“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

- American merchant and marketing pioneer John Wanamaker (1838-1922)

If you’re not continually analyzing and correcting your marketing efforts, you’re missing outreach opportunities every day. Digital marketing is evolving daily as new technologies and new social media channels appear on the scene. We’re also witnessing a real social evolution as brands adapt to new ways of doing business online, with increased engagement with consumers (or the unfortunate lack thereof).

Here are a few ideas for 2013 to optimize the great work you’re already doing to get more out of your social media marketing efforts:

1. Know yourself and behave accordingly

Social media channels are increasingly being seen as crucial avenues for Brands to describe not just what they sell but who they are. How well do you know your own Brand’s cultural identity? More importantly, does your online marketing reflect the company’s personality? Customers want to know who they’re buying from. They want to know how Brands feel about social issues like the environment, unemployment and education; here’s your chance to tell them.

2. Think globally, act digitally

Global marketing means you must consider how you’re going to engage with an audience that’s online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Recent studies have shown the importance of reaching people when they’re most active online. Consumers also expect responses to their online queries within shorter and shorter time durations. Scheduling is no longer an option, it’s essential. You might even consider setting up unique accounts for each market staffed by locals (or a call centre). If your community manager can’t be online 24/7, be sure to offer a variety of options on your website to meet the time-lag challenge, like an FAQ that answers the most common questions, or simply use a tool like ours that will meet this need.

3. Prioritize channels that work best for you

There are dozens of different social channels to choose from; you may not need to be on all of them. Ask yourself what you’re most trying to achieve through your online activities: providing quality customer service, ongoing engagement with current customers, or improving brand recognition. Make each channel you’re on work for you; if it doesn’t you may be better off closing it rather than having a lifeless site that only frustrates your customers. If you’re only on Twitter once a month, for example, it may not be the place for you. Or it just may mean you need to take it more seriously.

And while we’re talking about different channels, don’t simply cross-post the same material. Pinterest is a visual network; that means creating or reposting appropriate visual material. Facebook is a great hang-out for your followers to meet and engage with each other. It’s essential to understand and exploit the differences between the channels.

4. Talk to your followers, listen carefully, and take them seriously

Are you actively listening to what your customers have to say, even the criticism? It’s vital not to dismiss criticism out of hand. Even mega-giant Coca-Cola couldn’t get away with forcing a new formula down the throats of disgruntled consumers. The best way to know what your audience thinks is to be active on social channels like Twitter and Facebook. While you’re at it, engage with influencers in your field. Use a tool to sort and follow according to PeerIndex, Klout, Kred or number of followers (yes, we do this too).

5. Promote from the top down, not only bottom up

Ideally, everyone within the company is a Brand promoter. But who’s leading the charge? I strongly advise CEO’s get active on at least one social media channel. The problem is that many continue to see ‘social’ as a marketing tool that should be handled by marketing people. This is an erroneous assumption. Marketing is the responsibility of every employee. If the CEO can’t be bothered to promote the company him or herself, why should anyone else? More importantly, social media is about culture-marketing, not just sales. Every company has (or should have) a business philosophy, an ideology that drives its professional style and relationships. That philosophy should come from the top down. Leadership is more than just overseeing budgets and staff. A real leader is the engine that motivates, inspires and drives the company forward. Real leaders take point; they don’t hide behind the hirelings.

6. A/B testing

A/B testing in social media works by comparing different, but similar, messaging and measuring results. For example, a simple “Thank you” tweet with a link might have a lower click-through rate (CTR) than one that says, “Thank you. See this link for more information.” Email is an easy way to conduct A/B testing. You could send out a campaign with two slightly different versions of an email: each might use a different image or slightly different placement of links to click. It’s also possible to test two versions of a web page by setting up code so visitors are distributed to the two different pages. The fact is, if you’re not testing your marketing activities, you’re just guessing; and as John Wanamaker aptly pointed out, you’ll never understand why half your marketing efforts failed to work. Our platform incorporates automatic A/B testing of every response you send, to measure engagement rates based on click-through rate (CTR), mentions (@s) and re-tweets (RTs). 

We’ve come a long way since Rohit Barghava first blogged about social media optimization (SMO) back in 2006. His tips still hold true, but as social media has evolved, so have the channels and the tools, like 12Mass. And despite John Wanamaker’s words, there are ways to measure and optimize your efforts for better results. Now, you can know which half of the money you spent is wasted.


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