Below, a draft of what I'll be submitting to The Project 100 a collaborative book by 100 authors on Social Marketing.
I’ve recently had the challenge of building a Social Media Marketing (SMM) practice within a global luxury/retail brand. Below are some thoughts on how to engage your brand in that direction, and how to justify an internal SMM practice.
1. Answering the Skeptics: Is it “On Brand”?
I like the term “Conversational Marketing” because it replaces the mystique of “Social Media” with an everyday practice that’s a little more concrete. The goal of every Marketer is the one-on-one relationship with the customer, and our brand is no different. Luxury brands exemplify impeccable customer service, so which SMM / Conversational Marketing tactics are applicable to us?
You don’t hear the Voice of the Customer much in Luxury marketing (“My family and I trust Gucci, and you should too!”). Instead we trade on “aspirational” imagery – a term we use a lot in judging Creative. This alluring, almost unattainable lifestyle doesn’t fit naturally within a Facebook Page, where it’s invariably followed by wall posts like “Gucci is my sh*t!” Not so amusing for the internal brand-police. We enjoy the elevated perception of our brand and don’t know where and how to engage with our customer within an online (public) forum
From developing technologies that allow store representatives to better serve their top customers, to online forms for customers to comment on fit & sizing – Conversational Marketing tactics can benefit our existing commitments to the brand-customer relationship. But how do you sell this story internally?
2. Internal Education: Illustrating the shift in how the Customer experiences Brands online.
In order to secure funding for SMM efforts I needed to make a case to an upper management that is naturally distrustful of swinging open the doors to a (seemingly unstructured) two-way conversation with their customer. I created a “What is Web 2.0” presentation and went on a company-wide road show. The presentation illustrated the progression of the Business-Customer relationship (see “B” and “C” above), gave metrics showing shifts in customer activity towards online media, and most importantly, detailed recommendations that leverage existing content that the brand develops, with an eye to letting our evangelists share that content across the web.
Simply put, marketing efforts have always followed customer activity; we put our brands in front of the customer in the places where they spend the most time. I needed to illustrate that the customer does not come directly to our website from a vacuum (only one-third come through the front door). And they are having conversations about our brand everywhere but on our site.
Every brand must realize that the conversation is happening all across the web, and they need to decide whether to join it. We need to shift to a “design for dissemination” mentality. Our job as SMM Evangelists is to answer When and How we join the conversation. If we’re committed to the customer, we at least need to Listen to the conversation (following that old adage, “your brand is not what you say it is, but what your customer thinks it is”). How do we pull that off?
3. My experience as an SMM Evangelist (and how to bake ROI into SMM)
SMM Evangelists will tell you that “What’s the ROI?” is the wrong question. But working internally at a brand, in this climate, it’s clear that you need a clever answer. I believe that a tactical User Experience (UX) practice gives you a unique perspective into SMM, and answers the ROI question because ultimately good UX design is about improving conversion.
A little bit on how I got here. As Design Director I oversaw all of the day-to-day Creative for a 5000 page, 3.5 million uniques, hundreds-of-millions in sales ecommerce site. I managed a team of 25 designers, art directors, and developers, as well as the studio team where we shoot over 4000 products. I also led the site through two redesigns (including multiple usability labs and focus groups), where we invariably focus on the pages where customers spend 80% of their time: the grid and the product-level pages. I slowly was transforming myself into “The Information Architecture / User Experience / Interface-Design Guy.” I convinced the senior management to create a new discipline under the heading of “Global Creative Architect.” In this new role I now oversee the User Experience across all of our interactive projects (Marketing Sites, Kiosks, Store Display, & Mobile), as well as eCommerce. And it is within this practice that I can best recommend and strategize around SMM tactics. My history in Creative allows me to apply SMM tactics into our exiting projects in brand-appropriate ways.
The IA/UX practice partners with the Analytics team, who provide a daily dashboard on the performance of all links and functionalities across our site, level-set against historic metrics and our current goals. Hence the IA/UX team has a unique and tactical perspective into the minutia of customer behavior. Where we see opportunities we construct a hypothesis as to how we can improve the customer experience -- and then conduct multivariate tests to prove the hypothesis. Is Send-to-a-Friend working? What if we displayed the form-fields rather then hiding them behind a button will people use it more? Yes, in fact. By getting super granular we’ve empowered our brand evangelists.
4. Looking Forward: Brand As Utility
I approach every project by asking which channels are included and how best to integrate them. The next evolution in SMM will include brands using Mobile as a key ingredient in the communication mix. I’m not looking for SMS Marketing to follow the path of Email Marketing. Instead I’m keen on mobile applications that connect my online experience with my in-store experience (and points in between). I want to scan a product with my phone and get served a relevant video clip. I want to alert a store that I’ve arrived in London, and have them pull product that’s similar to what I’ve purchased in the past. I want to browse wardrobes after watching a movie on iTV and click through to commerce. And I love chatting with my friends watching CNN’s imbedded presidential inaugural address within Facebook. The landscape for optimizing these connections are endless – and it seems that finally meaningful cross-channel integration is actually attainable.