Online Marketing: Don’t Mistake New for Better.

I was recently informed by a client that they needed to step up their social media presence because “email is on the way out”.  That was a shock to me as most of my clients (this one included) see a nice return on their email marketing investment.  In fact, industry wide email marketing boasts a leading ROI among online marketing efforts with $42.08 generated from every dollar spent.  In short, my client was mistaken.  He’d made the error of thinking “new” was “better”.

Social media seems to be the new “new”.  It’s one of the first things out of people’s mouths when internet marketing comes up.  And I don’t mean to pick on social media, it’s a valuable tool.  It just shouldn’t be put on a pedestal above older communication channels that still outperform it.

An older example is when CSS layouts were first appearing.  Many companies rushed to update their pages for the new “standard”.  The problem was that many of the web browsers weren’t quite up to speed in rendering these sites so web developers had to create multiple versions for individual browsers.  That made developing the site significantly more expensive.  The difference between jumping on CSS layouts when it was new and when browser support increased was potentially tens of thousands of dollars.  At the end of the day there was no difference between a tabled layout and a CSS layout to most users but the early adopters could revel in the “newness” for a short period of time.

Neglecting other marketing channels to do what’s “new” can be very problematic when resources are shifted to a new media that does not perform as well as an older one.  It’s like trading a dollar for a quarter, it might be shinier but there’s no financial upside.

Of course I’m not suggesting that you let your online marketing stagnate into a tried and true rut.  Innovation and new technology will come up and many times it should be adopted.  But focus on effectiveness not newness.  When you keep track of what’s performing best it keeps the allure of “new” out of your decision making.  Online marketing is about increasing awareness of a company, driving opportunities, and ultimately having a positive impact on the bottom line.  Newness is hard pressed to affect any of those things on its own.

Social Media: I like You . . .

Remember in elementary or middle school when you were told that someone “liked you”?  That tended to be the most consequential thing a young teenager could hear.  If liker or likee worked up enough they might speak a little bit.  Then what happened?  Other class mates might be abuzz with the new “couple” but very little tended to actually happen between the two people in question.  That’s a social media like, it makes you feel good but at the end of the day it’s not worth much.

Liking or following does not mean someone is really interested in your company, let alone an advocate.  A second tier to social media marketing should shoot for real engagement and conversion.

An example of good social media can be seen in most video game launches today.  First they send out announcements, trailers, and teaser material typically with links to social media pages.  This starts a trickle of “likers” but only dedicated fans are committed to buying the game at this point.

As the game gets closer and pre-orders are available it’s common for sweepstakes or exclusive downloadable content to be made available.  The dedicated group obviously takes advantage of these offers but many fringe “likers” then begin to be drawn in.  Both the committed followers and enticed followers are likely to buy.

Finally at release the marketing switches to last chance/release celebration.  This is designed to pull in anyone on the fence and create a sense of urgency.

Imagine if the video game company just put out information on the game and were satisfied with the people that liked them.  They’d miss out on a substantial market segment and generate little revenue that wouldn’t have happened organically.

I often site this example to business people and they scoff and say, “People don’t get pumped up over our product or service like they would a game.”  To some extent that’s true, it’s hard to imagine most business clients rabidly looking through marketing material for promotions or anxiously awaiting a service release date.  But that doesn’t mean that the structure can’t be similar.

Use social media as an information platform so that you’ll get “likers”.  But don’t fool yourself in to believing that’s an achievement.  You have to use social media for a second level of engagement.  Most companies have valuable content or offers that can take the social media audience to a new level.  Tracking who and how many people take advantage of those offers provides a more concrete metric of social media marketing effectiveness because it’s a sounder foundation.  Not a meaningless “like”.