Before you consider social media as part of your marketing mix, you have to understand the underlying behaviours of your potential target audience – both in respect of how they consume and use social media but also explore what we know about ‘humans’ in order that we can use that knowledge to achieve a higher return on investment.
In essence, we need to get business professionals or dare I say it, ‘consumers’ to use their email less, and to switch to using social channels – from which they get a more rewarding and relevant experience – tangible benefits even!
As well as making sure your social media real estate and resources are in place to provide dynamic content, dialogue, support and measurement, so there are no black holes or barriers to adoption, we also need, though, to explore the psychological and behavioural barriers that potentially still exist, in order that social media communication campaigns are focussed on the right messaging, target groups and communication challenges.
For example, one of the key barriers is many people’s view of Facebook, Twitter et al. For many business professionals, they represent a symbol of youth and naivety. We are, as a species however, always prepared to dramatically alter our behaviours where we see a benefit to us. In order to persuade people away from off-line communications, we need to re-associate them with less desirable outcomes, and associate other forms of interaction (social media interaction) with more positive outcomes.
What can you do that could be ‘status’-enhancing for the individuals on social networks. The theory behind this is ‘competitive altruism’ i.e. how we use our conspicuous displays of pro-social media behaviours to improve our reputations. We are increasingly sensitive to our social professional reputations. You can see this every day with frequent status updates and changes to your connections’ professional credentials ‘experience’, ‘skills’, ‘endorsements’ and ‘recommendations’.
So, we know that just giving people ‘content’ won’t cut it. It is what type of information and what type of influence we try to create, knowing the behavioural barriers that will make the difference, especially given that we are also battling against life events such as unemployment, job changes, promotion, children, relationship breakdowns etc.
The question is then what do we know about social media and the behaviours around its usage and influence that would help make a campaign successful?
We do know that people have become increasingly detached from over-arching institutions which at one time used to provide the context for communicating messages. The internet and social media is a multi-directional flow of information that allows us to share opinions and has, to some extent, replaced this institutional-speak.
Trust is often built on effective knowledge transfer and so we can create this feeling of inter-connectedness to one another within these virtual social communities. It is like we are creating our own ‘inner circles’.
This is particularly important when you want to use social media to communicate with customers. In this way, it can be used as an accelerant for messaging, to make what might be weaker ties between people seem stronger, and to provide a way to distribute leadership thinking in a way which would not physically be as possible.
We can use social media to support and provide a virtual ‘venue’ for marketing activity without anyone having to set foot outside their door.
In short, social media is now one of the main ways to engage with customers and, against our backdrop of understanding of human behaviour we would be well placed to create an effective behaviour change campaign.