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Amazon Prime Day: 12 quick takeaways from Amazon’s magnificent train wreck

August 4th, 2015 No comments

For those of us interested in marketing, Amazon’s first ever “Prime Day” celebration could not have been more fun to experience. Intended as a special shopping day for members of Amazon’s $99/year Prime service, Amazon had practically promised ecommerce Armageddon leading up to the 24-hour event, with “More deals than Black Friday!”

As the morning unraveled, however, Prime Day quickly devolved into spectacle as the buying public hammered Amazon for what they perceived as lackluster deals.

Despite customer complaints, Prime Day was by most metrics a staggering success for Amazon. According to online retail tracker ChannelAdvisor, Amazon’s sales were up 93% in the United States year-over-year, and 53% in Europe. 34.4 million items were sold across Prime-eligible countries, shattering Black Friday records, and hundreds of thousands of new users signed up for Amazon Prime throughout the event.

When planning our promotions or campaigns, here are 12 quick tips we can extract from both the failures and successes of the now-infamous Prime Day.

Happy Prime Day! More Deals Than Black Friday (Garage Sale Meme)

 

Celebrate your history

Prime Day marked the celebration of Amazon’s 20-year anniversary. Embracing your history is a great way to leverage nostalgia for your company’s past to help strengthen and promote its future. If your brand has been around for a long time, use anniversaries as an opportunity to brag about it. For many customers, longevity equals trust.

 

Choose the right time

Though companies can often benefit from celebrating their milestones, timing is everything. If Prime Day would have fallen closer to other major commercial holidays — Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, etc. — Amazon’s results may have been different.

Revenue may have been significantly lower, or Prime Day may have cannibalized sales from other holidays. Occurring in mid-July, Prime Day was perfectly timed, giving consumers a new reason to buy during a traditionally slow season.

 

Create your own seasonality

With Prime Day, Amazon effectively invented a new shopping holiday.

As marketers, we should be on the lookout for similar opportunities of our own. Look no further than massive Chinese online retailer Alibaba, which transformed an obscure anti-Valentine’s Day holiday (Singles’ Day) into the largest shopping holiday in the world, driving more revenue in 24 hours last year ($9 billion) than Amazon typically does in a month.

Though we don’t all have the scope (or captive market) of Alibaba, we can certainly think a bit smaller. Calendars.com, for example, found much success in creating a holiday called “Flip Day” to help promote their calendars, detailed in this MarketingSherpa blog post. As a recent MarketingExperiments’ Web clinic (produced by yours truly) demonstrated, seasonal messaging should be relevant to your product or somehow enhance its value.

 

Set expectations realistically

Amazon’s marketing team started building suspense for Prime Day months in advance, hyping “better sales than Black Friday.”

Though Amazon did provide attractive deals — particularly with their own Amazon branded electronics — the big ticket items that many customers expected never materialized. Instead of PlayStation 4s and Macbook Airs, customers found odd items like dishwasher detergent, pencil sharpeners and a 55-gallon drum of sexual lubricant.

Amazon Prime Day Twitter Response

 

While it’s important to build suspense for your event, remember, it’s always best to under-promise and over-deliver.

 

Use events to collect and analyze customer data

Though Amazon earns $99 annually for each Prime membership, the true value of it may come from the data that Prime allows Amazon to collect. By mining information about how these high value customers shop and what they search for or buy, Amazon is able to further enhance its famous highly predictive product recommendation engine. The more Amazon knows about their customers — what items they demand, what movies they watch, what books they read, what music they listen to — the more they can personalize that user’s experience.

 

Reward loyal customers to encourage retention …

Unlike Amazon’s Black Friday sales, Prime Day was exclusive to Amazon Prime subscribers.

On average, these members spend almost three times as much annually as non-subscribers ($1,500 vs. $625). While Amazon Prime is already popular with members (Millennials call Amazon their favorite site, and some estimates put the Prime subscription rate as high as 50%), creating a promotion exclusive to your most loyal customers shows that you value them and gives them added incentive to continue doing business with you.

 

… But remain inclusive to draw in new customers

Though Amazon’s Prime Day sales were exclusive to Amazon Prime members, Amazon allowed anyone to sign up for a free 30-day trial to the service in order to take advantage of Prime Day.

As a result of this decision, Amazon moved hundreds of thousands of new Prime memberships during the week. Even if you run a subscription or membership-based business, finding creative ways to include both existing customers and new prospects in your promotion can help stimulate growth.

