Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Social Media as a Testing Hotbed

It’s no secret that corporate marketers rarely have the luxury of time and money. Today’s market conditions merely heighten the pressure to construct lead generation and corporate positioning programs with messaging that resonates with key audiences.

Companies simply cannot afford a miss. As a result, marketing and promotional campaigns are evaluated, tested, scrutinized and scrubbed prior to launch. This sanitizing process creates the risk that the final product will become so watered down in messaging and presentation that it falls short of achieving its benchmarks.

It is ironic the fear of wasted investment contributes to that very outcome.

What is a marketer or corporate communications professional to do? Our suggestion at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) is to still test, yet to do it in a creative and cost-efficient way using social media channels.

Corporate or executive blogs, micro-blogging platforms like Twitter, and participation in social networks and online communities allow you to segment audiences by industry, demographics and/or geography. And those active in social media are seldom shy.

They will tell you exactly what they think and why. Plus, once a relationship based on trust is established these social media engagers will often champion a company’s product or cause resulting in a measurable positive outcome. Rubicon Consulting recently reported those who dominate social media conversations are most likely to influence their peers’ buying decisions.

Here are a few suggestions on how to leverage social media prior to launching your company’s next promotional campaign:

1. Identify influencers in the blogosphere and social networks, and be proactive in asking them their opinion.

2. Listen…consider…and respond. This is the foundation of relationship building.

3. Welcome criticism. Thought leaders accept that this comes with the territory. For instance, my recent post about colleges falling down on social media education created quite a firestorm. It was good feedback though and I came to realize my broad categorization was unjust.

4. Build on the momentum. Point to good social media buzz in traditional public relations, direct marketing, advertising and sales activities. It’s validation that your product or service has been well received by the market.


spkearney said...

I absolutely agree with you. All marketers today need to throw off their traditional mantle and adopt the headset of direct marketers at warp speed with little fuel, er dollars. Every initiative should be tested, measured, fine tuned, rinse, lather, repeat. Blogs, wikis, social networks, forums, and the like are perfect ways to test new ideas and get quick, honest (sometimes painfully so) feedback. And since these programs are so quick and inexpensive to set-up and test, you should try lots of them to see what works best.

Here's a book I've just started reading on the topic. If nothing else, you've got to love the title:
Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules

Jill Marquardt said...

An excellent idea, Marc - particularly given the fact that many in social media communities definitely are not shy about expressing their opinions! I could see this working well for startups or nonprofits who may not have the funds for a traditional focus group - or for a marketing team who wants to test something quickly and on the fly without going through the whole focus group process.