4 Tips to Get the Most Out of Social Media This Holiday Season
As we head into the holidays, most brands already have their marketing plans in place. Undoubtedly they're making room for in-store and mobile promotions, but what about social media? While some marketers might be scratching their heads wondering whether social media is really worth it, let me make it clear: social media matters.
As a fellow marketer, I can understand why many of my peers are skeptical about social media. As of yet, the channel hasn't been a megastar when it comes to online sales. Right now social media only drives 2 percent of online sales and 1 percent of total traffic. Those are pretty dismal numbers. If we look at social media from an online sales perspective, then yes, it's doomed to fail. The truth is, however, social media isn't about driving traffic, it's about amplifying your brand message, leveraging the network effect to extend your reach, and leveraging the implicit endorsement of your customers and brand ambassadors who are talking about your brand.
So, how do you make the most of social media this holiday season? Here are four tips to help you out:
1. Make it easy. Don't make your customers work to tell people about your brand; make it easy by embedding social sharing links in places that make sense (e.g., purchase confirmation pages, emails, etc.). Integrate social sharing links where customers are most likely to come across them in the brand experience. If your customers are scouring Pinterest boards, make sure you have high-quality images that have been optimized for sharing. If your customers are partial to Facebook, have a presence there. It's as simple as making sure you're where your customers are.
2. Incent and reward. Don't just encourage your customers to "like," "pin" and share good news about your brand. Incent them to do so and reward them when they do. A travel company might incent consumers by offering additional loyalty reward points. For example, for every friend a customer gets to sign up for a particular promotion, that customer receives X loyalty points to be used at a later date. Some companies are also starting to experiment with "badges" similar to foursquare to reward customers who do things the brand wants them to.
3. Cultivate brand ambassadors. In addition to encouraging your everyday customers to spread the good news about your brand, it's also important to target high-value influencers to help spread the word. Through this network effect, brand ambassadors will amplify your message to their core followers, who will in turn amplify the message to their followers and so on. To make this work, treat your brand ambassadors to some sort of premium access, which might include a high-touch VIP invitation to an exclusive event, special promotions, or providing them with early access to products or content, including first-looks. The more exclusivity you give to your brand ambassadors, the more likely they are to promote your efforts among their network.
4. Track results. If you're going to pursue social media, you need to track your results like any other marketing channel. There are a wide range of tools available to understand how social media is impacting your results — even to the individual customer level. You can analyze how viral your marketing messages are or even how many times your messages have been shared through a particular social media channel. By using social analytics tools, marketers can assess clickthroughs, web links that are liked or commented on, and even brand sentiment shared through social channels. Additionally, marketers should also understand what percentage of sales traffic is being driven by social media, then compare that information to that of their competitors.
This holiday shopping season is poised to break records. We expect to see mobile devices account more than 20 percent of total sales, and shoppers will most likely spend more than ever before. But let's not forget the importance of social media. With the right plan in place, social media has the potential to provide greater customer insight and make a real difference in your holiday season. We'll be tracking the performance of both social and mobile this holiday season with our Holiday Benchmark, so stay tuned for an update.
Jay Henderson is the global strategy program director for IBM's Enterprise Marketing Management group.