 

Leverage urgency to drive sales

On Prime Day, many of the most popular sales were either restricted to a specific time frame, or limited to a certain number of units. Incorporating time-sensitive sales elements (countdown clocks, percentage sold bars) and leveraging terms like “Flash Sale” and “Lightning Deals” helped convince customers that they could not afford to wait to make purchases.

With the most desirable products disappearing as soon as they went up, the time for comparison shopping was limited and customers were more likely to buy on impulse. We don’t want to threaten our customers into buying from us, but often urgency-based messaging can give the little extra nudge necessary to complete the sale.

 

Choose promotional items wisely

Amazon offered many attractive discounts on Prime Day, but for every big screen TV or Kindle, a thousand other sales existed for random, off-the-wall products. Twitter users noted the plethora of shoe horns, wrist guards, Sharpies and “granny panties” and wondered aloud where the real deals were hiding. By knowing our customers and what items they find most desirable, we can plan a promotion that will result in happy, engaged customers.

"Back in my day ..." Prime Day Meme

 

Don’t panic over bad publicity …

According to Adobe, social media mentions for Amazon were up 50% on Prime Day relative the monthly average. Unfortunately, only about 40% of those mentions were positive.

However, bad publicity doesn’t have to be a brand killer. You often hear the phrase, “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Paula Deen or Bill Cosby might disagree with that statement but, in terms of Prime Day, even the bad publicity may have helped drive additional customers to Amazon’s sale. In fact, social media drove 35% more traffic to Amazon than it had the previous Wednesday.

 

… But strive to control the message

While the items featured on Prime Day likely won’t hurt the brand’s reputation long-term, Amazon’s response to the criticism — or more specifically, their lack of response — may cause damage with loyal customers. As Prime Day went on and more and more customers took to social media to express their disappointment, Amazon remained eerily silent.

When running a promotion, stay engaged with customers through all steps of their journey. Concerns, complaints or technical issues should be addressed quickly and publicly to avoid a negative downtown in customer sentiment. By addressing social media comments and being the first to admit deficiencies or problems, we can build strong, lasting connections with our customers.

Failing to do so in a timely fashion projects arrogance and lends the impression that we take our customers for granted.

 

Don’t be afraid to piggyback off a competitor’s promotion

Finally, we should always be aware of what our competitors are planning. Shortly after Amazon announced its Prime Day plans, Walmart announced its own mega sales event for the same day. Knowing that shoppers would be out in full e-force, many making online price comparisons before purchasing from Amazon, many other big-box retailers and ecommerce sites jumped onboard as well. The results were staggering. BestBuy saw online sales jump by 200% year-over-year. Sears was up 88%. Newegg had a 40% gain. Across 20 major non-Amazon brands, sales were up between 20 and 40%.

What was intended as a special shopping day exclusive to Amazon Prime members turned into a massive day for ecommerce.

 

You can follow Ken Bowen, Managing Editor of MarketingExperiments, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @KenBowenJax.

 

You might also like

MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, February 22-24, 2016

Does Seasonal Messaging Really Work? How one company’s wrong assumptions led to a 25% decrease in clickthrough [MarketingExperiments Web clinic]

Ecommerce Research Chart: What makes customers more likely to buy online? [From MarketingSherpa]

Gourmet Tea Shop Cracks $1 Million in Online Sales Using Five E-Retail Best Practices [From MarketingSherpa]

Creating a Viral Environment to Serve Your Customers

June 23rd, 2015 No comments

The impulse to share something new with someone else is a natural and universal trait.

In the age of the Internet, why are some things shared while others are not? What causes a piece of content to go viral? To help answer this, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to learn how an email marketer can create a viral environment. 

 

Word-of-mouth is extremely important in creating a viral environment. You have a subscriber list but to grow that list you have to get people to share your content. We all know word-of-mouth marketing matters. What’s less clear is how to get it.

There is a science to word-of-mouth, and the key is to think about it internally and externally while keeping the customer at the center. Too often we find ourselves focusing on the product — but how in-depth do we go thinking about the users? What drives them? What is that underlying behavior that triggers them to share content?

After spending 15 years studying the science of why things catch on, Jonah Berger developed the S.T.E.P.P.S. framework, which is a series of psychological factors that drive and trigger the sharing mechanism.

Read more…

Tweetables: Top 10 MarketingSherpa posts of 2014 (according to you)

December 30th, 2014 No comments

It seems like only a short time ago I was sitting at my desk, staring at a fresh new calendar in front of me — an act that spurred feelings of intimidation, daunt and excitement.

