The following is a guest post from fnBlog Contributor Yu-kai Chou, Co-Founder of RewardMe. Yu-kai previously contributed to “How Diablo III uses Game Mechanics to become Winning & Addicting”. This post, originally posted on the Gamification Expert Blog, discusses advice to startups on social media marketing topics: brand management, targeting, marketing gamification, social bookmarking campaigns, and influencer campaigns.
5 Dominant Techniques to Social Media Marketing
After helping a variety of companies with their social media marketing campaigns in the past 2 years, I noticed that social media marketing narrows down to a few dominant techniques that work well and produce results.
However, a big problem in the industry is that most people just think about Social Media Marketing as one big technique, and without understanding what they truly want, they pay consultants(mostly self-proclaimed experts who have never driven an ROI for companies) to help them do this social media marketing thing that everyone says is essential.
The result is unsurprisingly disappointing because every company, every budget, and every goal requires different social media marketing techniques. If you are a low budget company looking to get tons of traffic in one month, you can’t make online video shows everyday like Gary Vaynerchuk did because even the great Garyvee took two years to make it big. If you hire a “social media expert” to run a blog and Twitter account for you, you will quickly lose faith in social media because they’re not going to get you 100K visitors in a month by just doing that.
Different companies with different goals should have different social media marketing techniques
This is a serious pain in the industry because social media marketing is something that truly works and can be very powerful, but most people(companies and consultants alike) have a lot of misconceptions regarding the different strategies and how they should be used.
In this post, I attempt to break social media marketing down into 5 Main Techniques. In that way, if you are a company, you can ask your social media experts to do a Social Media Targeting Campaign, instead of just a vague Social Media Marketing Campaign. If you are a consultant, make sure your client knows what you are doing for them and what results they can expect.
Social Media Marketing Technique 1: SM Brand Management
This is the most common technique that the “experts” promise to do. This includes creating and maintaining a blog and Twitter Account, engage people who are interested, share valuable things in your industry, and eventually build up followers, visitors, and trust. It might even involve maintaining a Facebook Fanpage (not effective if you DO NOT already have a strong brand established) or a LinkedIn group.
This technique is effective because it fully utilizes the SOCIAL part of social media. You are out there engaging your target audience. You are making friends with them and creating value for them. You are building your own popularity and trust. If someone knows what you do and thinks positively of you, when they need your product or services, they will not go on Google and find a random service they don’t know. They will buy it from you. If their friends are looking for services you offer, they will refer their friends to you.
The problem with Social Media Brand Management is that it takes time, patience and persistence. Since you are not out there to close deals but to build trust, you won’t see an immediate increase in sales or signups. It’s only when people really trust you and care about you do they start to check out your stuff, and that could take months to years to build.
Companies who consistently pressure their Social Brand Building workers to self-promote, get traffic, and get sales will hurt themselves in the longrun and fail in social media marketing. They clearly do not understand that this technique was not appropriate for their 1 month ROI agendas.
Really engages your target market. Builds trusts. Leads to sustainable success.
Extremely slow. Takes a lot of time. Need to truly care about your audience.
When to use Social Brand Building
When you have a longterm vision of your brand and social influence on the internet, and you can dedicate at least one longterm person who understands what it takes to be popular online and engage with your target audience.
End Result: Brand
Social Media Marketing Technique 2: SM Targeting
Social Media Targeting is where you find individuals on social media platforms one by one and engage them about your services. This includes finding and tweeting people on Twitter based on their description or keyword tweets, contacting someone directly on LinkedIn for a B2B sale, or commenting on a blogger’s post.
Social Media Targeting is probably the most direct way of social media marketing. In one sense, it is like sales. If someone tweets out “I need a plumber in vancouver…” you immediately tweet them with “We’re in Vancouver and would love to help you out!” If someone complains about your competitor, you tweet them about yourself. Twitter is usually the best tool for Social Media Targeting for B2C businesses. If you sell corporate solutions, you would utilize LinkedIn to locate the decision makers and approach them. This can yield short-term and effective results, depending on how much time you put into it.
The problem with Social Media Targeting is that, if not done carefully, it could be be seen as spam. If you contact 200 people in a day, and you are NOT being a hero to them by providing them exactly what they need, they will view you as a spammer. Yes, the spamming industry makes a lot of money, but once you are identified as a spammer, it would completely destroy the long efforts you have put in for Social Media Brand Management and ruin your reputation.
On top of that, your accounts might be flagged or get deleted. That’s why make sure your Social Media Targeting operator really understands how to provide what people are looking for, not overload them with irrelevant services.
Another problem to Social Media Targeting is that it is not as scalable. By nature of this technique you are contacting one person at a time. Even though the conversion rate and ROI is high for this, it is difficult to execute it on a massive scale without many dedicated employees just doing this.
Very direct. Immediate results. Measurable ROI.
Risk of being spam. Could hurt reputation. Difficult to scale.
