I've spent a few columns this week looking at innovative usages of social media by big brands. Along the way, I've noticed many companies fail to fully capitalize on these efforts--they are not promoting their Facebook, Twitter, iPhone apps and other alternative platforms to their loyal customers as much as they could.
Considering everyone and their parents is on Facebook and/or has an iPhone (except mine--mom and dad: we have to do something about this), companies are safe to promote these efforts broadly to their current customer base. Social media is no longer just a way to attract early adopter/alpha-geek prospects--it's a fully developed customer retention platform.
So how are the companies I featured doing at promotion of social media efforts on their own Web sites?
Rolling into a respectable third place (drum roll please)... is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Unlike many companies out there, HSUS reserves a prominent place right on their home page for the promotion of their presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and even Flickr. This shows how central outreach via other platforms is to their overall strategy. Apart from the home page though, I didn't find any significant reminders to readers that they can connect with their beloved cause in a number of ways beyond the main Web site. If they really want to let the dogs out, HSUS could integrate standing links to their social media channels throughout the site.
Coming in a close second place is NikeWomen. Like HSUS, the NikeWomen Training iPhone app is centrally located on the nikewomen.com home page, right beside a similar Web widget. The large graphic ad links to a more in-depth section devoted to both the app and the widget that enables users to get a better sense of what the experience is like by watching a video tour and then having a direct link to the app on iTunes. If users don't want to download, they can create a widget right on the site to use on their own blog or site. Deeper integration and promotion of other social media channels would help take it to the next level. You go girl!
Top prize goes to the folks behind the Whole Foods Web site. Consistent top navigation promotion of Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr throughout the site and on the Whole Foods blog ensures that readers understand they can connect with their favorite brand on all these other channels. The labeling of the promotional area says it all: "Talk to us." Whole Foods directly invites their users to interact. A second level of promotion exists on the blog section --prominent Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter logos engage readers and remind them of other ways to interact. However, I could not find their killer iPhone Recipe app anywhere on the site--an unfortunate oversight as it might just get users hungry for Whole Foods while they are walking home from work or waiting for the bus. But hey, just because they're all natural doesn't mean they're perfect.
The take-home message is simple: if you spend the time and effort to build up and maintain social media channels, don't forget to invite your best customers to participate in them by consistent, prominent promotion on your Web site. They'll enjoy it, love you more for it and most likely continue to spread the word about your great brand.
Know any good examples of promotion of social media efforts on or offline? Please share!
Julie Rutherford is the Vice President of Marketing and General Manager for Email at Beliefnet.com, the leading online site for inspiration and faith. Prior to joining Beliefnet, Julie served as Marketing Director for WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), where she specialized in Web 2.0 marketing including social media, mobile marketing, widgets, feeds and SEO.
Before the Post, she served as Director of Electronic Publishing for the International Herald Tribune in Paris with responsibility for editorial, marketing, sales and tech operations for IHT.com. Previous experience includes marketing and management positions with several Internet startups during the 1990s.
Julie and her husband Brad live in Brooklyn with their two sons.