When I started my first job in social media marketing in 2008, it was literally unchartered terrority. Sure, I had a Facebook account like everyone else, but I mainly used it to play a word game called Lexulous (think Scrabble) with friends. The use of social media for business applications was just getting started, and we were all trying to figure out how to effectively participate in online conversations as marketers.
Just as I would do today if I needed to learn more about a specific topic, I bought a book to delve in. Social Media Marketing - An Hour a Day seemed like a good choice because hey, if it can be done in an hour a day, it's easily managed, right? That book helped me navigate the world of social media and transform my marketing position from one where I just broadcasted messages to another where I truly interacted with our community.
Because it's been seven years since then (and because I recently moved and found it on my bookshelf), I thought it would be fun to break open this book by social media expert Dave Evans again to see how things have changed in our industry. There was a second edition published in 2012, but since this is a #throwback to the early days of social media, we're going to peruse the first edition that came out in 2008.
Here are my top five highlights:
1. The Marketer's Dilemma
Evans explains that marketers in 2008 are facing a delimma: Giving up control in order to gain a presence in conversations that matter.
"Your customers are already talking about you. The fact that you aren't participating is your implicit endoresement of whatever it is that they are saying."
Yelp was only four years old at this point, but already people were taking to the "Social Web" as Evans called it to broadcast their opinions to their networks. Marketers were just learning how to participate in conversations and attempt to influence the outcome based on that participation.
Today, consumers have even stronger expectations for how brands use social channels. It's not just enough to monitor the conversation about your company online. You are expected to react and be in many places at once. Late last year HubSpot surveyed 569 customers about social media brand presence and found:
- Consumers expect brands to be active on at least three to four social channels.
- 95% of Millennials expect brands to have a Facebook presence.
- 87% of Gen X’ers (30- to 44-year-olds) and even 70% of those ages 45 to 60 think brands should at least have a Facebook page.
2. Trust is Essential
Back in the early days of the social media revolution, some brands were hestitant to establish social media channels because they were afraid of negative comments. But Evans advised marketers to be truthful in their online correspondence and claimed disclosure to be an essential element of any social-media-based campaign.
"This is your reputation, and it is through the combination of transparency and actual experience that your reputation on the Social Web is built."
Transparency is the new normal. In fact, we've had a marketing mindshift to transparency over the past decade. Businesses are expected to participate in forums of open public dialogue and real-time responsiveness. There are so many real-life examples of businesses making this transition that SPROUT Co-founders Dechay Watts and Debbie Williams wrote an entire book (Brands in Glass Houses) on how businesses are embracing transparency to grow.
Today, people view social channels as a sign of a company's dedication to transparency, accountability and customer service. And it's not all bad news. The HubSpot study found that consumers reached out on social media to compliment a brand more often than to criticize it (50% vs. 35%).
3. Timeliness is Key
Companies that encourage feedback and respond in a timely manner are generally more trusted. There weren't necessarily standards for response time back in 2008. But Evans gave advice to marketers that rings true today: bad reviews are very valuable to marketers.
"Bad reviews can provide a sense of reality: when you see only great reviews, you might still wonder what your customers are really thinking. When you see bad ones, you know. If you are seeing bad reviews, take note, address the issue, and then reconnect with the specific people writing the bad reviews. True detractors aside, they just might become your biggest fans."
Not much as far as the logic. It's still essential to respond to any review, whether good or bad. What has shortened is the amount of time marketers have to address concerns. That's because people are even more impatient today. Edison Research surveyed 690 social media users who had reached out to companies on social media and found:
- 42% expect a response in under an hour
- 32% within 30 minutes
- 25% in the same day and
- 9% within 5 minutes.
That means today's companies must be ready to handle social media inquiries almost immediately.
4. User-Generated Content
User-generated content had a place in 2008, though Evans recognized that efforts are mainly concentrated in the Millennial and Gen X segments. What's interesting is how much blogging has changed. While blogging is mentioned in the book and paid blogging is discouraged, it's a very elementary understanding of what we now consider the purpose of blogging:
"Use a corporate blog to talk about the things that are of interest to you. For maximum effectiveness as a marketing channel, be sure that what you talk about is also of interest to your customers."
Today's bloggers go much futher than this. It's more than just talking about what you want. Blogs are a way to tell a story, and to illustrate how your company's products and services can improve someone's lives. They provide answers to the questions your customers are searching for online, and aren't used to sell (at least the effective ones).
5. Metrics in Motion
Even back in 2008, there were quantitative metrics available to marketers such as sources of website traffic, page views and length of time spent on a site. Evans suggests using these as a baseline against which you can measure future changes as you develop and implement new or additional social media efforts. But marketers had to do a lot of legwork back then:
"Taking the time to gather and distill quantitative metrics is essential: Speak with IT, your webmaster, media group and your CFO to develop a comprehensive dashboard and report card that includes potential social measures."
Of course, the amount of data and analytics marketers have access to has exploded in recent years. It's why you likely hear the term content ROI thrown around in every marketing conversation. We now live by the rule, "What gets measured, gets improved." But today's successful marketer knows how to use all of those numbers and turn them into a story. The right data can actually show how content marketing supports big picture company goals like more traffic, more leads and more sales.
It was interesting to see the concepts Evan shared seven years ago still ring true, and that although his book was titled "Social Media Marketing" it could easily be called "Content Marketing" today. Though there were no mentions of #hashtags and the references to now defunct social networking services such as MySpace, Plaxo and Friendster made me chuckle, the premise of the book is to let go of trying to control the conversations and have a free exchange of ideas with your customers. Turning those conversations about your brand into a sustainable competitive advantage is what content marketing is all about!
One last tidbit I came across shows Evans was spot on in his prediction that podcasting would be a highly effective channel. In fact, it also shows how far technology has come:
"The Apple iPod is by the easiest to use. Shop around and look for a model that suits you. Getting a decdent podcast-capable device empowers you to take the content with you."
The first iPhone was released in 2007, just before this book. Anyone else feel old now?
If you feel like your social media strategy is stuck in 2008, contact us to help your business blossom in the online social space.