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Campaigns That Count, Ric Dragon’s execution tips for a successful social media strategy.

Ric Dragon

Campaigns That Count
Ric Dragon’s execution tips for a successful social media strategy.
by Kate Pavao, September 2012

It’s clear social media has changed the way companies interact with customers: a recent survey conducted by Oracle Retail (Consumer Views of Live Help Online 2012: A Global Perspective), found 53 percent of Twitter users expect a personal response within two hours of asking a question or posting a complaint.

Executives know their company needs a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. But the devil is in the details when it comes to creating campaigns that connect with customers — or responding when social media marketing goes sour.

Here, Profit talks to Ric Dragon, CEO of DragonSearch and author of Social Marketology, about what it takes to successfully interact with customers on social media — and how to avoid making mistakes that could damage your brand.

Profit: What do you need to be successful in social media marketing?

Dragon: Executives need to know what their brand is today — and what their aspirations are for it to be. This is an important fundamental piece of work. If your brand voice isn’t clear, then the people doing social media on your behalf, whether that’s an internal communications manager or an outside agency, won’t be able to communicate clearly as a consequence.

Knowing your desired outcomes is just as critical, from big business objectives—the purpose and visions of the business—all the way down to goals and objectives, and very particular metrics. Almost everyone I interviewed for the book told me that was one of the biggest things lacking in social media marketing is a clear focus on desired outcomes.

What’s good for one company isn’t necessarily good for another, but one thing that’s happening now is a lot and more successful campaigns are evoking concepts of storytelling. Instead of putting up one little piece communicating benefits, there’s a larger narrative over their communications. They are communicating a bigger story. That’s where I see the bigger success happening because humans are wired to respond to storytelling.

Profit: What are some of the social media marketing mistakes that companies continue to make?

Dragon: One of the biggest mistakes I still see is people trying to cover their butts. Deleting comments or not responding quickly, these are the worst things you could do. When it comes to social media, organizations need to be transparent, honest and authentic. This has to be a strong part of your company’s culture, and communicated from the top down.

To prevent gaffes from happening—or to overcome them—you certainly need to have very clear policy, and a response plan in place. Training is critical. You may not be able to prevent those two employees in your pizza shop from posting rude videos in the middle of a weekend night, but you have control over how you respond.

Profit: What do you need to keep in mind if you outsource your social media marketing?

Dragon: You have to insist on the same elements of transparency, authenticity and process that you would with internal teams. And you want to be in agreement about how to respond in different circumstances.

Also, you want to make sure the outside agency knows how to put together a comprehensive social media marketing plan based on desired outcome. Every single thing the agency does on social media should reflect back to your purpose and larger organizational vision. At DragonSearch, we meet weekly with all of our clients, so they can report to us, and we can share relevant information with them.

Profit: Is it getting easier to link social media marketing to ROI?

Dragon: It’s perfectly feasible to link it to ROI, but some of the types of studies that you have to do in order to demonstrate ROI cost more than they are worth. For instance, awareness studies are expensive. If a good awareness study cost $20,000, that’s $20,000 you could have put into your marketing.

Marketing in general — and social media marketing in particular — requires more of a balanced scorecard. I might look at how many conversations I’ve had and what quality of conversations they were. Instead of measuring how many people have “Liked” my Facebook page, I can count how many people have I helped today. And we can work through a series of assumptions: If we increase the number of Likes we get on our brand by 10 percent, what is the net effect? We can measure that.

Some aspects of our social marketing will have very immediate near-term effect, but I would not look for it to be the thing that’s going to raise sales by 10 percent next quarter, and if it doesn’t then it has failed. Marketing has to have an impact on those immediate sales but also has to help to create long-term brand equity.