the social web and the accounts for the impact of consumer-generated media during the consideration stage, where the actual purchase decision is often made.

The Consideration Cycle
Expand the Purchase Funnel to include “post-purchase” elements of the overall marketing process. In other words, consider the impact of the current customer experience on the impending decision of your prospective customer. The “consideration phase” of the purchase cycle is an area that marketers have typically avoided, primarily because it hasn’t been–and still isn’t–directly accessible. Instead they spend heavily on awareness and on the combination of point-of-sale and keyword campaigns. The hope is that the consideration “gap” will take care of itself. This is less and less the case as social media becomes “mainstream media” for a growing group of consumers.

The Challenge to Marketers
The challenges you’ll face in making social media work include ceding control—real control—to your customers and building bridges into Operations. The role of the CMO is changing fast, becoming a holistic position that considers the impact of pricing, the impact of operations and service delivery, and the impact of marketing as a whole rather three distinction components. As a CMO, you’ll also want to turn attention to managing short-term performance expectations: unlike traditional campaigns social media builds over time. Allocate a budget for metrics and assessment, too, especially in the early stages. In short, the challenge you are most likely to face is the challenge of moving outside your comfort zone. My advice: Just do it. Start with a plan and strong metrics and build on that. Find places to innovate, and then measure aggressively. You’ll find that social media fits right into your current marketing toolbox.

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