A guest post by Mike Lewis of Awareness.
Many marketers are embracing the new approach of using social media to listen to their customers first—and then forming a strategy. It’s the ability for a brand to go beyond just listening and to deeply understand the behaviors and motivations of its audience that truly drives success and, ultimately, sales.
I recently read a great blog post in Entrepreneur Magazine that illustrates the new marketing approach. The post featured Foiled Cupcakes, a very cool company out of Chicago that sells cupcakes over the Internet.
Foiled Cupcakes has no physical locations. Cupcakes are sold exclusively online. Founder and owner Mari Luangrath says that an impressive 94 percent of her clientele was developed through leads via Twitter. Luangrath didn’t develop these leads by talking about cupcakes. Instead, she engaged with her target customers around shared passions: chocolate, shopping, and shoes.
I sometimes hear marketers say that building a community around common passions or pains is for big brands that can afford it. They say it is one thing for SAP to build and support a community of more than 3 million of IT people, but it is quite different for small companies limited by resources and budget.
Not so, as Luangrath of Foiled Cupcakes shows us.
Success in social marketing starts with paying attention
Paying attention is about intimately understanding the people in your target market and what they care about. It is an action-oriented, data-driven strategy. It implies that the results will lead to some form of action based on data gathered during the conversation. That data comes from a lot of different places, including the conversation itself, the profiles of the people you are paying attention to, and their history.
For example,the SAP Community Network (SCN) is a vibrant, social media-based online collaboration space for more than 3 million SAP experts and opinion leaders in IT, working for SAP customers, system integrators, independent software vendors, consulting firms, and SAP. This forum thrives on listening, sharing, and participating. Millions of IT professionals use this forum to discuss SAP products, help each other out, and provide direction for product enhancement.
Another example of listening first comes from Luangrath of Foiled Cupcakes. She uses social media to connect with folks about something she is passionate about—shoes.
Social media marketing is about engagement
Here is Luangrath’s approach to social marketing. She engages in conversations with women on Twitter talking about shoes they bought or plan to buy. Luangrath gives advice about shoes and compliments people’s different purchases, which helps her develop a community around something she is genuinely interested in.
By engaging in a community with a specific intention and being open about her business, Luangrath often generates Foiled Cupcakes sales from these interactions.
Another company that uses engagement to generate sales is SmartBear. The software testing and monitoring tools provider does that through its Software Quality Connection community. SmartBear offers an open forum for common challenges faced by software developers testers and IT professionals via its Software Quality Connection community. The community runs as an independent site but is editorially managed and supported by SmartBear.
Driving sales through social media is better than just broadcasting messages
Engaging in social media is more than watching for keywords that are related to the sales you want to make. You need to pay attention to the people that make up your target market and to develop relationships with them based on common interests. You need to care how your product fits into the lives of your customers.
By knowing Foiled Cupcakes consumer base, Luangrath was able to develop relationships with women that allowed her business to succeed in a unique way. And she developed these relationships completely online. So did SmartBear with its Software Quality Connection community, SAP with SCN, and the American Cancer Society with its Relay For Life Facebook Page. (Relay for Life has about 200,000 passionate followers in support of a fun-filled overnight event celebrating cancer survivorship.) Those companies and brands understand the value of paying attention and engaging folks around common interests.
The lesson here is to understand your target market—in terms of what makes them tick and what their passions are. Sometimes, those passions won’t align specifically with your product or service, but social media gives brands of all sizes the opportunity to engage with their audience, which can influence purchases.
Mike Lewis is the vice president of marketing and sales for Awareness, Inc., an enterprise social marketing platform servicing leading brands including Sony, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Major League Baseball, American Cancer Society, Xerox, Nuance, and Comcast Sportsnet.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Pretty Young Woman)