Social marketing is no longer solely about having a Facebook page or a Twitter account. It's about creating rich opportunities (contests, communities, polls, games, and other approaches) for fans to engage with the brand—and, by doing so, attracting the fans' circle of friends to the brand as well.

By taking engagement to the next level, marketers can advance their social media strategy and grow their marketing database, making the transition from broadcast to unicast, and making that one-to-one connection with the customer.

Of the 1 billion-plus Facebook users, 584 million are daily users. Of the 517 million twitter users, over 140 million are active at least monthly. In the course of 60 seconds, there are 695,000 Facebook status updates and over 98,000 tweets.

With such numbers, marketers who fail to take advantage of social engagement opportunities will see customers shift to more socially aware competitors.

By engaging social customers and prospects with interactive activities, companies can create considerable brand loyalty, increase their fan base, grow their direct marketing database dramatically, and generate greater revenue.

A Checklist

How do you know whether your business is ready for social engagement, and how do you plan for a successful implementation?

The following five-step "Social Readiness Checklist" from ClickSquared and Peppers & Rogers Group provides a great foundation for building a successful social engagement program:

  1. Understand the social media landscape, including what other companies are doing in and outside your industry.
  2. Be clear about what you want to achieve with social media.
  3. Have a listening program in place to determine which customers are talking about what topics and where they interact most.
  4. Experiment with pilot programs.
  5. Ensure that social media initiatives are not conducted in isolation.

That's a great start, but it alone will not ensure success; what happens next is really how social media success or failure is determined.

According to a recent survey by The Relevancy Group and ClickSquared, 55% of marketers share email content to social sites, 52% manage follower pages on social sites, 46% respond with private messages, 45% employ social media for email acquisition, 45% use Twitter to nurture customer relations, and 45% use email/social metrics for attribution.

Although roughly half of all marketers are using social media in one form or another, very few organizations are connecting customer-centric practices, data, and measurement across channels. Disturbingly, only 25% of cross-channel marketing programs are tightly coordinated, the study found. That's down from last year—increasing the opportunity for smart marketers to differentiate their brand with a consistent, relevant dialogue with every customer.

How can marketers expect to effectively reach and maintain a dialogue with their customers, via social media or any other channel, if they don't examine where their customers want to be contacted, when, and how they are using each channel?

Making the Move

Here are three tips for using social media as part of an effective cross-channel customer dialogue... making the move from broadcast to unicast:

  1. Social does not equal one-to-one. Too often marketers forget that Facebook is primarily used as a broadcast channel. If they really want to establish one-to-one customer dialogues, they need to engage their fans in a way that encourages the fans to opt in to the company's marketing programs—which usually means asking the fans to share their email addresses. From there, the marketer has myriad ways to collect and further understand interests and preferences—and can then tailor the dialogue (and offers) to each fan's specific needs.
  2. Not all fan-gates are created equal. One thing that significantly affects engagement via social channels is creating apps that do not require fans to share their full profiles. Requiring full profile sharing to participate in campaigns or enter contests significantly suppresses fan conversion. Requesting only basic information, such as name and email address, can deliver superior participation rates that allow you to dramatically grow your opt-in marketing database.
  3. Cross-channel means favorite channel. Engaging in one-to-one meaningful, customer-specific dialogues will far exceed the results experienced with social broadcasting alone. Moving from one-size-fits-all broadcasting to highly targeted communications that are personalized and timely, and via the consumers' preferred channel, is the proven path to marketing success.

    Cross-channel does not need to be complicated; it can be as simple as delivering a single relevant message to the customer's channel of choice.

Marketers who listen and speak to customers across channels clearly have an advantage. Those who are successful will find that they reach a much deeper level of customer understanding than what can be achieved by working in channel-specific silos.

Understanding to your customer's preferences and respecting their choices is the foundation of a great communications program—whether by social, email, SMS, direct mail, or telephone.


Social networking presents enormous opportunities for companies to engage and attract thousands of new potential customers. Doing so successfully means creating mechanisms by which consumers can engage with the brand beyond a one-time click of a "like" or "follow" button.

Providing engaging games, contests, and (fan-)gated communities that allow customers to interact with the brand (and their fellow fans) to share their opinions, expertise, and passion are critical ingredients for growing your marketing database and engaging in a one-to-one dialogue with each customer.

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image of Kerry Reilly

Kerry Reilly is vice-president of product marketing at ClickSquared Inc., a SaaS-based marketing solutions company, where she manages product and corporate marketing functions.

LinkedIn: Kerry Reilly