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How do email, social and search strategies work together?

Now that businesses are moving beyond basic social media marketing (setting up profiles, gathering “likes” and fans), we need to get down to brass tacks to see how businesses can use social to drive new-customer acquisition and sales. B-to-b marketers must take into account recent announcements from the big search engines, Google and Bing, indicating that their search algorithms are going to change to include more social signals, such as user recommendations, reviews and comments about a marketer's products and services. So what does this mean for your email, social and search strategies? It means that as b-to-b marketers, we should expect to see these channels continue to converge, becoming more tightly integrated over time. I know you're thinking that email is not social. We can, however, consider email the original social digital channel; it's been used for many years to connect people and businesses. Many b-to-b emails now include calls to action to opt in (follow, “like,” +1, etc) to the businesses' social channels on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and now Google+. A highly targeted email sent to your existing customers can result in higher-quality traffic to the website. This higher-quality traffic can result in higher usage stats, as users spend more time on the site, along with lower bounce rates. These factors all have an indirect effect on SEO. Once this traffic, which was generated from an email blast, comes to your website, there is an opportunity to ask these customers to enlist friends and colleagues to the business via a social referral program. Research shows that word-of-mouth referrals typically convert at a rate five times that of other referrals. This type of integrated marketing approach generates short-term traffic bumps, called “social referrals,” to your website and long-term traffic growth trends, or “social SEO.” This allows businesses to turn existing customers into effective social marketing channels, driving sales from those social referrals. These referrals get posted throughout social networks (tweets and shares), which are now being used to influence social SEO rankings. These short- and long-term benefits were initiated via a targeted email blast. Here are some tips to help build a more sophisticated social strategy:
  1. Use your email database as a catalyst to drive social opt-ins by including in emails calls to action to either follow, “like” or +1 your brand.
  2. Offer customers the opportunity to opt in to your email list on your businesses social profiles.
  3. Mobilize your existing customers to drive highly qualified leads from friends and colleagues to your business via a social referral program.
  4. Reward your existing customers with an incentive if they refer their friends who, in turn, become new customers.
  5. While planning campaigns, consider how integrated email, social and search can leverage each other.
  6. Remember the digital marketing space continues to change rapidly, so stay on top of changes to maximize your outcome.
Nichole Goodyear is strategic adviser at Extole Inc. (www.extole.com), a social media marketing company, and co-executive director at the Social Media Advertising Consortium.
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