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Social Media & Content Marketing Success: Short & Long Term

Posted on Aug 15th, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    Social Media Content ROIThe number of inquiries we get at our Online Marketing Agency has stayed pretty steady over the past few years but there’s been a notable shift in interest specifically towards social & content marketing.  What’s interesting is the focus on leveraging social media marketing solely for direct consumer acquisition. What’s the problem with that? Nothing. But there’s a lot of missed opportunity by focusing only on the short term benefits of social media & content.

    Here’s a typical approach: Create a campaign that leverages a creative content object (hub) supported by PPC, social ads, email, online PR and social content (all optimized for keywords of course) to drive traffic & awareness. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, we love integrated campaigns because there’s so much to work with in terms of promotable content, digital assets to be optimized and social engagement. This can be a great mix, but if the company never runs another campaign, or runs them without any coordination between campaigns, it can be like starting over each time.

    What I think a lot of early maturity social media and content marketers are missing out on is the longer term impact of their social content campaigns and the need to focus not just on the direct acquisition of customers through social channels, but also to grow relationships with the people and brands that influence customers who buy.

    Launching an interactive tool, game or campaign all by itself usually involves quite a bit of promotion. That means exposure, content, shares, rankings, traffic and engagement. When the campaign stops, the activity will slow down. That’s to be expected, but I think it could be a problem when the competition continues to create interesting, engaging and shareable experiences with social content and media. Each time a new campaign or creative content object is created and promoted, it grows the network and the anticipation of what’s coming next.

    I think a focus on tactical execution that emphasizes short term and/or first level return on investment misses out on the broader impact.  Imagine this hypothetical example, which I admit, is intentionally biased towards a bigger picture, longer term approach:

    Company A identifies a mix of highly promotable tactics within their target audience of potential customers and creates content relevant to those needs for promotion. Success is measured by the initial reach and traffic generated as well as leads and sales. These tactics are repeated on a continuous basis following Creation, Optimization, Promotion, Social Engagement and Measurement best practices. Tactics achieve a certain level of success, but network growth and reach is a slow climb.

    Company B identifies the pain points of key customer segments and builds out a content plan to uniquely position itself as an authority by packaging content in creative ways and allocating social engagement resources to interact with both customers and relevant industry thought leaders in the space.  Understanding what makes those influentials tick in terms of how they align themselves with vendors, products and services is factored into the content marketing and social media marketing strategy in tandem with customer focused marketing.

    Content Objects are promoted through social networks in support of customer acquisition as well as objectives related to alignment with industry thought leaders.  Crowdsourcing content with the community invests them in the success of the brand. First level of success is measured by initial reach, traffic, leads and sales.  Second level and long term success is also measured by growth of relationships with influencers, publications and the ability for the brand to influence messages through those relationships.

    Growth and cyclical engagement with online networks and communities expands the company’s ability to grow the reach of its distribution channels creating a network effect for it’s online marketing. The more people involved with the brand’s communities, the more value each participant receives in return, motivating them to share and recruit others.

    Maybe the difference is simply a matter of a tactical approach vs. strategic, or focusing on short term results vs. long term. It might also involve how the organization’s leadership sees the potential impact of the social web on sales growth vs. how healthy social communities can amplify that growth.

    The drive towards incremental and short term increases in new revenue can make it difficult to justify the cost of long term creative content campaigns, social engagement and relationship building.  A focus on simultaneous goals of direct customer acquisition in the short term as well as growing the community at large, can result in tremendous influence and momentum in the long term. The investment in an approach that doesn’t yield immediate ROI outcomes might seem a marketing budgeting crapshoot, but I think it’s essential to dominate in a category. And increasingly, that’s what it takes to achieve the success the company is after, especially in the long run.