Adding social media to your website can build customer affinity, boost repeat traffic, and provide valuable data on your audience. Just like sales history and demographic stats, the data can help you steer your product and marketing decisions.
Alan Scott, CMO, Dow Jones, has been incorporating social media into the business news and information company’s strategy for several years. Web 2.0 gives the company’s audience what it wants and tells Scott and his marketing team where to go next.
Scott and his team refuse to grab whatever is hot, though. They carefully select social platforms to adopt. They believe their painstaking approach is necessary for a company with a 100-year history of one-way conversations.
Find out how Scott’s team decides which Web 2.0 strategies to launch, and how they use the data they provide to improve marketing and products. Give Them a Platform and Listen: 7 Strategies Strategy #1: Follow your audience
Your audience will prefer some Web 2.0 media over others. Before investing the money and effort to bring them to your site, find out what method of communication they favor.
Scott’s team follows their audience into new platforms. For example, through research, the team found that their audience wanted to give feedback on the day’s business news, often commenting on other news sites. In response, Dow Jones introduced Talk Back to their newswire services. Readers can offer feedback on wire stories that previously were one-way conversations. Do the research
Scott’s team uncovers which types of media their customers prefer through rigorous research. “Every time we interact with our customers, we try to ask them a question or two that we can get some meaningful data from,” he says.
Among other sources, research comes from:
- Extensive surveying
- Site and sales analytics
- Advisory boards
The advisory boards are comprised of representative members of a topic’s target audience. The wealth advisory council, for example, is staffed by successful wealth managers – either independent or working with large financial corporations. The team adds to their research by asking council members for their interests and preferences. Resist the urge to guess
Anticipating an audience’s preferences is risky and difficult. If you’re not sure your audience wants a new medium, you may end up being a one-person parade.
Scott’s team does not charge into new platforms without extensive research and surveys. For example, you will not find Dow Jones in Second Life, a virtual reality site.
“We took a shot at Second Life and looked into that, but we found that our customers really weren’t there,” Scott says. They scrapped that medium. Strategy #2: Create rules for employee Internet interaction
Dow Jones employees publish blogs under the Dow Jones banner and on their own. Employees are encouraged to engage in online conversations, but they sign a code of conduct limiting what they can say on both. Policy not affected by platform
Some of the rules in the code of conduct:
- Do not make disparaging remarks about Dow Jones or any of its competitors
- Do not trade stocks on markets and topics the company writes about
- Do not share proprietary information about the company
These rules are not medium-specific. They apply to all outlets across the company.
“If you regulate what they’re allowed to say and what they’re prohibited from saying, it doesn’t matter what medium you use,” Scott says. Strategy #3: Add data to customer profiles
Once you welcome your audience to interact on your site, start crunching the data those interactions provide, and add it to your customers’ profiles. When segmenting your lists and targeting offers, the information can prove to be as important as a customer’s purchasing history or clicking behavior.
For example, you may know that Bob Smith subscribed to your email newsletter and recently bought a product. The information found on social media elements, such as commenting, forums, and voting, can show you which topics inspire Bob to interact with and mention when writing.
o Enable more paths to conversion
Social interactions can add to your picture of the conversion path. You may find that customers are more likely to convert if they interact in certain ways or a certain number of times.
o Emphasize testing
The only way to prove the importance of social media interactions in your customers’ path to conversion is to analyze your database, segment it, and test offers. Strategy #4: Monitor trends
When your site attracts a lot of conversations, you can mine that data to identify:
o Emerging and hot issues
o Sentiment about products
o Conversation-starting topics
o Audience style and preferences
Scott’s team combines data from their Web 2.0 services with information from clicking behavior, product downloads, page traffic, and other data to help guide marketing and product decisions.
“The next ebook that we’re coming out with is a direct result of the analysis and the polling that we’ve done…We have a lot of confidence that it’s going to be hitting the mark because we’ve done the analysis around it,” Scott says. Strategy #5: Monitor your reputation
Monitor what your audience says on your site about your company and its products. This should help you better understand your reputation and identify PR challenges.
o Observe on a larger scale
You can incorporate information from the rest of the Web to uncover industry trends. You can get a larger picture by mining keyword traffic from Google, blogs from Technorati, comments from social networking sites, and a host of other sources.
This information can help identify marketing and product opportunities, as well as keep tabs on your company’s online reputation.
o Stop fires before they start
In 2005, Dow Jones launched a Web-monitoring product that caught the ire of an Australian blogger who thought it was typical of big companies to act like “big brother.”
By using software to monitor their online reputation, Scott’s team discovered the blogger’s post. Scott responded to the comment and explained that the intention of the product is not to watch over customers’ shoulders. The blogger eventually agreed and thanked Scott for his comments, silencing a piece of online criticism.
o Don’t be an uber company – outsource certain tasks
If you do not have this type of monitoring ability, it will take a gifted IT team or a provider to get you there. Effectively monitoring the Web involves crunching data from millions of sources. Manually gathering the data and looking for trends would take years – at which point the insights are useless. There are many providers and agencies that offer social media monitoring services and possible software solutions. Strategy #6: Don’t dwell on ROI
Don’t obsess over measuring the return on investment of every venture into Web 2.0, Scott says. It’s better to look at ROI from a higher perspective: Make sure your overall strategy is working.
“It’s very difficult to understand the cause and effect of every individual component and make a meaningful decision.”
Scott’s strategy measures everything possible to make sure it’s generating enough revenue for the business overall, he says. When Scott’s public relations team releases a message with a tracked phone number for customers to purchase through, the ROI of that effort is obvious. However, it’s much harder to gauge the ROI of the PR team’s damage-control messaging during times of crisis, even though that does not mean it is worthless. Strategy #7: Adapt your corporate culture
Interacting online with customers and enabling user-generated content is not the traditional way of publishing business news and information. Through research, however, Scott’s team realized that their audience was moving toward social media. They took a risk and followed them.
“We have an environment with a lot of tolerance for risk-taking, and also a lot of tolerance for innovation,” Scott says. “And it’s OK to try and fail. It’s much better to do that than to not try.”
Your upper managers must be willing to try new strategies and to take a risk to welcome customer interactions on your site, he says. It is the only way to add social media data to your customer profiles and begin segmenting your campaigns based on it. Useful links related to this article:
How to Grow a Customer Forum into a Social Media Site: Add Hands-On Tools
Protect Your Image on the Digital Highway: 7 Tips & No-Cost Tools to Prevent a PR Nightmare
Dow Jones Insight: Web monitoring software