Keeping your social media audience engaged

In the first article in this social media ROI series we outlined: how to define the return on investment through social media; the separation between hard and soft metrics; and the concept of using social media as part of a closed loop marketing process. In the second article we discussed growing an audience using a variety strategies and tactics for developing a fan-base and how to define a digital value proposition. In this article we will examine what is involved in engaging an audience , how to use this engagement to obtain data, and what you can do with that data once you have it.

The earlier articles  have primarily focused on Facebook, but it’s worth knowing how to plan for each of the platforms available. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Here is a quick run down:

Facebook. Over 55% of the Australian population is now on Facebook, and they view it as personal. For communication to work on Facebook it needs to talk to the audience at a personal level. To gain traction, find ways of expressing the area of overlap between your brand and the lives of the audience members . Graphics and photographs tend to work well and using the segmentation tools that the platform provides is highly recommended.

Twitter. This is the platform everyone has heard about but not many brands know how to use effectively . The short message service is great for customer engagement but you’ll waste time and money if you just post links to your website or to items for sale. Twitter is about providing value – and building trust in the process. Engage in conversations, post links that are truly valuable and you can build a community . Spam and you will build nothing.

Google+. Has had a technical, male-oriented slant for some time but that is beginning to change. G+ is growing quickly. So take advantage of this to build your reputation and position your brand as a thought leader by utilising Hangouts.

YouTube. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, after Google – the company which happens to own it. Some brands have managed to launch via well crafted YouTube videos, taking a very short time to reach millions of views. But “going viral” is not easy. In fact, given that there are over 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute it’s damn hard to get noticed. So plan to use YouTube videos in targeted ways to engage your audience . It is very effective but don’t expect miracles.

Pinterest. This has been the “breakout” social platform of 2012. It is essentially a image scrapbook online. Like  the other platforms it can be an effective communication medium as long as you think through how it will be used. If you are selling something that lends itself to imagery then it is really worth considering.

Of all the platforms Facebook has the most long-term strategic potential if used properly. That’s because you can obtain user data, called Facebook Permissions. The type of data that can be collected through Facebook Permissions ranges from basic demographic information (such as name, email address, age, gender and location) to information that can make up more of a psychographic profile – for example the groups the user belongs to, the interests of that user and, importantly, the “Likes” of the user. These data can generate deep insights.

All of this data can help you create segments and be used for direct marketing efforts such as email marketing. The most common way to obtain Facebook Permissions data is through a customised Facebook app. To be successful you really have to think carefully about what you are asking for and what you are offering in return.

The most common Facebook apps  are the “cookie cutters”  that get audience members to enter competitions and other promotion. For the majority of Facebook users they provide very low value . After all we can all do the basic maths required to work out what are the chances  of actually winning the prize offered!

A far better approach is to devise a strategic approach that looks at where the user’s life intersects with your brand and develop an interesting way of expressing that through software. This type of project requires a larger investment but it will have longevity and, if thought through correctly, will demonstrate  value that will induce your audience to engage. If you want to use the data that you can extract from Facebook for direct marketing, this is the way to go.

In general the opt-in rate for basic competition apps drops by 10% for every data field asked for. If you ask for an email address you may lose 10%. Ask for gender and you may lose another 10%. The way to address this challenge is to offer real value to your audience. Think of data as a currency of exchange that has high strategic value, then develop a value proposition that grants you access to it. Remember that your audience doesn’t like to give away personal information, so make the offer compelling!

Getting the art of data collection and utilisation right can be extremely beneficial for your brand. But even though your audience members  have provided you their data, it does not mean they have  given you permission to spam their email inboxes. You have to be much cleverer than that. You need to keep up the process of demonstrating value and use creatively the data you generate.

That means designing a conversion strategy. And this is what we will look at in the next part in the series.

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