Sean Donahue

Social Media Success Means Learning to Let Go

January 7th, 2010

For this week’s EmailSherpa case study, I had a long conversation with Eric Erwin, EVP Marketing & Product Development, Wilton and Tim Bay, Founding Partner, Shay Digital about the ways email and social media marketing can work together.

I compiled five of their best strategies in the article, available here, but there was another big point that I think is important to remember.

Social media isn’t entirely unknown territory for email marketers. After all, they’re the experts at growing an audience, creating relevant content, experimenting with message timing and frequency, and adjusting tactics based on response rates.

But there is one big adjustment that email marketers might have to make when launching a social media strategy: You have to be comfortable with the idea that you’re no longer in control of the conversation.

“The hardest thing for marketers is to turn over the brand experience to the community and let them define it,” says Erwin.

When creating a Facebook fan page or managing a Twitter feed, you have to avoid making yourself the center of the conversation. Instead, Erwin’s team has found success by listening more than talking, and inserting themselves into discussions when appropriate.

Watching customers discuss how they use Wilton products on Facebook gives his team new ideas for future marketing campaigns. If they see a particular question or challenge continually bubbling up from the community, that becomes fodder for a how-to blog post, or even ideas for a new product.

When they do start a conversation, they make sure to take a step back and let the community dictate where it goes. Yes, there can be some criticism of the brand, but Erwin says that criticism helps them improve the customer experience.

So while it’s a big step to take, it’s one that marketers must accept for a successful push into social media. As Tim Bay of Shay Digital says:

“We recognize that there is a leap of faith, but you can reduce the distance of that leap by doing your homework and then just diving in. If things don’t go well at first, you can adjust.”

Sometimes that leap of faith is so daunting that marketers just can’t bring themselves to make it – and they’re missing an opportunity. That’s why we’re dedicating the second day of our upcoming Email Summit to the convergence of email and social media.

We’ve filled that day with new research presentations, panel discussions and case studies that show how marketers are making email and social media powerful allies. You can check out the agenda here.

If I don’t see you there, feel free to share your own advice on navigating the waters of email and social media in the comments section.

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  1. January 8th, 2010 at 15:16 | #1

    Like the post and great advice. Very hard for marketers to understand this. However, if the fundamentals of the Brand are right and real the rewards to letting go are positive and sustaining. In asset-based thinking terms we call that “giving up control to gain traction”.

    Keep the good advice coming.

  2. January 9th, 2010 at 09:39 | #2

    Funny thing is… marketers were never in “control of the conversation.” This perception was only masked by our ignorance of the conversation. Make no mistake, the conversation occurred, is occurring, and will occur. Our call to action is “will we be part of the conversation and community?”

  3. January 9th, 2010 at 17:18 | #3

    Great point in your post.

    Especially, as an entrepreneur, it’s difficult to let loose of your baby and hand it over to strangers that will not treat it with the love and care that you do.

    But, as we can all attest to, some of the best lesson growing up were the ones where we let opened up and made ourselves vulnerable (within reason of course). It’s part of growing and learning. But, it’s difficult.

    The same holds true with marketing your brand. If you have strong roots and a solid foundation you’ll be better for the experience.

  4. January 10th, 2010 at 17:12 | #4

    I think this will be healthy – finally there may be some ‘truth’ to what is said about a brand rather than spin. Then businesses can focus on actually creating a positive experience or products for customers, rather than simply telling people how great they are.

  5. February 14th, 2010 at 00:44 | #5

    Bang on. As a company, we have thought about this and said we must take the step, and baby steps we have taken. We are also trying to influence our clients to think similarly. Coincidentally, I had an opportunity to listen to David Meerman Scott last week and he emphasised the same point. Social media marketing will also as a corollary engender an era of more “honest” marketing I guess.

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