When to use Social Media Targeting
When you are looking for short-term results while not being too concerned with longterm branding. You also need a dedicated person who understands social media etiquette in order to not become spammy.
End Result: Sales/Conversions
Social Media Marketing Technique 3: Marketing Gamification
Marketing Gamification is when you create your own viral content that usually indirectly promotes your brand or services. This includes creating a viral video, hosting a competition, or creating a novel site that’s just to get peoples’ attention. Some examples of those, respectably, are the T-Mobile Plaza Dance, the Viralogy Scavenger Hunt, and Compare The Meerkat.
The difficult thing about Marketing Gamification is that it is usually a bigger-scaled campaign (hence more expensive), and the odds of it really turning viral are extremely low. Very few “social media consultants” offer this service (most blogposts lie in the Social Brand Building realm), as it usually takes an organized professional firm to coordinate the entire thing. This also usually needs to be accompanied with the rest of the social media techniques to create the full effect.
With Marketing Gamification, if it truly becomes viral, you are able to reach millions of people. However, when people talk about it, they usually don’t talk about the brands but the campaign itself, so make sure the campaign connects to the company itself in one way or another.
Potential of reaching millions of people. Opens the door to the 2 other social media marketing techniques below. Creates more buzz that other techniques.
Larger-scaled. More expensive. Chances of being viral is slim.
When to use Viral Content Production
When your company has a deeper pocket and wants to create unique buzz in your industry. It’s also more appropriate for products and services that aren’t interesting/sexy by themselves.
End Result: Buzz
Social Media Marketing Technique 4: Social Bookmarking Promotion
Social Bookmarking Sites are services where people share resources via a reference URL instead of the content itself. These sites include Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Delicious and dozens more. The goal for this technique is to get on the front page or get top ranked on these sites, driving tons and tons of traffic to your website.
In order for this to work, two things need to happen. One is that you have content or services that could go viral (so this technique follows the last one). Two is that you need to be able to get the power users of the bookmarking sites to endorse you. This could be a tricky thing to do and will often cost you money.
When you make a hit with social bookmarking sites, the traffic you can get is so high that it sometimes crashes your server (traffic from Digg that crashes your site is called the “Digg Effect”). However, a lot of the times the traffic itself is not very targeted (especially from StumbleUpon), so conversion rates are usually really low since no one is looking to buy anything.
Can drive tons and tons of traffic in a very short amount of time.
Slightly difficult to execute. Very untargeted traffic. Low conversion rates and time on site. Usually need to pay even if not successful.
When to use Social Bookmarking Generation
When you have viral content or services, have some cash to adventure with, and need to drive a lot of traffic in a short time.
End Result: Traffic
Social Media Marketing Technique 5: SM Influencer Campaign
This is pretty much having influencers who are popular bloggers, tweeters, video makers and such promote your product/services for you. This is probably the most effective and powerful ways of doing social media marketing. The biggest problem with Social Media Brand Management is that it takes too much time to build that trust with the online audience, ranging from months to years. In an Influencer Campaign, you are leveraging the engagement and trust others have built for months and years. This creates the strongest form of traffic because not only can it create hundreds of thousands of visitor, it also has a very high brand building and conversation rate since it is through a trusted referral.
To make this happen, marketers need to identify who are the top influencers in their niches and establish relationships with them. Some marketers pay the influencers directly to advertise or sponsor a conversation, some give out free units, and some just give out first dibs to new services. Whatever it is, make sure the blogger discloses the relationship to their readers to not get in trouble. Getting through this is a huge pain, but once it is executed well, it is the most effective form of social media marketing for making something go viral (think Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week).
Finally, your product or service must be viral or sexy for this to work well since bloggers are putting their reputation on the line and are not going to promote random commodities. If your product/service itself is not special, then be sure to create a unique and outrageous campaign that you want these influencers to write about.
Generates large amount of qualified traffic through a medium of trust. Builds a strong brand. Fast results.
Expensive or Time Consuming. Risk of influencers refusing to help or write negative posts about your service/product.
When do use Social Media Influencer Campaign
When your company has a budget, a sexy product or is launching a unique campaign/competition and need lots of buzz with targetted traffic onto your site.
End Result: Brand + Traffic + Sales/Conversions
(Disclosure: Viralogy.com, the startup I am working on, focuses on helping marketers do Influencer Campaigns, so my opinions on this may be biased).
What techniques have you tried and what works best?
Out of these strategies, what have you tried in the past and what works for you? What doesn’t work for you? Are there any more techniques that you can think of? It’s time to leave a message in the comment section.
Connect with Yu-Kai on Twitter @yukaichou or follow his blog. Want to learn more about RewardMe? Follow their blog.
Yu-kai Chou is an Expert and Speaker/Lecturer in Gamification and the Co-Founder of RewardMe. He regularly speaks at entities like Stanford University, Google, The Internet Marketing Conference as well as VC and Entrepreneur Gatherings.