8 Tips for Surviving the Social Media Treasure Hunt

capsized ship, epxeriential marketing, event marketing, experience marketing, entertainment marketing, digital marketing, virtual events, social mediaThe Social Media Treasure Hunt is on. Brands and marketers are circumnavigating the globe in search of chests of buried jewels and gold coins. There are many hazards on the high seas, but explorers and pirates alike can find what they are looking for if they adopt and maintain a strategic approach to avoid catching gold fever.

The number of people who use social media is estimated at 110 million in the U.S. according to a study by Anderson Analytics. That’s about 37% of the total population (304,059,724 according to US Census data). Of that group, Facebook dominates with 78 million regular users, followed by MySpace with 67 million, Twitter with 17 million, and LinkedIn with 11 million regular users. This also means that roughly two-thirds of people do not use social media.

What’s most interesting to me about this is the conglomeration of behaviors that Social Media has proliferated among users and marketers alike.

A marketing program is like a ship, and right now many marketers are running over to the Social Media side of the boat and its listing. If we are not careful and move toward balanced, sustainable models, our vessel will capsize and it will take us some time to recover.

At the end of the day for marketers, Social Media is a channel. Granted, its a complex channel with multiple communications streams, both synchronous and asynchronous. It can also be used at many stages in the sales and marketing cycle.

Social Media is the next big thing, but we must be disciplined in our approach toward using it as a marketing tool or we will fail, publicly.

Here are some tips that will help you navigate these sometimes murky waters.

1. Set Your Objectives: Determine where you want to be in the next month, quarter, year and three years. What do you want / need to accomplish at every stage in your sales and marketing cycle? How many sales? How much revenue? How many suspects, prospects and customers? Determine business objectives first, then examine marketing objectives and social media objectives that will help you meet the needs of the business.

2. Gather Intelligence: Understanding your audience is critical. Who are they? What do they do? What are their interests? What are their emotional and rational triggers and inhibitors? How do they behave both on and offline? Where are they? What sites do they visit regularly? A good place to start is to look at your existing customers – chances are there are more just like them. It’s also a good idea to subscribe to different demographic and psychographic services to identify similar audiences. Read what the analysts are publishing. Observe your audiences. Listen to what they are saying. Participate in the conversation.

3. Choose Your Weapons: Create marketing tactics and campaigns (both on and offline) that activate your audiences triggers and overcome their inhibitors. Make sure you use the right tools for the job. Understand which tactics will drive awareness, thought leadership, lead acquisition, nurturing, conversion and loyalty. Deploy only the best tactics for each purpose. Again some will be online, some will not. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Be creative, be selective, be on brand and on strategy at all times.

4. Chart Your Course: Make sure your map (media plan and editorial calendar) addresses your audiences where they live, work and play. In short, hunt where the treasure is. If you are using Myspace and your audience is more of a Facebook crowd, you won’t be very successful.

5. Grab the Booty: As you capture leads and grow sales, remember to exploit advocacy wherever possible. Your customers can be your best sales people, especially on the social web.

6. Log Successes and Failures: Measure program performance. Understand what worked, what didn’t and note what adjustments should be made mid stream and in the future. Which social media sites were the most effective in reaching your audience? What’s the right frequency of communications? Measurement is critical to continuous improvement and long-term success.

7. Hire Mercenaries Carefully: You can’t swing a dead parrot without hitting an unemployed social media consultant. History tells us that the people who make the most money during a treasure hunt are not the pirates, but the people who sell them the treasure maps. Patricio Robles points out “Unfortunately, the rise of social media has created another internet opportunity that is ripe for snake oil salesmen. And boy have they taken advantage of it.” in the blog post, How to spot a social media snake oil salesman. Look for established agencies who have worked with companies like yours and have a proven track record of business success. Just because they have a Facebook page and 1000 Twitter followers, it does not mean they are experts. The bottom line is demonstrable business success for their clients.

8. Keep exploring: Experiment in uncharted waters, but remember where the best treasures are buried. The 80 / 20 rule of proven methods to experimentation applies.

Maintaining a strategic and balanced approach to your marketing program is an important step in helping you find treasure where others have failed. Understanding the relationship between social media with other tactics in your portfolio will help you get there faster, and use fewer resources along the away. Keep your hand on the helm and your eyes on the horizon and you’ll reach your destination safely.

Originally posted on the AMA Boston Blog September 1, 2009

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