Getting The Most Out of Social Media
Marketers are still feeling their way when it comes to connecting social campaigns to business results, but there’s little doubt about the channel’s potential.
Social media’s appeal is undeniable. It has the power to bring companies closer to their customers with messaging that can easily be shared with others who may or may not be familiar with the brand. Its potential is one of the reasons marketers have targeted social media as a growth area in the most recent CMO Survey conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and sponsored by Deloitte LLP and the American Marketing Association. According to the survey, companies expect social media to account for 20 percent of their marketing budgets over the next five years, a 71 percent increase from current budget allocations.¹
Yet for all its appeal, many marketers still seem to be skimming the surface of social media’s possibilities. A deeper dive into the most recent survey’s results shows an overwhelming propensity to use social media for brand building and brand awareness. Meanwhile, other areas where social media might be perfectly suited—such as new customer acquisition, introduction of new products and services, and retention of current customers—are getting much less attention (Figure 1)
There seem to be many opportunities for companies to use social marketing to achieve business objectives beyond brand awareness. Here are a few ways they might do so:
Use social media for customer acquisition. Social media’s ability to engage in real-time communication can help secure prospects who may be in the consideration or pre-purchase stage. Listening tools can help identify conversations in which these prospects may be engaging, presenting an opportunity to guide them through the purchase funnel. In addition, companies can utilize ad targeting and dynamic ad placements on social media platforms for more personalized message placement—further increasing the likelihood of customer acquisition. CMO Survey results show that B2C services companies are the leading industry in terms of using social in this way.
Home decor retailer Wayfair, for instance, used dynamic ads to understand consumers’ interests as they moved beyond the company’s website to other content, like blogs and other websites. The capability allowed the company to display products most relevant to specific customers based on their engagement on the social platform, and elsewhere on the web, matching the right product with the right customer at the right time.
Leverage social for customer retention and loyalty. Social media’s unfiltered communication between brands and consumers can make it an ideal way to engage with and retain loyal customers. Paid media campaigns can repeatedly target fans and site visitors with promotional offers, while direct messaging platforms can be used to directly communicate with consumers on a brand’s behalf. Through social media listening, brands can also understand what is being said about them at any given moment and route priority commentary to key product teams to mitigate fallout.
Such was the case for Chick-Fil-A when it replaced its original BBQ sauce in July 2016 with a new “Smokehouse” flavor. Customer response was rapid, and negative. Through social listening, the chain tracked a heavy increase in loyal customers threatening boycotts and protests using the hashtag #BringBackTheBBQ. In a rapid response effort, the company developed a plan to not only return to the original sauce but engage its most vocal fans with a social campaign telling them they had been heard and were valued. Listening, synthesizing, and reacting to customer sentiment in real time enabled to brand to preserve loyalty among its biggest fans.
Use social to identify new customer groups. One of the core drivers of social media value to marketers is the ability to target new customers. Companies can use social media analytics to assess current fans and followers and—using insights from this analysis—clearly identify new, custom audiences for ad targeting aimed at lead generation. These audiences can be based on demographics, behaviors in social media, and interests. In addition, companies focused on growth can ensure this targeting does not include current fans or followers of their brand.
For instance, office-space-leasing company WeWork used a social network’s custom audience tools to target men and women ages 27-54 in four major metropolitan cities, while excluding company members and employees who were already engaged with the brand. Combined with a slightly tweaked creative approach, the campaign increased lead-to-tour completion ratios and reduced closed lead costs.
Activate social for employee engagement. Last year, after a previous survey showed similar social media investment intentions, we (along with colleagues from Duke University and Deloitte Digital) explored how employee-directed social media programs could lead to a broader business benefit. This idea, the “social media multiplier,” works from the inside out. A company first activates employees with the social media program, then they, in turn, bring the message to market. This process affects many of the brand and customer outcomes discussed, but we also think it has a positive effect on outcomes such as talent acquisition, productivity, and retention
In one case, a fitness company encouraged its employees to highlight their own healthy lifestyle choices as a way to build brand authenticity from the inside out. In another, an electronics retailer connected posts and feeds from various digital communities in one centralized, employee-accessible location, giving staff the ability to learn from each other’s experiences. This tactic both built employees’ personal expertise and further positioned the company as an expert in its field.
Develop new products and services. Social media can also provide a pipeline for new product or service research and development. CMOs can use the channel to listen to conversations in order to identify emerging trends. They can also engage with audiences to gather feedback or input on ideas through polling. In addition, brands can track conversation topics and sentiment to ensure there is sufficient interest in a new initiative before making heavy investments. CMO Survey results show that B2C product companies are the leading industry for using social in this way.
Before launching its foray into all-day breakfast offerings in 2015, McDonald’s combed through eight years of social media posts to track demand for the new service, which would require significant investment in operational training and management as well as supply-chain operations. Having clear, direct customer input about the risks and potential rewards helped convince management the changes would be worth the investment.
As indicated by their intention to increase spending social media many marketers see value and potential in social media. While current efforts are largely focused on brand building and awareness, social media efforts can be effective for much more, with programs that foster deeper consumer connections and efforts that can be tied clearly to business results.
¹The most recent CMO Survey was conducted in February 2018 by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and sponsored by Deloitte LLP and the American Marketing Association.