August 14, 2010

We've all been subjected to the "fans and friends" outburst -- whether as an agency, a peer, or in casual cocktail conversation with self-made celebrities of the digital age. Sound familiar?: "We got 200 fans overnight." Or, "I'm doing really well. I have 1,000 friends and my page has 100 more fans than my competition." But, unless the marketer or celebrity can transform that passive attention into action, no one can be sure that fandom and friending count.

There's something we talk about a lot when it comes to "channel planning," that somewhat conventional but utterly valuable discipline of slowing down and planning based on where your consumer really tends to spend time. And that something is: mindset. It's merely a start to know which channels and platforms your consumer prefers. There's more that should concern you.

What is their mindset when they are there, and how do we respect and engage with that mindset when marketing in these environments? What do they want to do -- and what do they actually do -- when traversing these channels? Really, their liking you means nothing until you know these things.

After what seems like 100 of these vapid declarations of fans and friends success, I was somewhat heartened by an article I saw last week, published by eMarketer: "The Thin Line Between Liking a Brand and Liking its Social Marketing." It's one of the few pieces I've seen that rounds up the findings of various reports detailing the kinds of activities "liking" a brand might spur. It specifically focuses on ExactTarget's "Subscribers, Fans and Followers" report. The report shows there's an intricate array of interests and motivations potentially symbolized by the "like," with the desire for receiving promotions ranking highest. These include an interest in updates on company news, upcoming sales, exclusive content. A desire to interact ranked the lowest. For me, the report reinforces that a brand cannot assume that a "like" holds a consumer's full spectrum A-Z of interest just because she likes you. It's more a la carte.

Yes, if you stop to think about it, this all seems obvious. But we have seen this short-sightedness before: click-through rate, anyone? We all know that as a metric, the CTR is practically meaningless. Yet it's one of the first things a new digital marketer will latch onto out of the gate, no matter how much time has been spent discussing objectives and establishing valid performance indicators. We've seen many a marketer stay obsessed with the CTR longer than is healthy.

We've been trying to end the conversation for years, but this aimless exuberance for the CTR has persisted. Yes, click-through volume and trending is interesting on some level. But, more importantly, what does the visitor do? What happens on touchdown or on that path to conversion? Does a visitor return? Explore the site for more than three seconds and three pages? Join your community? Comment? Become an advocate? Click, click, and purchase? Purchase again next month? Those are the doings that matter.

As with the CTR, so goes the "like." Smart marketers, unite. We must have a higher standard for engagement, which we're still trying to define as an industry anyway. A passing glance, a wink or even a tap on the shoulder don't just translate to lasting love. You want the follow-through -- any number of tangible "I dos."

By Kendall Allen
Kendall Allen runs most of her media and marketing pursuits through a company she established, Influence Collective, LLC, based in New York City. She also serves as General Manager for Digital Ventures at Carolyn & Co. Media and teaches digital marketing and media to executives for Laredo Group.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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