But that was 12 whole months ago.

Over the past year, our team of bloggers have written over 100 posts for the MarketingSherpa Blog alone. I’m pulling together the ones that you’ve shared the most over the past year with your friends and colleagues into a single tidy post.

Something that stood out as I sorted the top shares by category (content marketing, email marketing and social media) is that marketers are evolving their mindsets from company-focused messaging to customer-centric messaging.

 

Content Marketing

Although content marketing may no longer be considered shiny and new, marketers continue to learn how to harness their talents and abilities into this form. No longer are we only marketers, but we are also artists, authors and videographers who strive to reach customers in ways that were not possible only a few years before.

Bolstered by the rest of the categories covered in this post, content is now an essential lighthouse to guide your customer to conversion in a world of saturated and stormy information across the Web.

 

Posts you shared the most:

 

What your peers said:

Tweet 1
 

The above tweet is is reference to Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing.

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Social Media and Email Integration Predictions for 2014: Were they right?

December 5th, 2014 No comments

At Email Summit 2014, marketers were asked: what do you think the relationship between social media and email will be in 2014?

Now that Email Summit 2015 is right around the corner, let’s take a look back a few of those predictions:

 

One-way message turned two-way conversation

Dave Sierk

“For the first time, I’m becoming an optimist about what the capabilities are going to be,” said Dave Sierk, Email Strategy and Analytics, Dell.

As a self-described pessimist, email, it seemed, allowed for one-way communication only.

However, with the rise of social media, Dave explained, “We’re getting pretty pumped about how we can make social a two-way street,” and turn social media followers into email subscribers.

 

 

Slow social adoption as brands transition into the realm

Shirley Salmeron

 

“Email isn’t going away – it’s not dead … but we haven’t gotten to the point where we have the adoption rates in social media on both the user side and marketing or company side,” explained Shirley Salmeron, Northeast Sales Director, Teradata.

She described the experiences as “siloed,” and although they might flow together in the future, as of 2014, “[marketers] haven’t bridged the gap.”

 

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How to Craft a Viral Campaign in 3 Steps

October 21st, 2014 1 comment

In 2012, only half of Americans knew of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after one of its most famous victims. The ALS Association, a nonprofit committed to raise money for research and patient services, raised a combined total of $19.4 million for that year.

Fast forward to today, and the ALS has raised over $100 million this year alone, most of which has been raised in the two month period of July and August.

As many of us know, it’s all due to one viral campaign: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge, in which one records dumping ice water on themselves or donates to the ALS Association, has been shared over 1.2 million times on Facebook and 2.2 million times on Twitter.

The campaign was so successful that critics started to worry about how the challenge would affect counties under severe drought watches.

Why did this campaign, out of all the others floating around on the Internet, go viral?

There’s not a lot we have control over when it comes to the “viralocity” of an image, video or idea. However, according to Malcom Gladwell, there are three elements that increase the probability:

 

The law of the few (Know who to target)

Malcolm Gladwell states in The Tipping Point, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”

Gladwell calls these movers and shakers of the internet realm “connectors.” These are people with the extraordinary gift for making friends and acquaintances. They have a multitude of followers on social networks, and when they mention something on Facebook, it is immediately shared 100 times.

These connectors can be people, a website or a news organization. People want to be connectors.

While in today’s society a connector can translate their social network directly into money or political power, most people simply want the rush they feel when their idea or link is liked or retweeted. A good idea in the hands of a few can spread like wild fire.

 

The stickiness factor (Good content)

The two reasons the ALS Ice Bucket challenge succeeded was because it was for a good cause, and it was easily repeatable. At the end of their individual challenge, the participant then had to challenge three of their friends to replicate them. As the campaign gained momentum, it even grew to include big-name celebrities, such as Oprah, Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg, taking the plunge.

The stickiness factor correlates to your core content, cause or campaign. Is it well thought out? Is it for a good cause? Will it make a difference in someone’s life? More importantly, is it memorable? The more memorable the campaign, the higher the stickiness factor, and the faster it spreads.

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Social Media Marketing: Setting expectations both internally and externally [Video]

August 26th, 2014 No comments

“#FAIL” is the last thing you want to hear from your audience on your social media channels.

From disgruntled users or customers to people calling out your company or brand’s blunder, handling the outcome of a social media fail correctly is critical for recovery.

