The Digital Shift in Online Marketing Engagement

Recently I've gotten very attached to two different blogs that I highly recommend to anyone who is in the online marketing/media space or simply loves the Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell style of thinking:
  1. TippingPoint Labs (a firm with, ironically, the same name as a book by Gladwell)
  2. ChrisBrogan.com (he posts pretty much every day with great insights)
**I subscribe to many more blogs than these, but these two have gotten me thinking about a lot lately. If you have any other recommendations that are similar to these, please shoot them my way. I'm particularly impressed with those for which an individual has made a name for him/her-self as a blogger capable of thinking strategically while also having very tactical & technical understanding of the online marketing or social media space.

So, my point in mentioning these two is that I was particularly compelled by a post I read this morning by Scott Loring of TippingPoint Labs regarding the importance of rethinking the traditional marketing space and forcing yourself, as a marketing professional (and especially as a marketing leader), to consider carefully the digital shift going on right now - a shift toward online conversation and engagement about brands and experiences that presents an opportunity for marketers to capture markets and grow a more loyal customer base - if done correctly.

The post is chock full of sound bytes that I want to share with you so that you understand where my mind is as I progress in my career. It is simply fascinating for me to observe the transition and evolution of marketing into an interactive and social opportunity that is out there, waiting to be understood and capitalized on properly! I definitely recommend you read Scott's article in full, but I'll catalogue the highlights here, as they fit so well with my first post from last week.
  • "News travels faster than ever, and the general, known information about a product or service is more immediate — and often more accurate — than ever."
  • "The penalty for non- or limited participation, even insincere participation, represents a potential opportunity cost greater than the cost of comprehensive engagement."
  • "The only way to extract value from the endless conversation that is the internet is to openly and honestly interact with it. "
The post goes on to say that the two worst things you can be doing right now, as a marketer, are:
  1. assume your target market isn't interacting online
  2. get involved in social media just to post links to press releases

"Non-participation represents a missed opportunity to build extremely valuable relationships with consumers."

This is a massive opportunity cost that's just waiting to go to your competitors if you sleep through it.

Don't just broadcast your company's news. Stop talking about "us" and "what we do" or "what we sell," and instead, advertise what you or your firm are capable of by naturally engaging in the conversation that's already going on in the social media space.

And so, I give you Erin's (so far) rules for social media engagement:
  • Start a conversation.
  • Participate in a conversation.
  • Share opinions and ideas.
  • Engage with customers and potential customers.
  • Network - recommend talent for positions, and connect with valuable colleagues.
  • Build a reputation around yourself or your brand by suggesting new ideas or expounding on what you read and hear - and more importantly, what you experience.
  • Show interest in others.
  • Help others become more successful. Give tips and suggestions.
  • Listen - respond to complaints or concerns from customers and fix the issues.
  • Be human - share personal stories and thoughts. Laugh. Make people laugh.

These are tactics to keep in mind as you embark upon your social media strategy, but I still recommend putting together a solid social media marketing plan first. This would consist of treating this medium like any other in answering questions like:
  1. In what social media spaces is my target market interacting?
  2. How is my target market using social media? What are they talking about? What is most interesting to them? (Find others who are capturing a lot of subscribers and followers, and become a "thought leader".)
  3. How much of my time (team time, vendor resources, consultants) should I invest to get into this space and to engage with the market properly (see above). Be ready to admit to yourself that if you cannot do it correctly, you may need to hire someone who can.
  4. What is my goal? Try to make it quantifiable. From my perspective, you can gauge success by placing a value on a single follower. If a follower (on Twitter) or friend (Facebook) or subscriber (to your blog) is worth the same as a quality lead, what would you be willing to pay for that lead elsewhere? Secondly, and measured separately from a follower or lead, if you can track, via Web analytics tools, conversion from social media sources to your own site and through to your desired conversion event, you can more easily place a value on the initial follower.
I am interested in hearing more about how companies, firms, agencies, and individuals (contractors, bloggers, etc.) have seen a lift in their sales and business that they can attribute to social media strategy. I recently met someone who told me he is experiencing a quantifiable and trackable lift of an additional $40,000 per year for his consultancy business.

I try to follow companies and individuals out there who have embraced this sort of opportunity and are doing really cool things with it. I will soon be writing up a post about some success stories that are pretty fascinating. If you know of any that stand out to you, please comment here or email me!