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Social is dead — long live social: How to be ready for the next phase of engagement

4 min read

Social Media

“Social,” as a buzzword, is dead, said Mark Sabec, product marketing manager at YouTube and one of the keynote speakers at this week’s Digital East 2011 in Tysons Corner, Va. Others agreed, thus setting the stage for two days of speakers focused on exploring ways to reach consumers who are already inundated with marketing ploys at every turn.

For Sabec, “social” doesn’t have a distinct meaning because it’s already inherent in everything we do as humans; technology has simply given us more ways to be social — be it through video, chatting or networking. The concept of marketing hasn’t changed in light of new technology, and the key to a successful campaign is leaving the buzzwords behind and getting a grasp on how you can use new trends and technology to your advantage.

Here are a few trends I noticed:

Mobile is everywhere. Mobile is gearing up to overtake desktops in the near future, several speakers said, and not getting in now is a huge mistake. Going mobile is no longer about simply optimizing your company’s website (which, speakers noted, many companies still have yet to do). It’s now more about ways to stand out from the crowd of your competitors and think of ways to enrich your consumer’s experience beyond just surfing the Web. Long gone are the days of static banner display ads.

That was the goal for WeatherBug, whose mobile application sought to tie in advertisers without being boring. WeatherBug worked with advertisers to create an entire experience for their users, said Chris Brozenick, vice president of consumer products. A campaign with Starbucks used the day’s weather forecast as a trigger for product offers. A cold day meant a coupon for a hot drink, while a sunny day would bring up an offer for a iced beverage. Even better — the app could show a map to the nearest Starbucks store, meaning you could walk right on in with a coupon in tow.

It’s crucial to find a way to connect on a local level. Even though Yelp’s bread and butter is its database of more than 21 million reviews, it’s also a service for people on the go, said Tara Lewis, the company’s Southeast regional marketing director. Staying relevant in an ever-evolving industry was key for Yelp, whose mobile app offers extra services, including easily accessible directions and phone numbers to call local businesses.

A question-and-answer session with Jon Carpenter, director of marketing for LivingSocial, revealed that the daily deal site considers itself as much more that just that. Carpenter said that LivingSocial strongly emphasizes connecting online with offline by engaging customers in their own neighborhoods. LivingSocial Instant banks on the happenstance of customers being near locations with deals. For Instant, which Carpenter says has been very successful, the key lies in the real-time ability to purchase a deal and immediately cash in on it.

Truly understand your market before diving in. The worst thing marketers can do is assume a relationship with customers that they don’t already have, said Liz Strauss, co-founder of SOBcon and a keynote speaker. Being overly friendly can be perceived as being rude and is the quickest way to lose a customer.

Take the time to understand your goals and shape your approach in a meaningful way. The No. 1 thing is just to listen to your customers, said Greg Gunn, vice president of business development at HootSuite. Emphasizing persistent communication and responding accordingly shows your customers that you care about what they think — and that you’re trying to give them what they really want.

Don’t forget to let your personality show through. Flickering computer screens and clicking keyboards can make it easy to forget that there’s a human behind the messages being sent out on Twitter and Facebook. Authentic engagement — and giving people that power to reach out directly — is key to getting fans to identify with your brand, said Gunn. A professionally detached demeanor can only go so far when it comes to connecting with passionate fans of your brand. So equip your community managers with the ability to share what makes your company stand out from the crowd.