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Devising a social strategy for direct marketing

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Integrating social media and direct marketing should be an easy and seamless operation. Isn't social media just another channel in your direct marketing toolbox? You can't get much more direct than a social media conversation. It's true that most marketers see the two activities as entirely separate. But while direct marketing is intended to reach customers with relevant messages to entice them to buy products, social media can be used for the same purpose, but with a twist. Using social media successfully is simply finding the best way to integrate it into your campaigns. It has its appropriate purposes, and it should only be used then, and not just because your boss says you need to be on Facebook. Social media serves two purposes. First, it delivers your message to your established, loyal customers. Second, it's a way to get those loyal customers to amplify your message to their friends and followers. Amplification is one of the easiest things to do but difficult to master. We see a lot of social-sharing buttons on sites and emails, maybe even a "follow us on Twitter" afterthought icon on a print piece. This works, but are you giving your influencers the right message to amplify for you? Are you tracking and segmenting those messages that come from some of your influencers to see if those influencers are behaving differently than your other new audiences? When it comes to amplification, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are natural go-to sources and work well for online media. A trick to help you amplify your print message is pretty easy, too. For any of your print campaigns, you can easily add a short URL or a QR code that drives people to a simple Twitter API call. There, you can pre-populate a tweet for them to push out. That can include a call-to-action and hash tags you define. Take a look at this example. (You need to be logged on to Twitter to see this.) In this case, not only to do you get your best marketers—your customers—pushing out your message, you also can put tracking behind the call-to-action. That gets you a whole new segmentation to follow, analyzing how these new audiences take to your message. A second benefit is that with a little programming magic, you can track who is amplifying your message to see who your best advocates are. The other way to integrate social media into the direct marketing toolbox is by making it the actual message driver itself. The world of social media is so much bigger than the Big Three of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Blogs, YouTube, Vimeo and the latest darling, Pinterest, are all compelling ways to incorporate social media into your direct campaigns. YouTube is always a favorite of mine because even with the best copywriters around, today's audiences have a short attention span and even less focus on copy. To create a pithy direct piece that drives someone to an experience that can be seen, heard and interacted with will consistently drive a higher conversion rate if executed properly. And if it's done really well, it will go viral. Blogs are another tool that is overlooked too often. When crafting the message for your direct marketing piece, you can also craft a message that goes out to your blogging community. Whether your influencers are in-house or external individuals you follow, a concise message about your program and some recommended points and calls to action will get you further than you think.  Basically, it always comes back to delivering your message in the right places and in the right order to make your message seem ubiquitous and relevant. Adding social media to your direct marketing arsenal allows you to capitalize on external sources to add a layer of influence. It enables your customers to learn about your latest and greatest news directly from the people they trust, in addition to hearing from you.    Sean Shoffstall is VP-innovation and technology at integrated demand generation marketing agency Ozone Online, San Francisco www.ozoneonline.com. He can be reached at sean@ozoneonline.com.
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