But beyond just addressing a crisis online, is there an effective way to prevent these cringe-worthy mishaps from even happening?

epicurious-boston-tweet

 

In the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE, Andrew Jones, Industry Analyst, Altimeter Group, explained how using a simple two-part strategy can help prevent social media fails before they occur.

 

Strategy #1. Manage expectations internally

Before you embark on social media, Andrew explained there should be a plan going into the journey to set guidelines for those who will be posting.

“At first, I think a lot of brands got involved and saw it as kind of a cute toy, and said, ‘Oh, let’s give it to the intern,” or, ‘Let’s give it to someone who doesn’t necessarily know a lot about the company,”‘ Andrew explained. “That can cause problems if the engagement that ends up representing the company in a very public space ends up causing social media fails or misrepresenting the company.”

Andrew recommended that the team managing a company’s social media account has rules and scenarios on how to interact with the audience online, especially when there’s a problem.

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Social Media Marketing: Adding Reddit to the mix

April 8th, 2014 No comments

Social media is almost certainly a part of your marketing mix by this point. Facebook and Twitter are the two overall leaders, and B2B marketers are probably at least looking into how to leverage LinkedIn. Then, there are a host of additional social media platforms such as StumbleUpon, SlideShare, Pinterest, Vine, Quora and many others.

One platform that probably isn’t on most marketers’ radars is Reddit. Marketing tactics on Reddit are not readily obvious, and the platform’s users are not there to be marketed to and don’t welcome any interaction that feels like marketing.

Should you consider Reddit in your social media strategy? If so, how should you approach the platform?

To answer these questions, we reached out to two experts in marketing on Reddit: Brent Csutoras, Social Media Strategist, Kairay Media; and Greg Finn, Internet Marketer, Cypress North.

Here is the result of that discussion.

 

MarketingSherpa: It sounds like a key challenge to marketing on Reddit is the platform’s policies toward that activity. Briefly cover what marketers should know and understand about these policies.

Brent Csutoras: It is very important to first understand that Reddit is not a single community, but rather a platform to either join existing communities or to create your own communities. Each community is made by a Redditor who then can add moderators and who makes the rules for which everyone in the community must follow. It is super important before trying to submit any content to Reddit to understand the moderators and the rules for each Subreddit you intend to submit your content to.

For instance, some Subreddits will not allow certain domains to be submitted to their community, some like “TodayILearned” require content to be at least two months old, and some like “/worldnews” do not allow news about the U.S.

As to the challenge of marketing to an audience who is by nature against the concept of marketing, it definitely takes someone with a long-term goal and general interest in Reddit to balance the line between being a valuable member of the community, while at the same time, trying to submit your own content.

Greg Finn: The biggest question to ask when participating in Reddit is: Are you contributing? That’s essentially what you should be asking yourself before beginning any type of “marketing.” One of the lines in Reddit’s User Agreement is:

“Cluttering Reddit with junk or spam reduces the quality of the Reddit experience.”

Make sure that you are going into the site with the mindset of increasing the quality of content shared. Also, while not blatantly obvious in the user agreement, you should not be too promotional with your content. Reddit moderators will swiftly ban users that only submitting their own content or commenting with their own links. Treat it like a forum and build credibility in a specific Subreddit, add to the community, then start marketing.

 

MS: Beyond the key challenge addressed above, what are some of the unique marketing challenges (and potential advantages) faced when marketing on Reddit over other social media platforms and other digital marketing channels such as email and paid search?

BC: I mentioned earlier, how individuals really need to make sure they understand the rules of each Subreddit they are submitting to in order to have any real chance at long-term success.

Another challenge that people might now understand is that Reddit has a lot of anti-spam elements at play on the site. New users to a Subreddit, and in some cases, new domains, can find themselves being auto-filtered or even silent-filtered, where their submissions might show as submitted to them, but are actually hidden from all other users until it becomes approved by a moderator.

Lastly, it is really important to understand Reddit’s voting algorithm, which, to put it simply, values the combination of the first 10 votes the same as the following combination of the next 100 votes, and then 1000 votes, and so on. This means that what happens during the first 10 votes of your submission are super important. Choosing the right Subreddit, knowing what type of content the moderators support, and selecting the best title when submitting are key to making sure your first couple votes are positive.

GF: The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the volatility of the community. There are dozens of unwritten rules that exist and can kill your promotion on arrival if you don’t follow along. If using images, submit with Imgur. Videos? Use YouTube. Follow along with the community, learn the inner workings before giving it a try.

