Digital Marketing, Email, Social Media Measurement, Social Media Strategy, Email Marketing Advice, Integrated Marketing and Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Media ROI

Social Media is a Samaritan, not a Savior

The problem with a lot of traditional marketing is that the call to action is too heavy-handed. “Visit your Toyota dealer now” or “Call this toll-free number” or “McRib is back, but only for a limited time.”

Each of these forces the recipient of the message – the consumer – to make a yes/no decision. You either care enough about Toyota, or Franklin Mint china plates with the picture of a beagle, or McRib sandwiches to act, or you do not. (in my case: yes, no, hell yes)

socialmediasamaritanMarketing was wholly oriented this way until about 1995, when the advent of the Web gave consumers the option to have a brand hors d’oeuvre instead of the whole meal. Visit the Web site to learn more about Toyotas, or limited edition plates, or pressed meat sandwiches – and then decide.

But most Web sites then (and sadly, now) are not tuned to drive consumers to act. Instead, they are disconnected bits of information that you digest in a sequence of your choosing. With most sites functioning like libraries with the card catalog strewn across the floor, is it any wonder that average conversion rate is below 3%?

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To help assuage this problem, companies and organizations embraced the email newsletter. “Just give us your email address, and we’ll send you incredibly important, relevant information about Mcrib on an infrequent, hardly-ever-annoying basis,” they promised. The problem is that email marketing – while still the most effective form of marketing on an ROI basis – is TOO easy for brands. Especially in a down economy, it’s incredibly simple to “just send another email” – which is why I wondered last January whether email was killing your company. Consequently, that promised relevancy and infrequency gets compromised, and your relationship with your customers – many of whom are not yet customers but still on the fence – goes right out the door.

Isn’t that a bitter pill? You spend big money on a TV campaign, but most people bail out in the conversion funnel because your email program wasn’t targeted and didn’t respect consumers’ time?

We’re All on the Same Team

This happens because the people doing TV, radio, print, outdoor, banners, etc. are not the same people that are handling email (or social media) in many organizations. Thus, the email and social media isn’t treated as a way to answer questions that are unanswered in your traditional marketing (or poorly answered by your Web site). Instead, they are often handled like a separate exercise, divorced from traditional communications – as if what your customers see on television has no impact on how they perceive your email and social media efforts, and vice versa.

And now, with email newsletter fatigue at an all-time high because marketers largely still haven’t committed to the relatively simple step of making email communication personally relevant, I see social media stepping into the conversion funnel breach.

Social Media as Conversion Bridge

Social media is the perfect conversion half-step. Not sure whether you’re ready to buy a Toyota? Visit us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, or read our blog, or watch our videos. Each of them will show you what our brand is REALLY like, and you won’t have to wade through all this pesky navigation and flash movies to get what you need.

Thinking of social media participation as part of the overall brand conversion funnel changes our expectations about social media ROI. Social media is a contributing factor that bridges from interest to action, like a spunky sommelier that upsells you on an intriguing Syrah. Thus, maybe we should start focusing measurement on number of social media engagements that stem from traditional marketing, rather than social media engagements that happen in lieu of traditional marketing?

If you consider social media to be a kicker rather than a quarterback, a piece of the marketing ecosystem that nudges consumers toward purchase – but isn’t expected to shoulder the entire burden – then don’t the questions of social media staffing and budgets and success metrics get a lot easier to answer?

Isn’t it easier to embrace social media if we think of it as a samaritan, not a savior?