Home > marketing ramblings, Social media strategy > The new rabbit in the CEO’s headlights

The new rabbit in the CEO’s headlights

In the past when the CEO asked Marketing what they were doing about a loyalty scheme, the diplomatic answer was always “we’re working on one” (whether they were or not).  The complex and thorny issues of whether the cost of running loyalty programmes outweighed the actual value delivered to the business or whether genuine loyalty was really ever created put many marketers in an awkward position – hence the diplomacy.

Everyone wanted to copy Tesco without understanding the scheme structure (an investment in data), why the scheme worked (Tesco owned the data and used it to drive everything they did) and the nature of the success (points were just the customer-facing element).  Indeed, most companies have dipped at least a toe in the water of loyalty / rewards (the two are used synonymously when they’re not), although ultimately many programmes prove unsuccessful for everyone but the third party paid to run them.

Luckily the hysteria over loyalty schemes has largely died down, but now the CEO’s likely to ask Marketing what they doing with Facebook or Twitter.  While this is really like the CEO asking why they’re not doing any bus backs, the sensible answer has to be “we’re working on it”… and in reality they should be looking into it.

Very few brands can ignore social media – even b2b brands are talked about online.  However, any foray into social media should be given a rigorous evaluation and follow a solid strategy rather than blindly jumping in with both feet – like so many companies did with “loyalty / rewards” only to get burnt.  Here are 7 quick points to consider when putting together a strategy:

1.    It’s not free – sure there’s little media cost, but it can be labour intensive and suck in expensive senior management resource for approvals if autonomy is not built into the strategy.
2.    It’s not a quick win – just because you’ve built it, it doesn’t mean they’ll come.  Content takes time to build up (both business and user generated) and few successful social media “campaigns” go viral (in the traditional sense) overnight.
3.    It needs to be measured – any viable strategy includes metrics and social media is no different.  Although the metrics are non-traditional compared to banners and PPC, these need to be set up front.
4.    It’s not just Facebook and Twitter – these channels are only part of the blogosphere and may hold zero relevance to your product / service / target.  Don’t forget blogs, digital apps, forums, groups, online communities, photo and video sharing sites, podcasts, bookmarking sites and niche online communities.  And integrate with all your other activity.
5.    Listen – what’s valuable to you may not be valuable to your target, you’ll fish where the fishes are and this tends to avoid over-reaction.
6.    Don’t Astroturf – enough said.
7.    “Why” not “what” – understand why you want to use social media instead of jumping straight to tactics.  This will ensure you build a solid strategy and select the correct channels.

The shortfalls of schemes like Nectar and Airmiles are a topic for another day, but in 10 years hopefully we won’t be writing about how most companies got social media wrong.

PS – who knows, perhaps the answer is to combine loyalty schemes with social media?

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