Who are these users? According to a Morgan Stanley report issued in December 2009, 67% of 18-34 year olds use a social networking site – and so do 67% of 45-54 year old and 55% of those aged 55+. In 2007, social networking represented about 1 out of every 12 minutes spent online, while today it accounts for 1 out of every 6 minutes spent online.
Along with this growth, social media sites have evolved from purely personal to commercial use – a way for people to connect to a business and its fans. Businesses find they can use social media sites for marketing purposes, such as engaging in a dialogue with customers, building brand awareness, making offers or providing premiums, coupons or samples, and alerting customers to upcoming promotions or product launches (sneak previews).
Direct mail is still relevantDoes the popularity of social networking sites mean that businesses and organizations should drop direct mail as a marketing tool? Research says no. For its 2012 Channel Preference Survey, ExactTarget (interactive marketing provider) surveyed consumers to ask how acceptable it is for companies to send unsolicited marketing messages through email, direct mail, text messaging, and Facebook.
Direct mail was the only channel where an unsolicited message is not viewed as inappropriate. ExactTarget also found that 65% purchased a product or service after receiving direct mail while only 20% made a purchase after receiving a message via Facebook and only 16% made a purchase prompted by a text message.
An Internet Advertising Bureau commissioned study in April 2012 showed that 75% of consumers discover new products from off-line sources like word-of-mouth, direct mail, catalogs and television. After the initial purchase, a slight margin of consumers preferred catalogs and direct mail from companies to keep them informed.
The basis of social media is fostering a sense of community where fans can build relationships and share with others. This is very different from traditional marketing which emphasizes products and services. At a social media site, too much emphasis on selling rather than providing something of value risks alienating fans and provoking negative posts.
Social media sites require a consistent effort to demonstrate to customers that there is something valuable to be gained by connecting to your business on a personal level. How much effort? Studies suggest it takes at least 2 hours per week per social media site to see significant marketing results.
Combine direct mail and social media marketingIf you can only afford to use one marketing channel, we believe it should be direct mail. Here’s why:
- The marketing message gets to the customer or prospect. You are reaching out, not waiting for someone to find you.
- You control the message. At a social media site, anyone can say anything, even if it isn’t true.
- You are competing with fewer messages. These days there is relatively little competition for your customer’s or prospect’s attention in a mail box.
- Mail is a physical media. The brain responds differently to physical and digital media. According to a 2009 study by Millward Brown research company, physical media like a direct mail piece leaves a “deeper footprint” in the brain, involves more emotional processing, and produces more brain responses connected with internal feelings.
- Create a Facebook page for your company and update it regularly with products or services, or an event. Mail a post card with a QR code linked to your Facebook page.
- Create a forum on Facebook and encourage participation via direct mail.
- Monitor Twitter conversations on your product or services. Use the topics in a direct mail piece.
- Post videos on YouTube demonstrating your product or providing an explanation or instruction. Recently, Little Baby’s Ice Cream created several unusual videos that were posted to YouTube. The videos got a lot of attention and landed them on the cover of the Philadelphia Weekly.
- Make your direct mail piece interactive by adding a QR code. The code can lead to a mobile website, a YouTube video or a brief survey that offers a reward for completion.
- Include social media icons such as Facebook or Twitter logos on your direct mail piece. This gives your target audience more options for learning about your company, especially if they are interested in customer reviews.
- Post links to a general, non-personalized landing page containing something desirable (information, an offer) on social media sites. Measure how respondents are getting to the landing page to determine the most valuable source.
- Make it easy for visitors to share with others. People like to share information. Provide a “like” button for Facebook, a “mention” button for Twitter, and request a “check-in” on Foursquare.