Why you may be Sabotaging your Social Media Marketing

By Mike Hickinbotham, Head of New Media, Telstra

Fascinated by Research in Motion’s (RIM) efforts to reverse their declining market share, I read with interest a post by Alex Goldfayn titled 7 Marketing Lessons from RIM’s Failures. One of the marketing lessons was RIM’s inability to determine if their customer was the enterprise or the consumer. As a social marketer, you could be making a similar mistake. You could be sabotaging your social marketing efforts if you are failing to determine if your objective is to target customers or consumers.


Step one – Learn who makes up the majority of your followers

Chadwick Martin Bailey and Constant Contact’s research highlights the majority of brand followers are customers. In Facebook, 58% of people that follow a brand are customers and in Twitter, 64% of people that follow brands are customers. Using research conducted by Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, an Australia-based marketing think tank, Advertising Age states “Facebook fan bases skew toward heavy buyers rather than more casual shoppers”. While the research indicates your customers are the majority of your followers, it’s important to assess the split of customers to consumers on your accounts. One way of doing this is by assessing the customer/consumer personas of people that have a voice on your social accounts.

Step two – Determine if you are sabotaging your marketing efforts

A customer versus a consumer based social media campaign has two very different business objectives. When targeting customers, it’s likely you will focus on upsell/cross sell opportunities and reducing churn rates. When targeting consumers, it’s likely you will focus on raising awareness and increasing acquisition. If the majority of your fans are customers, long-term social marketing efforts targeting consumer acquisition will require a different social media strategy than if your objective is reducing customer churn.

Step three – Strategies to build inside (customer) out (consumers)

Focus on your customers and set yourself up to allow WOM to scale quickly To start off, every brand is in a different situation with operating variables that ranges from talk-ability of the industry (ex: fashion versus insurance) to resources (ex: media budget to raise awareness of social marketing to a mass audience). If you are using social media to achieve a commercial outcome, investing resources in media is critical to access a mass audience that will expose your content to consumers.

Aim for quality over quantity. Finding fans that are ‘brand loyal’ requires a strong focus on product or brand related programming/content. Avoid offering too many attention grabbing discounts because you won’t know if they like the brand or the discounts.

Make your content ‘liquid’. Develop content that could increase the user’s social capital. In reference to Coca Cola, Jeff Bullas talks about liquid content as “creating ‘Ideas’ so contagious that they cannot be controlled”. This can aid your efforts to have your customers share your content within their social networks that could help expose your content to potential consumers.

Tap into offline networks. MIT published a report that states media exposure and traditional networks were critical to Twitter’s early growth. The video below profiles Twitter’s early growth.

Critical mass was first achieved in San Francisco and quickly spread to the area around Boston. This correlates with the common knowledge these two regions are home to a similar base of young and tech-savvy individuals with shared common interests.

How does this insight relate to you?

  • What social proofs intersect with your product/service that can be leveraged to fuel the big idea behind your social marketing?
  • Can you assess any geographical trends for new product adoption either from online sales or your retail presence?
  • How are the rates of adoption for your products and service corresponding to media exposure either through paid or earned (PR) media?

Mike Hickinbotham is currently Head of New Media for Telstra. This blog was originally produced by Mike for his personal blog, “Socialising the Corporation


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