Guest Blogger Allen Bonde: Social Gestures Key to Engaging Social Campaigns

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
While still very much emerging channels, social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have quickly become part of the marketer's everyday toolbox for attracting, interacting, and engaging with customers online.

While still very much emerging channels, social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have quickly become part of the marketer's everyday toolbox for attracting, interacting, and engaging with customers online. This is particularly the case for Facebook, as that property now accounts for 11 percent of the time spent online in the U.S, double a year ago according to comScore, and relaxed rules and a wider array of third-party apps and services make it easier for businesses of all sizes to run campaigns and promotions such as contests, sweepstakes and special offers.Of course, with more eyeballs and more ways to entertain them, ad dollars have started to flow as well, with Facebook ad revenue hitting close to $2 billion in 2010, and Twitter projected to hit $150 million in ad revenues in 2011 according to eMarketer. Even big businesses are jumping on board, with 56 percent of the Fortune 500 now on Facebook, and 60 percent with a corporate Twitter presence, according to the UMass Dartmouth CMR.

Clearly there are some amazing opportunities for marketers to create focused social media marketing programs and campaigns that make it easier for people to interact with your brand, spread the word, and drive more traffic -- especially via lightweight, interactive promotions and contests.

However, as more brands look to create online experiences on their Facebook page or Twitter feed, there is a risk of saturation and even "permission overload," where consumers are bombarded with requests to share their profile with more and more apps to get in on the latest deal or join in on the discussion.

Lowering barriers

While reach and frequency define traditional marketing and advertising, reach and participation (which spurs word of mouth, and more reach) drives the success of social campaigns. But how do you encourage participation? Beyond listening for what consumers want and creating shared experiences (see some of my thoughts on this topic here), perhaps the two most important rules in this new world of real-time, multichannel social marketing are lowering barriers and "speaking the language."

Lowering barriers means making it easy to participate and not creating roadblocks such as requiring users to accept a third-party Facebook app or submit unnecessary information just to vote in a contest or poll. This doesn't mean that fan-gating -- where you need to "like" a Facebook page to participate -- is a bad idea. In fact, "liking" is one of the most common activities on Facebook, so tying that into a campaign is both natural and expected.

In addition to liking, the other things users most often do on Facebook are commenting, messaging and sharing photos. Users like sharing photos so much that by this summer, the number of photos on Facebook is expected to reach 100 billion! Which is why photo contests and the like (vote on your favorite video, choose your favorite caption, etc.) are so popular.

For these reasons, as marketers we need to speak the same language as users of social networks when we define our social marketing programs. Incorporating simple, natural gestures in our campaigns -- like commenting on Facebook -- is the easiest way to boost participation and drive word of mouth.

For example, apps that use Facebook's Comments plugin offer users an easier, more natural way to participate in certain promotions, such as commenting to vote in a photo contest or poll. Coupled with a simple way to share their vote with their friends and others, and you can create highly effective "viral loops" and experiences that are fun and participatory, without barriers or unwanted requests or interruptions that ruin the mood.

On Twitter, a similar set of rules also applies. But while the language of Facebook is closely tied to its original mission -- allowing users to see, share, and comment on photos (remember, The Facebook) -- Twitter is more about "the feed" and sharing links and hashtags. For this reason, campaigns on Twitter tend to generate maximum reach and participation when you encourage users to simply retweet a message or tweet a hashtag. Audi's "Progress Is" Twitter promotion, for example, was tied into the carmaker's Super Bowl ads and generated both significant reach and participation.

Are your social campaigns following these rules?

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About the Author: Allen Bonde is co-founder and CMO of Offerpop and managing director of Evoke CRM. He tweets at @abonde and @offerpop