We see a lot of auto companies jumping on the social media bandwagon and diving into Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube Channels and corporate and employee blogs –- but are they really thinking strategically about how social can impact their business? We encourage our clients to see social as a third dimension of marketing through which they can deliver on their business goals. Just as brand marketing and direct response marketing have specific objectives and measurement criteria across a brand’s marketing efforts, Social Influence Marketing™ should become a complementary strategy.
The traditional marketing funnel has been transformed. Attract, Convert, Service and Extend no longer look the same.
You can start by envisioning your marketing funnel and the different levers you employ to reach targets, prospects and owners as they move through the consideration, evaluation and purchase decision tree. Think about which decision-making behaviors can be influenced through Social strategies. Are you trying to build awareness? Convert someone who is evaluating your brand against a competitor? Retain owners post-purchase? All of these situations could employ Social Influence Marketing to achieve the desired outcome. Social influence is more than just tactical execution and we challenge our clients to think about the big picture before brainstorming their next viral campaign or Facebook application.
As Social Influence Marketing becomes more and more present on automaker’s marketing radar we are seeing traditional marketers scramble to adapt to these new opportunities. Often it is left to marketing and PR groups to harness social media and decide where and when it should be employed, with a healthy dose of legal review thrown in to mitigate any unforeseen UCG disasters. Recently we’ve seen a rise of the Social Media Expert, a new kind of SME who focuses on how best to use social on behalf of a brand. These experts usually have a combination of marketing/PR/brand and product expertise and speak with both authority and enthusiasm. They become ambassadors for the brand and exert their own personal influence on others -– including enthusiasts, owners, prospects and industry watchers. Often these SMEs work independently of traditional and digital marketing departments, which we see as a risk. Social Influence Marketing can only be effectively integrated as a third dimension to marketing when the marketers themselves are aligned in their thinking.
So which comes first, the Social Influence Marketing strategy or the SME integration with the marketing department? In my opinion it is crucial to have the right people in place before you go to market with a social strategy. This allows you to have the SME focused on not just the planning and execution, but also the in-campaign response and post-measurement. Of course not everyone can hire a Scott Monty or Chris Barger or even find internal candidates who want to take on the responsibility of owning the social strategy. As an agency, we have stepped in for clients and assumed this role for specific product campaigns. While it is important to always reveal our association and act ethically on behalf of the brand, I find that our long-term client relationships (especially our automotive accounts) have created brand advocates and enthusiasts of many of our team members, making them a natural fit for the SME role.
Which leads us to the question – are owners and prospects really using social in their decision-making process? Or is social influence purely the domain of enthusiasts and brand loyalists? Our position is that automakers that only focus on their brand advocates are missing a huge opportunity.
Our research has shown that Social Influence Marketing has a major impact mid-funnel, when a prospective owner is evaluating the vehicles they’ve chosen to focus on as an outcome of the consideration phase. These audiences are using everything at their disposal to determine which vehicle meets their needs the best as well as which represents the most financially sound decision. Often the prospect is eschewing anonymous owner comments found on UGC automotive websites and turning to friends and family for advice –- with an emphasis on current owners of the vehicles they’re considering. In the digital world these friends and family interactions are becoming the domain of social network and utility sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and blogs. The key to having a voice in these conversations often ties back to making sure that your content and brand advocates are present in the context of the conversations. This means making your evaluation content portable so that it isn’t buried on your website. Configurators, slide-shows, video demos, build-and-quote tools and owner tools should all have export functionality so they can easily be shared across the digital communities that enable influencers to speak one-to-one with their network of followers. Adding tracking capabilities such as the Razorfish Generational Tag will allow you to see how far and wide your content travels, and even map it back to interactions and conversions on your site.
In summary, think about Social Influence Marketing as a third dimension to your marketing strategies, identify SMEs within your organization or agency and make sure they’re closely aligned with the department and make your content portable to ensure it reaches the influencers and their networks.
- Auto promotion: Using Twitter in the automotive industry; Headlightblog.com, 03.30.09
- Trends in Social Influence Marketing; Going Social Now, 03.09.09
- Social Influence Marketing™: white paper (pdf) by Shiv Singh
- Tracking social influence: Razorfish files patent for social media action tag; Digital Design Blog, 12.12.08
- New Razorfish data ties consumer social media activity to purchase behavior; Digital Design Blog, 01.29.09