Fishersfile M&IT: April 2012
Juggling the social marketing mix
The traditional lines between social life and business life are becoming so blurred that it’s hard to know where socialising stops and ‘networking’ begins. More to the point, do social media actually work as a way to market events and products or is it all just digital media industry hype?
So, I’m just on facebook organising the Easter family barbecue, as you do, and I get a ‘notification’ message from he-who must-be-obeyed. It’s written in caps so I guess he may be a little cross. It reads: WHEN YOU HAVE FINISHED ORGANISING YOUR SOCIAL LIFE PERHAPS YOU COULD FIND TIME TO DO A BIT OF WORK, MY OFFICE PLEASE,IF YOU’RE NOT TOO BUSY. How the boss has become a ‘friend’ on my facebook is a little odd. I would prefer the term ‘vague acquaintance’ but this is not an option on the current site.
‘Digg, Flikr, Badoo, Xing, Gogoyoko…what does it all mean?’
At first I thought he was speaking while snacking again…an unattractive habit in anyone over 40… but I’d actually heard of Gogoyoko, the musicians’ site, so I understood him perfectly for once.
‘I was on Linkedin recently and there was a conference organiser in China who does all her business on Friendster and that includes taking the delegate fees. I also read that there are three times as many smartphones as there are laptops, globally speaking. So if we need to contact younger people to come to our paid-for events in future we need to think ‘smart’ and start doing stuff on phones otherwise we will miss out on the younger market. And if we go mobile, we need to be on social networking sites because no-one is going to download our massive events sites on a piddly, little handset, are they?’
It was a good point. The millennial generation, in marketing speak, has lost the art of talking when they want something. They would rather text, push a few buttons and then play games while they are waiting for the reply rather than actually call anyone or visit a website with all that password nonsense and expensive download fees.
‘So, go and find out how we can promote and run our next event via social media and tweet me as to how you are getting on. I am expecting you to say it is a cheap as chips…microchips, if you see what I mean. Ha, ha.’
I thought I would try Academia.edu, the social networking site for academics and scientists, and see if good old prof Cadwallader was in one if the chatrooms. He was.
‘Hi prof, sorry to interrupt the discussion about particle physics but can you give me some advice about social networking sites. We want to recruit delegates at no cost to our commercial events and thought doing it all on linkedin would be a good idea.’
‘Doing all your marketing for nothing would be great, wouldn’t it? But it’s not going to happen. Like all other marketing techniques, social media marketing has a cost but it’s more akin to PR than advertising in how you might measure its effectiveness or the time you have to put in.’
‘Do you mean we have to do lots of lunches and sponsor a charity?’
‘Not quite. The traditional way to market has been to pay for advertising or promotion on media. The trick was to find the media that matched your potential audience for a reasonable per contact cost. In theory customers then go to a retail outlet to buy your product. The more you spend and the more often you appear, the higher the sales. But with the advent of the Internet, especially B2B, there are many more ways to reach an audience than simply advertising… and of course many more ways to buy now, mostly online. So paying for advertising may be okay for mass media products but not so good for niche, business-to-business offers where the potential audience may well be only a few thousand at most.’
‘So, we need to cancel our advertising and send a bucket-load of tweets from now on?’
‘What you need to do is…carry on doing what you do, but add a social media element, especially if your event is very specific and would only appeal to a certain kind of buyer. Let’s not get carried away with obsessives like Stephen Fry and other celebrity types who communicate to keep in the public eye so they might get considered for new mass entertainment roles etc. What I am talking about is riding on the coat-tails of the facebook/texting phenomenon where 20-somethings realised that they could keep in touch with friends via their mobile phones very cheaply, initially by text, and then via social sites without having to be at home or chained to a desktop system. They formed friendship groups initially…so family, ex-uni contacts, sports clubs…but it wasn’t long before professional groups became the thing both to find out more about how to do their jobs and their industry issues but also to find new jobs. The networking skill was born.’
‘I can see that. But it’s pretty annoying when a ‘friend’ starts banging on about what a great oven-cleaner they have found, isn’t it?’
‘Absolutely correct. Which is why for B2B you have to identify what professional or business forums would be interested in your paid-for event and then gently introduce the idea of your event, well in advance. So, let’s say you are promoting the use of a new credit card for business people and you are running an exhibition about that very topic. You might join or better still invent an online forum about some aspect of business cards that annoys people such as ‘doing your expenses’. At some point in the discussion you slip in a link to your event and ask participants to let other people know who may be interested. Ask them what they would like to see in the ‘perfect credit card etc. Of course, it’s no good doing this with weeks to go. This is a long term strategy for your product so you would have been thinking about it six months out or more and have been sending informative messages from early on so that when it comes to crunch-time for your event lots of people already know what the event is…they just need a little nudge.’
‘This all sounds very time-consuming and detailed…’
‘Exactly. That’s why I said at the beginning that it’s a long-term strategy that relies on other people trusting you to give good advice, helping other people achieve their aims too and not just banging on about your credit card exhibition. And there is a resource cost too…someone has to do all that detail and ferret out what B2B forums would be useful for what you want to market. And just like life, no-one likes socialising with someone who will only talk about one thing. You need to be in dozens of forums to build a ‘community of supporters’ not just one. Because the more connected you are the more colleagues of colleagues will hear about it and the more sales you will get. You can recruit active bloggers to become ‘ambassadors’ for your event to help spread the word in all the right channels. But it is still only for marginal sales…don’t forget the more traditional marketing routes or you will come a cropper…because not everyone uses just social media for all their data. It is still a very mixed market, promotionally speaking. If you get 10% of your audience from this technique, you will be doing well.’
Well, as usual, it was fine advice. I’ve certainly now got a social media strategy for the boss. All he needs to do is do a funny dance dressed up like a credit card and fall over a few times and put in on You Tube. But the exhibition’s next month so better back it up with a few tweets. That was easy. Time for lunch, I think.
John Fisher is a director or FMI Group