If you are trying to figure out how to integrate social media into your marketing mix, there are some great media properties to turn to for inspiration.
Traditional media has owned social marketing before we even coined the term social media. If you think about it, PBS started it all. They have shows like This Old House which engaged and educated you in home renovations and showcased products and services you could buy.
Take this to current day and you have entire television networks dedicated to this like HGTV that have interactive sites, reality TV shows, and shows dedicated to blatant advertising in walking you through home shows or enticing you with items you must have.
Oprah through HARPO is another media outlet that has such a following through the TV program, website, and magazine that it can shape political opinion. Audiences are active participants in the show through Skype, contributions through website outreach, and book clubs. As Oprah brings information for women to better their lives, books are promoted, favorite things are showcased, movies are recommended, and personalities and experts are brought to rockstar status.
The best example by far is the sports industry and ESPN. Leveraging fantasy sports they have increased viewership and expanded their audience profile by engaging women through an interactive relationship that drives ad sales.
What I think other industries can learn from television networks is the primary rule of social media, relevance and engagement. In each instance, PBS, ESPN, HGTV, and HARPO provides value to the audience then aligns advertising to the interest. While traditional disruptive advertising still exists through commercials, the 40 or so minutes of programming per hour is still advertising and customers are engaged. The advertising is so tightly woven with the experience, the audience is ignoring it at a conscious level but internalizing it so that what they’ve learned about products and services has shaped their purchasing patterns.
Even if specific brands aren’t provided, certain products get a huge lift in sales like commercial appliances and granite countertops did for kitchens. Secondary outlets like websites and magazines support the brand further, encouraging more participation and engagement, and provide additional avenues for advertising. The networks are sustained through word of mouth of favorite programs and personalities. In addition, they create word of mouth for products. Audiences gain entertainment, advertisers gain exposure and sales.
The key for other industries that tend to leverage media outlets as opposed to owning them, is to create a similar experience for the customer. Today, this is owned by bloggers and personal networks. But, there is no reason why an industry like consumer packaged goods couldn’t provide micro networks. I think the issue at times with many forays into social media of these brands is that they still approach them as ad placement tactics. In addition, the goal of social media is not always a business objective but is, “get people to come to my fan page or follow me on Twitter”. Also, non-related gimmics are used like points or sweepstakes to get promotional items. Let’s take an example of a sports drink. Instead of working on driving people to a fan page on facebook which either provides you with drink bottles, baseball caps, poor quality games, or worse, just a wall of promotion and fan one-liners, the page could help visitors to explore and discuss sports nutrition and fitness methods. Sports groups could be available. One for runners could have tools provided to share routes and events.
In the end, if you want people to interact with your brand, you need to give them a reason why. On top of that, the reason to interact should also align to the reason why they are or should be interested in the brand in the first place. Provide value in the experience, allow collaboration and personalization, relevance in the interaction, and you have a mechanism that will tighten brand affinity and add to the bottom line.