One of the biggest challenges is the sheer competitiveness of Reddit these days. You need quality content, a killer title and a dash of luck to strike it big.

 

MS: What are some actionable tactics or tips for marketers looking to add Reddit to their digital marketing mix?

BC: Start by identifying the Subreddits you really want to participate and submit to, followed by learning what works in the Subreddit, both from the community’s acceptance and support, and from what the moderators are going to approve and support. Make sure to fully understand the rules of the Subreddit prior to submitting any content.

Never submit something that doesn’t fit into a Subreddit. It will almost always get removed, which can result in you having filters applied to your submissions and possible having your account silent banned.

You simply do not win on Reddit with brute force.

Lastly, you have to be a Reddit user first and foremost, to really understand how to be an effective marketer within Reddit.

GF: Far and away, the most valuable tactic is to go niche. Every marketer is looking for the homerun, but you can easily hit .400 while driving the right mix of targeted traffic to your site. Reddit has individual sections called Subreddits that are niche communities around a specific topic. These Subreddits have the most potential as you can get your content in front of a (smaller) group of highly targeted users.

Local business? Look for a local Subreddit near you and scope the scene.

Got a book about parenting? Head to r/parenting.

Manufacture crockpots? Try /r/slowcooking.

There is a Subreddit for everything. Seriously, take a look. Jump into a community that fits your niche and start participating. The numbers won’t be overwhelming, but the quality will.

Read more…

Social Media Marketing: How to use Facebook for customer engagement [Video]

August 6th, 2013 1 comment

Having a multitude of fans and followers on Facebook is a good thing. However, getting more fans on Facebook does not mean you’re getting more customers. In fact, it could be the opposite.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, Jay Baer, President, Convince and Convert, presented, “More Alike than Different: Why email is Madonna, and Facebook is Lady Gaga,” in which he explained the relationship between email and Facebook and how marketers can take advantage of the two channels of communication to customers.

In this excerpt, Jay discussed a myth he spends of half his time working on disproving.

 

“When we talk about social media, there’s this tremendous myth, and I spend about half my time fighting against this concept. This one concept epitomizes what’s wrong with social media for business today,” Jay said.

Many marketers believe they must have as many fans as possible on Facebook. However, as Jay explained, this is not always a good approach to marketing on Facebook. Having more fans does not necessarily mean you have more customers.

Jay explained 44% of corporate social media marketers look at Facebook as a way to get new customers (Wildfire, 2012), but 84% of fans of company Facebook pages are current or former customers of those companies (DDB, 2011). People who have never used a product or service are less motivated to like it on Facebook.

“We like on Facebook what we actually like,” according to Jay.

Watch this excerpt to learn more about the biggest myth about fans on Facebook, and also how your fans and followers can become accidental marketers for your brand.

View Jay’s full free keynote from Email Summit 2013 to learn why social media and email should be integrated at your company, plus many insights on how to make this possible.

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Social Media Marketing: 4 basic tips for getting started

July 16th, 2013 6 comments

“I’m so far behind. Everyone tells me I need to be on social media, but I don’t know where to get started!”

Today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post is for the late adopters, those not yet deeply engaged in social media marketing.

But even if you are engaged in social media marketing, these tips may help you. Marketers all experience the same type of consternation when it comes to social media and receiving questions like these from peers:

  • Are you on social media?
  • Which platforms are you on?
  • How often do you post?
  • What are your engagement numbers?

Let me put your mind at ease. You are not alone. It’s a pressure we all feel within the industry. Companies large and small experience the same pressures.

  • How do we get noticed?
  • How do we create our social brand image?
  • How do we drive sales from a social-oriented platform?

At MarketingSherpa, we have many more resources to help you dive into the complexities of social media marketing and I’ll end this blog post with a few links to help you answer some of the above questions. But first, let’s back it up a bit, and take a 10,000-foot view of the essential elements of any social media marketing endeavor.

 

Essential Element #1. Realistic goals

To start, we need to keep this in perspective.

Does social interaction and engagement directly correlate to conversion? No.

So, if social interaction does not directly create conversions, what are we spending our time, money and resources on? While we cannot directly correlate brand engagement, brand recognition and brand interaction with engagement on a social media platform, we can say the personality and presence of a brand helps to inform consumers and keep them engaged in the conversation.

 

Essential Element #2. Organic conversations

First of all, we do not need to be on every single platform to get to the next level. Start with one platform (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and start the conversation.

