How To Integrate Social Media Strategies With Online Marketing

By Nate Elliott, Kim Celestre, and Zachary Reiss-Davis With David Truog and Sarah Takvorian at Forrester Research.

Nearly every marketer and public affairs strategist uses social media today, but too few use it well. Most professionals treat social as something special and unique, leading them either to separate it completely from the rest of their marketing efforts or to ask social to carry an entire marketing program on its own.

But this “social elitism” is more likely to yield failure than success. To unlock the value of social marketing, you’ll need to effectively integrate social into your established marketing plan — and the marketing RaDaR model holds the key. This report of our social marketing playbook lays out Forrester’s vision for how social tactics can supply reach and depth and relationships to your marketing plan.

Why isn’t social media working for marketers? Because rather than recognizing that social is just another marketing channel, many see it as a silver bullet. Some marketers keep social media strategies completely separate from the rest of their marketing efforts; others ask social to carry the weight of an entire marketing program; most use unproven metrics to track performance.

The key to success is finding ways for social media to support your marketing program rather than vice versa. Social tactics can support reach and depth and relationship, the three layers of what Forrester calls the marketing RaDaR; marketers must determine which part of their RaDaR needs the most help and choose the social tactics to match.

In our most recent survey, nine out of 10 marketers said they currently use social marketing, and nearly all the rest said they planned to start using social media in 2013 (see Figure 1). More marketers turn to branded Facebook and Twitter accounts than to any other social tools — but large numbers also create their own blogs and forums, pay for ad placements on social sites, and sponsor online communities.

social media channels and users

In our most recent survey, nine out of 10 marketers said they currently use social marketing, and nearly all the rest said they planned to start using social media in 2013 (see Figure 1). More marketers turn to branded Facebook and Twitter accounts than to any other social tools — but large numbers also create their own blogs and forums, pay for ad placements on social sites, and sponsor online communities.

Fully 100% of the business decision-makers we’ve surveyed use social media for work purposes — which means that social marketing is no longer the domain of only those selling digital cameras and deodorant. In fact, more than one-third of business-to-business marketers use public social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter to generate leads, and nearly as many use on-site communities to nurture leads.

Despite marketers’ excitement about social media, many say the channel simply doesn’t offer enough return on their investment. The sobering reality is that nearly a decade into the era of social media, more social marketers are failing than succeeding. Some companies fail with social media without even realizing it. In fact, many high-profile social “success stories” have turned out, on further examination, actually to be failures:

  • Best Buy’s famous engagement levels couldn’t save its business. The electronics retailer encouraged its employees to engage on Twitter and heavily promoted its “Twelpforce” as a way for customers to get answers to their tech questions. Throughout 2009 and 2010, executives basked in praise from the likes of the Harvard Business Review (and yes, from Forrester too). But though the company’s strategy generated lots of engagement, it generated too few sales. The result? While its employees were busy helping people on Twitter, the company was losing billions and stores were closing down. By 2012, Best Buy’s CEO and CMO found themselves looking for new jobs.
  • Pepsi’s bold move collected lots of votes but not enough sales. In 2010, the No. 2 soft drink brand cut its Super Bowl ad budget and instead made social media the centerpiece of its marketing strategy. The Refresh Project let customers choose which community renewal programs should receive grant money and generated more than 80 million votes in its first year. The campaign was celebrated as an unqualified success for social-media-led marketing — until the sales numbers came in. Despite remarkable engagement rates, Pepsi was losing market share. By the end of 2010, Pepsi’s sales had fallen behind those of Coca-Cola’s Diet Coke for the first time ever.

Best Buy and Pepsi may be among the most prominent examples of brands that bet on social and lost — but they’re far from the only ones. For instance, multibillion-dollar IT services company CA Technologies invests the effort to update its Facebook page several times per day — but has collected just 10,000 fans, few of whom engage with the company’s posts. And American Airlines’ policy of replying to every Twitter comment forced it not only to offer a polite “thanks” to vulgarity-filled insults but also to automatically promote those insults for its other followers to see. No matter what category you’re in, you’ve seen competitors waste budget on failed social strategies; perhaps your company has done it as well.

social media strategy

Integrate Social Into your Marketing Plan

To succeed with social media, marketers must understand how it supports each part of the customer journey — not just offering engagement but also enabling discovery and supporting exploration and purchase. In fact, social marketing tools and tactics can offer value at every stage of the customer life cycle and can support reach and depth and relationship — the three layers of what Forrester calls the marketing RaDaR.

Social reach tactics help people discover your brands, products, and promotions. People can’t discover what you’re selling if they’re never exposed to it — and that requires you to use tactics that help your messages reach your target audience. Most people say the No. 1 way they learn about new brands, products, and services is from friends and family and that paid ads can create discovery as well.12 And there are social tactics that can help on those two fronts: Both word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing and paid social advertising can deliver reach for your marketing programs.

Social depth tactics help prospects explore and buy your products. Your audience is looking for depth when they explore your offerings. And the place to which people most commonly turn for such detailed information is a brand’s own website. Weaving social tools into your own site — including blogs and communities as well as ratings and reviews — can extend the site’s value beyond run-of-the-mill product specifications by offering detail about what your brand stands for and exposing prospects to real customer experiences.

Social relationship tactics build stronger engagement with your best customers. After people buy from a company, there are many ways they stay in touch — and they frequently prefer relationship channels such as email, postal mail, and loyalty programs. But social has a valuable role to play here, too: In particular, branded profiles on public social sites such as Facebook,
LinkedIn, and Twitter can foster stronger relationships with the customers you’ve already acquired.

PR firm Phoenix

Social Reach Strategies Generate Discovery

The first step in the customer life cycle is typically to help people discover that you offer a solution to one of their problems. When your prospects first begin this discovery process, they don’t actively seek your brand; they come across it only through sources they already engage with. For example, 80% rely on their friends and family to inform their discovery, and many say paid ads in their favorite channels perform a similar role. This means that social tools such as word of mouth and social advertising can help you:

  • Tap your audience’s peers to advocate for you.
  • Inspire the voices your audience respects to influence on your behalf.
  • Deliver advertising messages into social channels.

Social Reach Tactics Generate Exploration

The first step in the customer life cycle is typically to help people discover that you offer a solution to one of their problems. When your prospects first begin this discovery process, they don’t actively seek your brand; they come across it only through sources they already engage with. For example,
80% rely on their friends and family to inform their discovery, and many say paid ads in their favorite channels perform a similar role. 13 This means that social tools such as word of mouth and social advertising can help you:

  • Deliver more-credible detail about your brand and what it stands for.
  • Expose prospects to customer feedback that accelerates consideration.
  • Connect people to others who can answer their questions.

Social Media Relationship Strategies

  • Keep customers up to date.
  • Inspire them to get more value from their favorite products.
  • Bring them exclusive content and deals.

Every successful social media program starts with a plan. Since 2006, we’ve helped many hundreds of companies create better social marketing initiatives by using our four-step POST framework:

  • Study your people and how they use social tools.
  • Find the right objectives for your business.
  • Select the best technology for your needs.

To find out more about Forrester Research and how it can help you be successful, visit www.forrester.com

public relations firm Phoenix and Denver

Crossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. We can help you influence public opinion, public policy and business decisions around the globe. We can help build your brand, your bottom line and a better world. Our headquarters are in Denver, Colorado. We’re opening a new office in Phoenix, Arizona.

Denver PR firm. Phoenix PR Firm.