Wooly, untargeted and full of nebulous notions of engagement and sociability, as haters have described social media in the past. For all its limitations, no one has ever levelled these criticisms at direct marketing before.
The tide, however, is turning. As social networks mature, and investors -of both time and money – demand more returns from social media platforms, slowly but very definitely social media is becoming another string to the direct marketers’ bow.
Recently, Facebook unveiled a scheme enabling brands to target prospective customers by email, address or phone number using contact information already provided by customers to those brands, allowing marketers to connect their Facebook ads with their CRM database.
Meanwhile, Twitter is to allow advertisers to target users with Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts by their interests, based on the accounts they follow, what they tweet and what lists they’re in.
Also, the micro-blogging site is clamping down on third-party developers such as Echofon and Tweetbot that use its API to create their own consumer facing Twitter clients in a bid to gather more data about the way consumers use the platform. Separately, it has developed a “Certified Product Programme” similar to Facebook’s “Preferred Marketing Developer” initiative, which aims to make it easier for marketers to track down the best partners that use its ecosystem for marketing and analytics services.
Changes such as these are moving social media towards the direct marketing portfolio, allowing marketers to produce data-driven, one to one communication using social media.
However, as much as this brave new targeting world offers marketers many opportunities, it also comes with many potential pitfalls.
Brands need to apply the same rigorous rules they should already be for other direct marketing channels. Having a means to better target is one thing, marketers need to make sure they are not bombarding consumers and that the message is relevant.
Get it wrong, and you are at risk of alienating consumers. Get it right, and you have a potentially potent channel.
There is no longer an argument over whether marketers should be using social media. The only argument is how. Like most media, it can be used to engage and brand build as well as target and convert. Brands, however, need to tread carefully when using for direct marketing or risk damaging a still developing channel before it has had a chance to truly shine.