Social media - more promotions not just chatter

Christian James – managing director of The if agency – discusses why social media needs to be about promotion and not just chatter

You can’t move in business without social media being mentioned. Over the past couple of years, it’s gripped our psyche like an iron fist and has convinced us all that we couldn’t live without it. Most of us have an understanding of the main platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, YouTube and Google+ etc) but it’s such a fast paced sector that if you don’t keep an eye on developments you could soon be left lagging behind.

As a company, it’s been our mission to understand how we can exploit the massive growth of promotional marketing – both in terms of its volume and influence – for our clients. It’s now not good enough to just rely on people using the basic functions of a platform; it’s about understanding how to maximise the possibilities, driving their usage and creating conversations that add tangible value.

There’s no doubting that social media now holds the power to brand visibility but only if each one is fully understood and pushed – especially as they satisfy an innate desire in most of us to interact and share our personal experiences.

One of the most effective ways of stimulating engagement is through creative promotions. Traditionally, promotions have made people spend more but with social media they also spread the word about your brand or business, quickly. And they give us the chance to re-invigorate many tried and tested techniques. Deciding on what kind of promotion to run depends on your objectives.

If you want to extend reach and awareness then competitions, quizzes and sweepstakes can be the best option. But, if the aim is to drive footfall and revenue then vouchers and offers are more relevant. Our general rule is that all should be relevant, distinctive and truthful. This sounds like a no brainer but you’d be surprised.

Before launching any kind of social media promotion, it’s vital to recognise that there isn’t just one consumer type. Forrester – the much respected research firm – has identified three main groups; Spectators (those who see a shared link from a friend and might click it... but are likely to stop there), Joiners (those who participate in low barrier ideas but are also likely to vote, comment and share) and Creators (those who will turned on by user-generated content promotions). Every single one should be accounted and catered for which is where the challenge lies.

You should also be acutely aware of the bespoke software that each platform has; including, Facebook’s much discussed EdgeRank which makes sure that your profile’s friends or fans won’t see your posts or adverts unless they have interacted with you recently in some way. The result is that sustained dialogue is a must and this kind of technology and functionality is changing all the time. So, it’s critical to keep on top of them otherwise all your well intentioned efforts could be lost.

No-one would really argue that Facebook is still king when it comes to social promotions but the linking of social, mobile and location based platforms is the way forward as this integrated approach makes sure the right message is delivered to the right people in the right place at the right time.

If a business is looking to get involved in social promotions, I’d recommend starting from the product and working out by building in the social elements to the idea rather than starting with them. If you are going to use incentives or prizes, don’t get fixated with prize values. As long as it’s relevant, customers will value it, provided the mechanics of winning it enhance the value rather than act as a barrier. However, just make sure you tell people about it or your social promotion might turn out rather unsocial....