To start a conversation, we need to understand our audience wants to engage in an interaction. Start by asking questions (i.e., I’m having a case of the Mondays, how are you doing today? or TGIF! What are you planning this weekend?) then move on to talking about what you do or want to promote.

Obviously, these questions should be relevant to your brand. The goal is to engage visitors in a conversation and keep it going.

Ask more questions, respond and follow up. You do not want to be that company that puts something out there and doesn’t respond. It’s the same as sending a message to a friend to ask them out to dinner, having them respond to you and never setting a date or time.

 

Essential Element #3. A (growing) community

Grow your following.

I know! I know! How do I grow my brand’s following?

Once you pick where to start and you have a conversation going with your followers, this is an easy transition.

Let’s talk about the demographic you are targeting. Let’s get specific. I know. This is a hard thing to do. This is where you are probably saying “Come on Rachel, my product is perfect for everyone.” I get it.  I’ve had the same trouble myself.

So, let’s pick your top demographic and go from there. Pick your top demographic and find out:

  • Where they visit
  • Who they follow
  • What they read about.

Why is this important? It’s simple. Once you know where they go, start networking.

Social media marketing is all about the connections and creating conversations. For example, if I’m looking to help a company that is coaching boys soccer, where would I go? What would I search for?

I’d start searching locally. I would Google the top Facebook pages for the area by typing “Jacksonville” and “boys soccer” and “facebook.”

This search criteria would pull together the right information for my competition – Facebook pages I should start interacting with.

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Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons

June 4th, 2013 4 comments

A common question we often hear about social media is “I put some social media elements onto my page and have not seen much of a difference …”

I’m sure you can relate, because social media icons are everywhere. On landing pages. In emails. Heck, I even saw some on a billboard while I was driving the other day.

Now, on behalf of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their investors, I’d first like to thank you marketers of the world for all of that free co-op advertising.

All kidding aside, let me throw the questions back at you to help you get the most value from your sharing icons. In today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, we’ll focus on three questions you should ask yourself about your company’s use of social media icons.

 

Question #1. Should we be using social media icons?

All jokes about free advertising aside, most marketers likely will find some value in using social media icons. And, here’s the key. While the value might not be great, it is likely higher than the cost.

Because, frankly, as marketing tactics go, simply slapping a few social media icons or sharing buttons on a landing page is fairly easy to do.  Almost any value you get creates an ROI since it is higher than the minimal cost involved.

For example, AT&T added Facebook and Twitter icons into an email newsletter.

 

This was one small part of a program that helped the AT&T Developer Program increase its Twitter audience 136% and Facebook audience 113%.

Of course, as you’ll see in the case study above, the team at AT&T did much more than just add a few icons to an email to get that lift. But since the cost, in both IT execution to add the buttons and real estate on the email, was likely so low, and it certainly couldn’t have hurt their efforts, why not add social media icons?

Well, here’s why not. For most brands, the answer is simple: not every brand needs or should be using social media icons and sharing buttons. For example, I interviewed Steve Parker, Vice President, Direct Marketing, firstSTREET, in the MarketingSherpa webinar “Optimization: A discussion about an e-commerce company’s 500% sales increase.”

“In our case given our target market, you’re looking at an age 75+ customer, they’re not big social users. And, the ones who are on social media, they really just want to see pictures of their grandkids and their kids. So they’re not going to be as interactive in the social world. So from our standpoint, it’s pretty low on the priority list. There are no social buttons on this website,” Steve said.

He went on to share, “We’ve tested a little bit of that on some of our other properties. As baby boomers, the younger part that grew up with some social media lives grow older, yes, that will get more important. For my particular target market at this point in time, it doesn’t help.”

 

Question #2. Which social media icons should we use?

Ask your audience in direct conversations, in surveys, through customer service interactions and other customer-facing employees: what social networks do they use?

Then, be present on those platforms. See how they’re using social media.

And, look at your analytics.

Here on the MarketingSherpa blog, you’ll notice the prime social sharing button we use is from Twitter.

 

That’s because when we looked at our analytics, more inbound traffic came from Twitter than from any other social network.

You might also notice, at the bottom of our blog posts, we have social media sharing icons as well. 

 

That’s because the rest of our inbound social network traffic came from LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Delicious and Digg.

Your analytics won’t be foolproof. Over time, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy (we receive more Twitter traffic because we encourage the audience to share on Twitter), but combining your analytics with active listening to your audience through many means will at least get you in the ballpark of how they want to interact with your brand using social media.

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