Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Future of Social Marketing Automation is Here (And Improving)

A 2013 study of marketing professionals identified “social media marketing” as the second-most powerful trend contributing to the formation of the “modern marketer” — after the ability to track marketing ROI with technology. Yet even the most advanced modern marketing teams have struggled to effectively incorporate social media into their marketing automation workflows, let alone track the ROI on those communications. The hold up has been partly cultural and partly technological.

On the cultural side, this is part and parcel of the larger paradigm shift from “blast” to “triggered” (personalized) communications. It’s not an easy transition, especially when the ROI on blast emails is still 4300%, according to a 2013 DMA study. Impressive. So why fix what’s not broken? If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already drunk the Kool-Aid (or read dozens of supporting studies showing the effectiveness) of personalized marketing.

Social media has a naturally conversational structure and is not particularly effective as a “blast” medium — so companies have dragged their feet implementing effective one-to-one response mechanisms, just as they have on the email side of the house. 

That means businesses are leaving money on the table. American Express reported in 2012 that its research found social media users are willing for pay a 21% price premium to do business with companies that provide exceptional service. As a result, social-based customer service improved markedly in 2013, more than doubling their response rate (62%) to questions posed directly to (or about) them.

So we’re halfway there when it comes to “social customer care” — but what about tracking and responding to those vast majority of mentions that don’t include your brand (or product) name? The natural next step is to link that “social listening” data to your marketing automation system — so that you (the modern marketer) can combine that “listening” data with what you already know about that individual — for real-time multi-channel response.

For example, let's say you are Apple tracking a customer segment that has purchased a computer from you in the last 12 months, and they complain about "my computer" — you'll know it's highly likely it's the Apple computer you sold them that has the problem. If you're tracking that complaint in your marketing automation system, you can fire off a warrantee reminder via email or have your social team DM that individual with an offer of support. If s/he mentions Apple directly, you can respond publicly.

Moreover, that social listening data, when linked to individuals’ profiles, can provide much more data for segmentation and scoring to fuel your marketing campaigns. Customers spend an average of 3 hours/day on social media, but likely just a few minutes on your site (if they make it there). By tracking what customers and prospects are talking about, modern marketers can build out automations that take social posts into account when tracking customers' "digital body language" to drive trigger-based marketing. For example, the New York Times could target foodies (commenting on recipes or restaurants) with their "Food" content and wine advertisements. Travelocity could send Austin hotel discounts to customers mentioning #SXSW.

Last October, Oracle’s Roland Smart presented a vision of "The Future of Social Marketing Automation" at #EE13 where companies could set up rules-based responses to customers' social posts based on natural language analysis. At the time, "social listening" and "marketing automation" were still largely held in separate buckets, so that was a vision not a reality. Today, we're many steps closer. Eloqua’s Social Behavior Sparkplug allows marketers to listen to their customers and marketing leads on social media — and trigger smart multi-channel responses (emails, ads, direct social responses, segmentation, and scoring) based on those social signals.

What's still "future" is on the technology-side: the ability to trigger those responses instantly, which is of course what makes those public social interactions, in particular, human-feeling. The good news is that vision is not too far in the future — we'll be there in 2014. In the meantime, modern marketers can take advantage of a huge new opportunity that has just opened up to (1) never miss a brand-mention on social media (even when it’s hidden), and (2) using all that rich social behavior data to direct the right message to the right person at the right time — all with trackable ROI thanks to today’s modern marketing automation tools.
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