So far in Social Media and Digital Business, I’ve been forced to face a painful fact: I’m not cool. Not even a little bit. I hear the undergrads in our class talking about things called Yo, Periscope, and Meerkat, and I constantly find myself Googling new words after class. Recently, I asked some of my classmates if they felt that they will be “behind the times” technologically when they have grandchildren. The result was a resounding “no.” I’ve always tended to agree that because my generation grew up with the Internet, email, and (to some degree) social media, I would never fall out of touch with technology the way my grandparents have. However, after just five weeks in of IS6621, I’m starting to have my doubts.
My constant confusion about new digital trends reminds me of a commercial called “Woo Woo” that Adobe released in the summer of 2014.
The commercial makes light of the fact that marketers don’t always understand the trends that they’re investing in or how their efforts contribute to the bottom line. This problem is particularly relevant to social media. Without being able to analyze sales data and attribute marketing activities to transactional data, marketing is nothing more than educated guesswork. As new platforms emerge, it is easy to get excited by unexploited possibilities, but firms must proceed with caution.
So how can marketers make sure they avoid “Woo Woo”-level failures and get the most out of their social media budgets?
- Use custom links for each marketing channel. If you’re inviting prospects to register for an event, make a purchase, or redeem a coupon, make sure you craft a custom link for each referral source. Sources can include email, direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the vast array of platforms I’m sure I’ll discover from the undergraduates in this class during the rest of the semester. By tailoring URLs to each channel, you will be able to easily attribute registrations and/or purchases to the appropriate channels, and even more importantly, you’ll know which channels are driving revenue for your firm.
- Understand your audience. We’ve heard it time and time again in every marketing class we’ve ever taken. However, it’s worth including again here, because marketers need to understand where to find their audience. Certain demographic segments may be more active on different social platforms, so market research will help ensure that resources are being used appropriately. Marketing research can go a long way to ensure maximum efficiency in budget allocation.
- Stay in-tune with digital trends, but beware of short-lived fads. As we saw in the “Woo Woo” video, marketers shouldn’t get distracted by “shiny objects” and forget about tried-and-true marketing tactics for their business. Being the first mover to capitalize on new opportunities can provide huge business advantages, but it is also risky. If a marketing department shifts too much budget toward an emerging channel and that channel ultimately fails, the firm has lost potential revenue that could have been generated by using budget elsewhere. (Along these lines, I would be interested to see the revenue attribution for firms paying for placement on the Snapchat “Discover” page. In its current form, I don’t know that the platform is doing its advertisers any favors.)
After just a few short weeks in Social Media and Digital Business, I’ve absolutely learned that the third item on this list is something I need to be extra aware of. I need to find ways to stay in touch with social trends, or at the very least, align myself with a very trend-aware team.
In your career, have you seen any smart examples of firms using new social channels for marketing? Conversely, have you seen any massive failures?