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Integrating social media and emarketing

01/07/2010

Following discussions with a charity team last week, I wanted to suggest a few tips on how to integrate e-marketing and social media.  Then, I found an article by the very prolific team at Marketing Sherpa which talked about how a business in the USA had successfully integrated their email and social media activity.  On the grounds of not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I think there is a lot of learning here for NFP organisations as well as businesses.

The business concerned was a cookware and cake decorating business called Wilton and was using social media and email marketing as part of its activity mix.  However, they weren’t getting maximum value from their activities and still needed to achieve greater stand-out, increase brand awareness of all their services and encourage new customers.

The Sherpa team suggest five possible strategies to help (actually, they’re tactics but nonetheless effective) which I’ve interpreted to illustrate the benefits for UK charities:

1. Survey audience to determine email and social habits

Find out if your existing followers and email recipients are in fact the same people.  Many organisations assume that they are and treat them as the same audience.  In Wilton’s case, this proved to be a damaging assumption as 50% of the audiences were different.  We know from independent research that twitter users aren’t the same as Myspace or Facebook audiences and that those who prefer email updates aren’t necessarily the same people who follow a Facebook fan page. 

2. Develop different messages for each audience

Therefore, if they are different we should ask them directly what they want from our charities via the media they prefer and develop appropriate messages or services.

For example, a member of an online support forum may not want to receive lots of email messages from a charity but may be quite happy to be a fan of the charity’s Facebook page and be updated this way.  The trick is to ensure that the messages you need to communicate are included across several media and tweaked appropriately.

3. Use email to grow social media audience, and vice versa

Just because audiences have media preferences, that doesn’t mean ‘never the twain shall meet’.  It’s smart to use each media to offer the opportunity for audiences to communicate with us through a number of channels.

In practice, this means enabling Facebook fans to sign-up for email updates and introducing your Facebook personality to your email subscribers consistently and in a way that is relevant to them.  It’s OK to plug ourselves in our own comunications!

4. Coordinate multi-channel promotions for product launches

A bit business-oriented but simple to turn to our needs.  I’ve long talked about the importance of consistent and integrated messages being used across charity communications activity and this a prime example.

If you have a campaign or major fundraising drive (like Breast Cancer Awareness Week or Comic Relief) we should be thinking about what messages we need to communicate and to whom, first and foremost.  Then, we look at the best media to deliver them and interact with those target audiences.

This way, we are focused on the objectives and audiences and end up integrating the media choices almost by default.  I see many charities start at the other end, with the media, and try to work their messages into these frameworks.  As a result, we end up communicating in silos and not delivering as powerful and consistent messages as we could.

Put simply, how many of you have heard “what shall we do with twitter?” as opposed to “what shall we do to achieve objective x?” to which one of the answers might be “use twitter”?  This is the wrong way round.

5. Stagger messages over time and across channels for seasonal campaigns

The ‘awareness’ day, week or month is a useful example of how messages can be staggered over time to build to the crescendo of your event or milestone.

The trick here is to deliver your specific tactical messages whilst linking them consistently to your overarching campaign objective / message.  Dogs’ Trust for example uses twitter extensively to update its followers on the latest events.  More details are sent via email, posted on their website and via Facebook.  They don’t need to communicate every detail through every media.

I would also add a few more tips to the Marketing Sherpa List:

6. Don’t forget that these are 2-way communications channels

You will receive feedback via emails, through Facebook and twitter and it is now a cardinal sin to ignore it, the cost being that your audience simply stops interacting with you.  That’s not to say you have to respond personally to every message you receive across the widest range of media.  Just remember to implement ideas that your audiences share with you across the various channels and definitely tell them when you’ve done so.  This gives you credibility because you are listening as well as broadcasting and are interested in what they have to tell you.

Similarly with supporter experiences; if someone has sent you a picture of their latest fundraising event, it’s dead easy to post a photo and a short comment across all the media you utilise, always linking it to your core objectives and other campaign websites.

7. Dedicate real resources to integrating your communications

Lots of charities still doubt the efficacy of social and even e-media communications.  Tell those people that what they think doesn’t count!  It’s what your audience prefers that counts.  You need to communicate using the channels that they prefer and, as media choices increase, we all need to acknowledge the need for resources to do this effectively.

Some charities have dedicated teams looking at social media and emarketing but that’s not always possible.  In this case, I would suggest that everyone in a charity can contribute to the communications effort via these channels; the investment will come from putting together a policy or framework within which the team will do so.  Get these parameters in place and owned by the fundraising / communications functions and integration of messages becomes much easier.

Remember the simple cause and effect we are looking for:

Integration = communications delivering consistent messages = improved brand/campaign awareness = increase likelihood of action by audiences = better results for your charity.

With thanks to the guys at Marketing Sherpa

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