Social networking is taking over America—even the President sends tweets. Now audience marketers are attempting to figure out how to use this tool to develop and maintain circulation.
Jo Ann Binz, circulation consultant at Quality Circulation Services, said she knows of several b-to-b publishers that are building their own social -networking engines within their Web sites rather than using established social networking sites such as Facebook.
Access Intelligence recently launched several such social networking sites. The first one, which debuted last fall, is for the company's aviation group. AV Pro Net has brought in a significant amount of traffic, said Sarah Garwood, circulation director for the group.
That success led to the introduction of several other social networking sites throughout the company's publications. “This has been a great way to collect circulation/audience demos, gather marketing lists for targeted promotions, help with search-engine optimization and really increase the value we provide to our advertisers,” Garwood said.
Some of Bobit Business Media's publications have set up social networks using sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace. Each title that doesn't have a social networking presence is being pressed to do so or have audience marketing set one up for them with links to articles and the title's Web offerings.
“This will drive traffic that we have strategies to convert,” said Christine Oldenbrook, director of marketing and e-media there. “We are also testing paid contextual ads with Facebook and hoping that will do as well as some of our paid Google ads have done for subs.”
Bobit is currently doing research to help the company gauge where each of its markets are at in terms of social network use, asking its readers whether they use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others for personal or business use. “We will determine, by market, where we will concentrate our efforts, set up groups, get our editors involved and make sure audience marketing is optimizing those potential channels to increase traffic,” Oldenbrook said.
The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association recently set up a LinkedIn group and had more than 80 members in the group before the day ended, but Kim Clothier, director of circulation there, said she isn't sure audience development wants to capitalize on this at all.
“Part of the charm of the social networking is the casual interaction totally within the users' control,” she said. “I would hate to lose part of the group because they feel we're being invasive. At least at the moment my view is the networking of the social media is just another aspect of the total brand building.”
Other challenges for audience marketers, Binz said, is to have access to the database so the prospects can be weeded from the current subscribers. “Many in-house systems don't collect full contact data, just an e-mail and password,” she said. “So the challenge for the audience developer is to get their Web team to cooperate and set the data collection up correctly.”
The right balance of demographics requested to join without deterring potential users has been a challenge for Garwood, as has ensuring repeat visitors. Those challenges have been addressed, she said, by providing high-quality content such as adding expert analysis to the forums, constantly upgrading the site with new features and keeping the registration process concise. She also attributes sound e-mail and Web marketing to helping the processes.
Oldenbrook noted that it can be to hard ensure her group is aware of all social networking opportunities, as well as that it can be difficult tracking what works. “I'm sure it isn't completely understood why audience marketing cares about whether a publication has a Facebook account; but as marketers, we see this as a new channel, a very effective and inexpensive channel.” Oldenbrook pointed out that just a link on a Web site or Facebook page can help bring new readers to a title.
Binz said social networking should continue to escalate as an audience-marketing tool. “Even folks who aren't really computer- savvy are now signing up on Facebook or MySpace to keep in touch with their families,” she said. “I foresee that a publisher will have to set up a "community' in order to keep the brand name in front of their respective industries and to keep their audience coming back to them for information.” M