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Social media, ROI hot topics at Online Marketing Summit

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How to use social media, measuring ROI and strategies for acquiring and retaining customers were some of the hot topics at the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego last week. More than 400 online marketing executives gathered at the event to discuss in-depth strategies and tactics for marketing in a recession and effectively using online marketing programs to drive results. During a keynote presentation, Dan Morrison, CEO of Toolbox.com (formerly ITtoolbox.com), discussed strategies for monetizing online communities. Toolbox.com, which provides an online community for IT professionals, just launched two new communities for HR professionals and financial executives. “In the b-to-b arena, the expectation for measurable ROI has been high from the beginning,” Morrison said, noting that Toolbox.com sells its ad campaigns on a guaranteed ROI basis. For example, it guarantees lead generation for advertisers by agreeing to provide names and phone numbers of users in the community who agree to be contacted by vendors. “The second thing we do—and there is a significant amount of exploration going on in this area—is to figure out if there are unique advertising products that can be offered in an online community,” Morrison said. For example, Toolbox.com lets vendors create profiles so that users in the community can connect with them. “That allows you to maybe run a campaign once, then users can connect to your profile and the vendor can have an ongoing dialogue with users,” Morrison said. “By being able to have an ongoing connection with your prospects and customers, you can increase purchase consideration.” Toolbox.com also uses “evangelists” in its community in several ways. It has implemented a revenue-sharing program for its blog authors, and it has set up advisory councils for its brand champions. Steve Latham, CEO of interactive agency Spur Digital, Houston, offered strategies for marketing in a recession. “This is a great time for interactive,” he said. “[The economy] is forcing us all to be much more proactive and focus on things that are driving results. You don't want to stop doing traditional, but you have to find the right mix.” Latham said that in difficult times, marketers need a solid foundation, starting with an effective Web site. “You want to make sure your site is easy to navigate and that your customers' experience on your site is positive, especially if it's an early experience with your brand,” he said. “The other piece is effectiveness—getting people to take action by joining an e-mail list or requesting a consultation.” Other must-have marketing strategies during recessionary times include developing a system of metrics for proving ROI, using e-mail to communicate with customers and prospects, and using search marketing. Beyond these fundamentals, marketers should be exploring social media, online video, user-generated content and mobile marketing. To get started in social media, “You need to participate in online discussions. Your brand is being discussed—you need to know what's being said,” Latham said. Latham pointed to the example of Continental Airlines giving its manager of customer experience the task of listening and responding to conversations about Continental on flyertalk.com, a social media site for frequent fliers. “There is no user-generated content on Continental.com, but they are using social media sites effectively,” he said. Latham said marketers should also set up profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers and prospects, promote events and listen to what is being said about their brands. During a panel on social media, marketers discussed the importance of getting started using social media for business. “Even if you don't have the budget today to do a lot of stuff, you need to be dabbling in it,” said Jodi McDermott, director of data strategy at Clearspring Technologies. “You can have a Twitter account and see what people are saying about your brand. You can set up alerts and be notified when people say things about your brand.” M
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