Last week, our CEO, Steve Dao (@steve_dao), sat down with Vera Kevic, head of Public Relations and Communications at Access Alliance, to answer a few of her questions about the importance of social media marketing and online community management for brands in today’s digital age. Here are some of the highlights, from the transcript.
Vera: Tell me a little bit about your company and what you do.
Steve: Sure. With the emergence of social media and digital marketing, a lot of consumer reviews – be it brand positive or negative – are happening in the online space and it’s all about how we can ‘control’ those conversations; know what’s being said and then react to them accordingly.
For a small business that’s looking to reach out, generate new business or make new contacts, avenues such as Twitter and Facebook are absolutely massive for this. For established brands, people are leaving reviews on blogs, various forums and social media. With all of these peer to peer conversations, we want to know what’s being said, and if there is positive or negative sentiment.
V: And then, how do you find in dealing with the company? Say if [social media marketing] is brand new to them, do you find resistance?
S: At times, yes. I’ve been giving a lot of presentations lately where the resistance comes from fear of losing control; opening the conversation, opening the door, and having potential negative things happening or being exposed. The lesson to the business owner is that you yourself are not going to turn on or off social media. It’s happening whether you like it or not. It’s up to you whether you want to turn a blind eye, pretending you’re a four year old kid, putting your head under a pillow and having the mentality that if I don’t see you, you don’t see me.
V: Yeah, you’re being talked about on social media. Whether or not you are talking to them or controlling the conversation, it’s still happening.
S: It’s still happening. Whether it’s about you specifically or even opportunities in your industry, you definitely want to know about it. A great example of this is a business owner saying “I don’t know if I want to be there because it’s almost like I’m encouraging people to say positive or negative things”. Our response to that is, well, you should always be encouraging consumers to say positive things, but if there are negative experiences involving your business or brand, social media allows you to deal with them in the public domain. This allows other people to see how you handled that situation as well. We always advise against deleting negative comments.
And then there’s a state in which if you could build community, where community members jump in and start answering questions or addressing negative comments for you. At that point you’ve reached a whole other level of achievement.
V: That’s golden!
S: Absolutely. We are in a time now where a lot of people are trying to justify social media’s ROI. A lot of executives are asking, “Why am I paying people to sit in a room with computers and do this?”. But they don’t really get it. You know, they could drop a couple of million dollars on a TV commercial and know that they’ve caught an audience, etc. And, yes, while your reach is huge there, are you having a meaningful conversation? Are you learning from and/or listening to your audience?
V: So, how do you create or track the ROI with the use of social media?
S: We try and educate business owners to ask questions to really make it interactive. And don’t just ask questions just for the sake of pushing your message out there and trying to better your business, but rather ask questions that are genuinely of interest to your clientele; what matters.
So, as you do that, you can kind of tie it into ROI. If you’re a retail brand: possibly retail redemption. Tie a coupon code to it or tie in some sort of trial. The other interesting ROI that’s very popular is from a customer service standpoint. If you implement social media and your consumers are asking questions through Facebook or Twitter, and you are answering these questions, well, what is the decrease in your call centre activity, where you would have had to pay someone to sit there and answer phones? If you can answer that question live and in public, maybe you can turn away 10 or 12 calls that would have referred to that exact same question.
So, there’s a sales implication and a customer service implication. And then just from the traditional ROI: you just want to watch what market your share is doing. If you truly commit to this, and when I say commit to it, I mean invest 12 or 18 months and do it. Have a strategy. We hate using the word campaign because we feel you should truly build a community. You’re not going to dive in for 6 weeks and then dive out like you will a television campaign.
V: Do you see any value to having traditional media, radio, television?
S: It’s an interesting question and I battle with it all the time. We don’t want to be the type of shop that comes in and tells you to forgo all of the traditional stuff and go completely digital. However, all statistics have shown that media buys through to 2015 are becoming more digital. There’s more money spent on social teams and bringing digital marketing and social media in house.
The logic model that I use, from a small business standpoint, is your ability to ‘fail fast’ (should you fail) on social or digital marketing. What I mean by that is, if you’re a business and you’ve gone outbound with a print campaign – even this little café we’re in now – if they want to do a mail drop in this area, they went into a print shop and say they want 2500 pieces, it’s going to cost them ‘x’. The print shop is motivated to say, I’ll give you 5000 pieces for just incrementally more. It’s not going to be double what the 2500 were. So the business owner or the brand manager is motivated to say, yeah okay, we’ll reach more, it’ll just cost a little bit of money so my per unit cost will drop, which makes sense from a per unit standpoint. But there you are only putting out one message, one image, one target. You push it out and you wait, whether that be print or TV or whatever.
Digital media ads allow you to run specific ad campaigns through a strategy. I can go outbound and target, say, people aged 18 to 24 and 40 to 55. And I can use a different message for both, but I’m not spending any more money. So for a thousand dollars, I’m going 500 to this market and 500 to the other market. And I can test and see the different results.
So it’s no secret that that’s why, I’m not going to say social and digital is better, but you often now see traditional media pointing to social but you don’t see social pointing back. You don’t see social saying “Hey, look for this flyer in your mailbox and do this”. It’s saying at the end of our TV commercial, “Like us on Facebook here” on the postcard you see “Follow us on Twitter here”. So it’s pointing in that direction and will only continue to do so as businesses and brands look to Spark Conversation™ and leverage peer validation.
So we ask you:
What do you think about today’s social media marketing landscape? Did you learn anything new?