10 Attributes of a Beautifully Integrated Social EcoSystem
Many are calling 2013 the year of social integration as today's consumers expect utmost personalization and seamless online user experiences with every interaction. Your readers and audiences are looking for content that adds value, answers questions and entertains on multiple levels and devices.
While most businesses have accepted social and are at varying stages of incorporating it into their business strategies, true integration happens at a different level. At the very highest level, social media is not just a tactical marketing plan, but instead becomes part of a company's culture and influences strategy as a whole. The result is a cohesive brand message that brings communities together and inspires consumers.
What Is an Integrated Social EcoSystem?
An integrated social ecosystem can be described as an active and seamless online presence over web, social, and mobile through creating content that is valuable to the consumer. In this way, businesses can attract new prospects and stay connected with existing customers. One survey reports, "86% of the marketing decision-makers surveyed believe successfully integrating multiple channels under a single integrated marketing strategy is critical to long term success."
So while the belief is there, the practice of establishing an integrated social ecosystem is far behind. Yet some brands manage to create a beautiful, seamless social network that adds value and promotes their brand community. Here's what that looks like:
1. Cross-Channel Marketing Tailored to Audiences
Cross-channel marketing proposes a big challenge to most companies, due to the dynamic nature and changing audiences of various social networks. Social apps like Facebook Connect help solve this problem making it easy to share across social platforms, mobile and web. Cross-channel sharing is not duplicating content, but rather using the same content tailored to each platform's audience, united through brand voice and visuals.
2. Visual Content That Ties Together Platforms
Between Facebook's Timeline, the rise in photo-based microsites and popular platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, it's no secret that visual content is continuing to dominate and drive social sharing. An integrated system uses visuals to tie a message together quickly, incorporating the authenticity and emotional reaction images evoke.
3. Centralized Customer Support Through Direct Social Channels
Companies are rapidly learning that converting existing customer service centers to a central social and digital channel is an efficient business model. A centralized model allows brands to stay on top of their responses to coordinate consistent and helpful customer service, regardless of the exact platform or pipeline. Through social customer service, we can observe how person to person interactions end up driving social interactions, and a brand that understands this concept will be able to solidify an integrated social model.
4. Social Co-Branding That Accelerates Reach
Cross-promoting can help brands reach other markets and fan bases, while growing their social networks at the same time. Analytics allows us to find that crossover in fan bases, which brands can use to find partners.
5. Prioritized Top Social Networks
Integrating social networks can seem like a lot of work, but if you focus on one main network the others will fall in line. Beware the social media expert who is telling you to join 17 top networks to reach your unique business goals – that will only divide resources and focus. Depending on the company, it may be more wise to produce one exceptional video campaign per year or one killer blog post per week and build your audience with strategic (simplified) goals.
6. Social-Centric Web Design
Gone are the days of Facebook and Tumblr buttons tacked on to the end of a business website aimlessly. Social media is becoming intuitive and part of users' basic navigation of the web and between networks. The modern consumer is all about sharing purchases and ideas even to the point of becoming a brand evangelist. That is why social can increase customer engagement and brand awareness right on your webpage. For designers and programmers, the challenge is how to be constantly devising and innovating more thoughtful ways of integrating social media into a website's design.
7. "Responsive" Content That Adjusts to Fit Mobile, Tablet and PC
Creating a seamless experience for web, mobile and tablet communities cannot be avoided, which is where responsive content comes in. Sharing on-the-go, while watching TV on a second screen or in real-time is imperative in both your website/blog and actual content. Learning how your customers view content will also help you "sell" in that illusive moment of need, a big benefit to retail stores for example.
8. A Focus on Building Trust
In line with helping from a customer service perspective, social media offers a huge opportunity to build trust with consumers. By really listening to customers and avoiding the heavy sales pitch, brands can answer questions, reveal leadership and become a resource for customers. There are several ways to build trust across platforms like responsive engagement, increasing credibility and overall transparency.
9. Continuous Monitoring and Adjusting Alignment
While an integrated approach requires a well-thought-out strategy, that strategy must be continuously revised to target customers and adjust to platforms. Running integrated campaigns are a good way to continuously change or adjust the theme of your strategy and get your audience involved. Campaigns may also bring in new insights about your customer's wants and needs.
10. Internal Collaboration and an Overall Social Business Culture
When your company is aligned internally, your social ecosystem will align as well. Employees are at the heart of the social tactics and strategy, so internal communication, especially between any staff that interacts directly with the customer, such as marketing, IT and customer service, is vital. This will enable modern companies to create a emergent, fluid and adaptive business model and reach that higher level of social.
The ways to utilize cross-channel marketing and align your social networks are constantly changing along with today's dynamic digital environment. What are your best practices for a beautifully integrated social ecosystem?
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