Advancing Strategy for Social Marketing

“When it comes to digital marketing I believe marketers need to be more strategists & research minded than idea evaluators and implementers.”

After discussing social media this year with senior marketers from several large brands, the implementer reference in the above tweet by Shiv Singh really resonates with me.

More brands are taking (social) community management activities back in house while seeking outside expertise to continue guiding decisions around social strategies and applications.

When it comes to the day-to-day of social marketing, corporate competence is rising — and the “yeah, I get that, but what’s next?” mentality is placing a higher demand on strategy with expectations of research (or at least experience) to back it up.

As I’ve been preparing to speak about Facebook marketing with custom applications at next week’s Online Marketing Summit, I’ve found a common thread in the key takeaways pertains more to strategy than turn-key tactics. The following is a preview of a couple key topics I’ll discuss as part of that presentation.

Game Mechanics for Custom Facebook Applications

For those of you sick of hearing about it, I’ll start by saying game mechanics are not a magic silver bullet — and I took great delight in hearing Gowalla CEO Josh Williams proclaim “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” at last month’s Snowcial.

However, like Williams, those who have an established understanding of game mechanics are better positioned to get ahead. Why? Because it’s a matter of better knowing how human behavior works.

If you’re aware of certain ingredients that foster a higher propensity for sharing a social experience on Facebook, then you may realize higher fan growth and engagement as a result of implementation.

I touched on the Sanrio/Hello Kitty gifts application as an example of this when discussing social intelligence for Facebook marketing.

Another recent and impressive implementation of game mechanics (and overall digital strategy) is Vail Resort’s EpixMix, which is also promoted on the Facebook page.

Although the application doesn’t reside on Facebook, the Connect functionality takes full advantage of Facebook sharing via passive, automated check-ins at six separate ski resorts, all enabled by an RFID chip embedded in your ski pass.

“Passive” means you don’t need to pull out a mobile device for checking in. Updates to your Facebook feed are automatically posted based on your location with the pass, and one-time Facebook authorization.

A leading game mechanic in play for EpicMix is the use of more than 200 ski pins (digital “stinkin’ badges”) you can earn based on locations you ski at each resort, total feet of elevation skied and more. Although Vail Resort’s CEO, Rob Katz, wasn’t specific about adoption rate when asked last month, he was very clear about the fact that users signing on to share in Facebook exceeded expectations.

Game on.

Strategic Modeling for Social Strategies

While game mechanics address specific strategies from a human behavior perspective, the bigger and equally important picture pertains to how all elements of social marketing work together for the good of a business.

A valuable, but often overlooked practice is to adopt a model that facilitates a framework for strategy. There are a range of options with strategic models, but the one I follow is a layered (“Four Cs”) approach:

  • Content: This is the foundational element, focusing not only on the type of content (video, infographic, written, etc.) but also how to apply supporting research to guide its development and/or justification.
  • Context: Think of this second layer as platforms enabling the display and distribution of your content. Facebook, for example, would be an element of context in this model.
  • Campaigns: This layer puts the context in action, addressing key variables around planning, implementation, supporting applications, visibility efforts, communication, and measurement.
  • Community: As the top layer, the strategic focus centers on loyalty achieved through specific campaigns, advocacy, or customer experiences. Community should be viewed as long-term, with the expectation of learning that can be applied to future iterations of strategy and research.

Practically speaking, we as marketers should be both implementers and “idea evaluators.” But as strategists, we’re called to a higher accountability — one that distinguishes originality from repurposing, and activity from productivity.

Join us for SES London 2011, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place February 21-25! The conference offers sessions on topics including search engine optimization (SEO), keyword analysis, link building, local, mobile, video, analytics, social media, and more. Register now.

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