Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Clear ROI from theTravel Channel's "T House"

I am often asked by prospective clients about the best practices related to the adoption of social media.

How do we effectively use Twitter? What should we doing on Facebook? Should our CEO blog?

My response is typically the same: step one is to define a set of goals and success benchmarks that align with the organization's priorities.

I realize this counsel is rather "Marketing 101." Yet, the early adopter stage of social media has led many organizations to employ a bag of tactics approach as a means of testing social's effectiveness.

Ironically, this strictly tactical implementation methodology tends to stunt its effectiveness and ROI.

This isn't the case over at the Travel Channel. This week, Patrick Lafferty -- the media company's one-time Chief Marketing Officer -- visited Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) as part of our professional development series.

While Lafferty shared examples of how the Travel Channel has tapped social networks for buzz, to promote its brand and cultivate relationships with viewers, I was awestruck by a more pedestrian (yet high value) application of social media.

As you might suspect, entertainment houses and broadcasters like the Travel Channel invest considerable time and budget in the development and production of content. It's the foundation of their advertising-driven economic model.

A resource consuming step in the content development process is the testing and evaluation of programming prior to broadcast. For this reason, the Travel Channel has been historically select in when and how it recruited focus groups to test content.

Could social media be employed to extend the impact and influence of content testing, while reducing overall costs?

You betcha.

Lafferty outlined an innovative social program called "The T House" in which the Travel Channel recruited 400 passionate viewers to join an exclusive online community.

With the prestige of participation as their only compensation, these viewers provide ongoing feedback, advice and suggestions that help shape the development of new programming at the Travel Channel.

The T House hasn't completely replaced traditional focus groups and other testing programs. However, it has allowed the Travel Channel to improve programming through viewer feedback at more points in the development process, while slicing costs.

Now that's social media with a mission and ROI!

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