For many individuals and organizations, Social Media remains a nebulous dimension of marketing, but like an annoying dog, it just keeps gnawing at our feet. We know there is "something to it" as the user data clearly points to its significance and momentum. However, finding the right path to pursue and understanding the associated benefits are (at present) hard to discern.
Bringing Social Media into the fold of your online marketing mix is further complicated by the fact that there are probably many other unaccomplished web-related priorities you want to tackle, many of which that have more tangible outcomes.
So what is the rationale for getting serious about Twitter, Facebook, etc., and devoting the appropriate resources to have an impact? The answer is that it's time for the next shift in how marketers "market" and recognize that Social Media is going to play a central role in this evolution.
Think back to the late eighties. The primary channels to connect buyers with sellers were methods like telemarketing and direct mail. Everything centered on the premise that you had to put yourself in front of a whole lot of people and hope that a very tiny percentage were interested in whatever it was that you had to offer. Along the way, a very large percentage of people, particularly with outbound telemarketing were "interrupted" by your message. Social Media is not about interruption, it's about making it easier for people with similar interests (be they personal or professional) to have ongoing dialogue about those interests.
Any company that is proactively marketing itself understands a key metric that needs to be watched closely is "cost per lead". Cost per lead mattered (and still matters) with call centers and direct mail, and it is a vital dimension of online marketing today. The challenge that most companies face is maintaining a cost per lead that fits with the rest of their expense structure and revenue opportunities.
Companies have relied on lead generation as a way to build their prospect databases. Whether through direct mail, telemarketing, email marketing or search engine marketing today, organizations need to continue to build databases of prospects they can stay in front of on a consistent and low-cost basis. Here is where Social Media can play a vital role for your organization and justify a meaningful investment of resources. Adoption of this philosophy, however requires a shift in mindset.
The change in thinking centers around what a database of the future will actually be comprised of. I believe that it will be more about followers and fans, than actual names and addresses (email or physical) that someone types into a landing page or lead-generation form. It is time to begin thinking about a cost per lead for fans and followers and treat this type of lead acquisition effort with the appropriate level of seriousness and resources.
Don't misunderstand, like all other elements of internet marketing, everything is more difficult than it seems like it should be. However, the quandary of how the cost of social media marketing can be justified is very straightforward if the acknowledgement is made that fans and followers have value, that they are the next generation of leads, and that, through willing participating in your social media universe, they are demonstrating that they are more apt to be interested in whatever it is you sell than the others who you "interrupt" during dinnertime or by clogging their inboxes.
So, don't use antiquated means of judging a lead to dismiss the power of social media marketing. By being able to broadcast messages to qualified fans and followers you are, in essence, accomplishing the same, or better, marketing than you do through email or other means. Take advantage of that self-created audience and recognize the opportunity that it presents.
Lastly, please follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrewwetzler