How to become a social climber
The opportunities for marketers in social media are plentiful. Tamar held a roundtable meeting to discuss the best approach into the online communities
The growth in social media in the UK has made it a major preoccupation for marketers looking to harness the channel. Industry experts discuss the opportunities and the challenges involved for marketers in social media at a roundtable hosted by Tamar.
Tanya Goodin (Tamar chief executive officer and roundtable chairman): Social media in the UK has exploded in the past 18 months and triggered a whole series of questions from marketers and brand owners – the first being how can we monetise social media?
Jay Stevens (MySpace vice-president of operations, Europe): There are three key aspects brands can look at to monetise social media. The first is display advertising as a direct-response tool to drive traffic to your page and convert sales. Most major brands are already running ads on these sites becausethey have to as social networks control so much of the advertising inventory out there. Beyond that, as you get smarter with social media creating a presence is a great way to tap into a network of people who are likely to be the biggest champions of your brand and begin to communicate with them on an ongoing basis. The third step is to give something back to these brand advocates through social media.
Megan Powell (Evans ecommerce marketing manager): Social media is a great opportunity to get our products out there and in terms of giving something back to our customers maybe it’s a case of launching our collections first to those customers or giving them exclusive previews. For a brand like Evans, social networks also provide a great opportunity to communicate with a younger audience that would otherwise be very difficult to reach.
Stephen Scott (Airmiles head of website production and design): The big challenge for travel brands is moving from a traditional marketing approach. Too often in the travel industry the digital or social media activity is bolted onto traditional operations and not placed at the heart of strategy, despite the impact it is clearly having. The challenge is demonstrating that impact to the board, and the best way to do this would be to understand the audiences that social media can reach and articulate what this can mean for the business.
Henry Elliss (Tamar head of social media): That’s particularly interesting as travel is one of the few industries where the potential for positive user feedback is high, because people simply like to boast about where they’ve been on holiday and the great experiences they’ve had.
Simon Roberts (Lloyds TSB customer experience manager): With financial services not being a tangible product it’s a different challenge. Social media are great from a targeting point of view and if you understand the key segments of your business you can target very precisely, but the challenge comes when trying to find what you can give back to those users.
Scott: For travel companies – such as Airmiles – that have a desirable product and our own currency, we have something very valuable we can give in terms of rewarding customers, however we first need to establish how to target the right users.
Goodin: And how you do that is important. Many marketers can’t see beyond setting up groups when they think about social networks.
Stevens: Groups are just the hub of what brands can do where consumers can coalesce and the bigger issue is how you can keep that dialogue above board while still balancing censorship with authenticity. The best examples of brands getting it wrong are instances where brands have just tried to make their social media presence a reflection of their corporate website….
Powell: It’s all sell, sell, sell….
Scott: Rather than fear around social media, a lot of brands simply don’t understand what they’re dealing with or why it is important.
Powell: From a retail perspective when our target customers are on social networks or other social platforms, they are much more relaxed and much more receptive to interacting with your brand, but it’s doing it in the right way. We treat feedback on social media as an online version of someone phoning up with a comment and deal with it with the same attention and importance. This feedback is important to respond to because otherwise your competitors could pick up on it. However, for many retailers the biggest question is one of manpower and having enough resource to be able to monitor what is being said in increasing detail, which is where working with Tamar can help.
Goodin: Indeed, when you get it right there are huge opportunities to make big gains. But let’s also look into the challenges for brands when it comes to social media. How have brands responded to the fact that they cannot control all their brand messaging any longer?
Stevens: MySpace encourages brands to allow open discussions. If you are going to get negative comments, what better place to do so than in a forum where you have 30,000 of your biggest fans? In the majority of cases you’ll find they actually correct the inaccuracies on your behalf.
Roberts: With negative comments, it’s vital to show you are doing something about them and social networks and other like media are a great place to research public opinion. It’s not about combating negative comments, with social media and in our work with Tamar our goal is to take the feedback on board and ensure we respond in the appropriate way while ensuring that we have enough resource to enable this process without it getting out of control.
Elliss: This is a good approach as brands that listen to negative comments and make changes as a result often get more kudos.
Scott: Often though, the majority of negative comments on social media will fizzle out or be countered by your fans. We monitor closely for an issue that is not fizzling out in which case we will proactively deal with what is being said in the spirit of the medium. But it’s important to find the balance between fanning the flames and responding to legitimate issues.
Goodin: The trouble in dealing with social media effectively is the fact most brands still have an offline agency as their lead agency and they have a vested interest in keeping the overall spend offline. I’m still amazed that online marketing spend is not higher than 15%.
Stevens: Just 18 months ago the top social networks or user-generated content sites were responsible for 3 billion of the total page views online and now that number has grown to over 20 billion of a total of 100 billion in the UK.
Elliss: This year will be the last possible year that some brands may be able to get away with not dedicating a proportion of budget to social media. The opportunity to sit on the side and see what will happen is rapidly disappearing.
Stevens: In terms of the actual online spend, we’re seeing a sea change in where people are steering money online which has been happening in the past 18 months, steering budget away from portals which have always commanded so much of the spend to social networks.
Roberts: Brand owners cannot ignore social media and if brands need to test the concept before committing budget, that is a possibility.
Scott: The bottom line is, spend online and on social media will continue to grow each year, that’s clear and next year is going to be the biggest yet.