Striking the balance: social media only an ingredient in the marketing mix

By Jerry McLaughlin (Published September 30, 2010)

Now that the dust is settling from the social media eruption, marketers are finally beginning to take a serious and strategic approach to the channel. Gone are the heady days of playing catch-up without a real strategy. However, some risky marketing behaviors remain, especially in regard to tracking and correlating results.

Marketers’ heavy investment in social media continues to grow. According to The CMO Survey released in February, conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association, social marketing budgets will increase from 5.6 percent to 9.9 percent in the next year, and over the next five years social media is predicted to reach about 17.7 percent of all marketing spend.

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In the August 2010 CMO Survey, the report states, “Across the board, firms are still working to tie social media marketing to actual sales reports. Most marketers said their firms use social media metrics that aren’t directly linked to sales, such as visits or page views (48 percent), and repeat visits (35 percent). Less than one-third of companies use conversion tracking or customer-level revenue-related analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of social media efforts.”

While social media continues to play an important — and growing — role for today’s marketers, these statistics should be a wake-up call. How do marketers continue to justify investing more when they don’t know exactly what they’re getting in return? Hard sales numbers can be difficult to link for many marketing campaigns, but this is a large and growing segment of marketers’ budgets devoted to an unknown.

Needless to say, too much social media marketing tunnel vision remains. It’s important to remember that it should be a part of your marketing mix. E-marketers, especially retailers, have a great opportunity to leverage the latest social media tools by combining them with tried-and-true marketing tactics.

You still need a safety net with social media marketing

Email marketing continues to be one of the most proven and effective ways to reach consumers. Direct mail continues to thrive, despite the recent uproar over possible postal rate increases. Promotional giveaways are inexpensive and produce significant impact with consumers.

According to the Promotional Products Association International’s survey, “Effectiveness of Promotional Products as an Advertising Medium,” 94 percent of more than 1,000 consumers who received a branded gift in the past year could recall the promotional product; 89 percent could recall the advertiser; and 69 percent said they generally keep promotional products if they have a use for them.

Too often, however, consumers receive emails that don’t link to social media marketing platforms; or direct mail that doesn’t encourage becoming a Facebook fan; or online messaging that completely differs from printed advertisements. So, how do you achieve a symbiosis with these components and leverage the unique success of each for better overall marketing campaigns?

The online giveaway is a great example of making it all work. Emails encourage recipients to go to your Facebook or Twitter page, which in turn runs a contest for a physical giveaway. A branded promotional product that’s not only affordable but also takes your brand nationwide is given to winners. In-store tie-ins that advertise online and local contests with the same promotional products can be seeded easily and cost effectively throughout multiple locations.

Here’s a perfect example: Rita’s launched a Facebook contest called “PEEPS Fandemonium” to celebrate its new PEEPS Italian Ice, and promote its annual free Italian Ice special on the first day of spring. This campaign simultaneously and quite successfully combined PR, email marketing, social media marketing and promotional marketing.

Every day from March 20 through April 4, Rita’s randomly selected one Facebook friend to win free Italian Ice for a year. For every 1,000 new friends, it also selected a friend at random to receive a cool swag bag with branded gifts. The promotional products included custom t-shirts, stuffed animals of PEEPS and Rita’s Ice Guy, coupons, and more.
Rita’s spread the word of the contest and the free Italian Ice day through emails, online promotions, press and in-store advertising. At the campaign’s conclusion, Rita’s had added more than 105,000 new friends to its Facebook page, doubling its number of friends from before the contest and driving traffic to its stores on the first day of spring.

It’s hard to gauge what those 105,000 fans will do in the future. Did they just sign up for free Italian Ice? But what is impressive is that within two weeks Rita’s used physical giveaways and creativity to drum up a level of exposure and following for its brand that’s hard to match.

Social media marketing in the mix

Social media marketing isn’t going anywhere — and it shouldn’t. It’s a new and exciting venue for marketers to interact with consumers. It can even be scary at times since brands now encounter quite a different level of honesty and direct interaction.

All marketers should ensure they’re using social media in the right places and for the right reasons. Even if the medium is still difficult to track, a combination of marketing tactics with solid numbers can make campaign results incredible.

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About the author

Jerry McLaughlin is president/CEO of promotional items company Branders.com. Reach Jerry at jmclaughlin@branders.com.

Source: eM+C Online Marketing Strategies and Tactics

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