2010: The Year Social Went Viral

As the sun sets on 2010, it's amazing to look back and see how social media has impacted all areas of marketing. The dust kicked up by the rush to embrace social media marketing has finally started to settle and we as marketers have figured out that yes, social media can help drive business, but you have to do it right.

From a technical perspective, it's gotten a whole lot easier to integrate social media with all aspects of business, including your email marketing campaigns. Both Facebook and Twitter have created buttons that can be embedded on your website, blog, and in the emails you send out that let readers and recipients endorse and share your content with the click of the mouse. I'm just waiting for social share buttons to show up on my TV so I can give my favorite show or commercial a "Like" right from the couch. That's how pervasive social media is becoming in everyday life.

For email, adding these buttons makes it far easier to spread your message beyond your original contact list as recipients can share your email with their entire social graph in a matter of seconds. They don't even have to remember someone's email address. Just click and share.

Of course, we also learned in 2010 that it's not quite as easy as sticking a share bar on your site or email and all your content will suddenly be viral. No, you still have to offer engaging, relevant content that your audience wants to read and feels compelled to share and comment on. I often tell customers to start a conversation in a blog post or in your email content and then direct people to share their comments on Twitter (using a designated hashtag) or on your Facebook Page. The key is to engage readers and customers through your content, and keep that discussion going.

You also must (let me repeat, must!) offer a great customer experience or all of your marketing efforts—traditional, email, social—will fall flat. If customers are not satisfied with your products, services, and processes, they're A) not going to refer you to their friends, family, and colleagues, and B) most likely won't buy from you again. That's a lose-lose proposition. As the basis of your marketing efforts, make sure you're providing the best possible customer experience at every customer touch point since a happy customer is one that's more likely to spread your good word for you. It's like my colleague, Mark Schmulen, likes to say: "Marketing is not a cure for sucking."

Now, we can all sit back, exhale, and relax for a few days before 2011 thrusts itself upon us. What technological changes will the New Year bring to marketing? We'll just have to see.

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  • Scott Zimmerman

    I couldn’t agree more that social media has made a tremendous impact on marketing in 2010 and that regardless of the method (traditional, social, email) you must provide a great customer experience in order for marketing efforts to be effective. I would like to add, however, that the key to successful marketing in 2011 and beyond will be engaging with your customers in a way that motivates them to take action. That’s a concept called Engagement Communications.

    Engagement Communications combines advances in communications technology such as Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and SMS texting in a way that creates a personal, human touch. These ongoing two-way dialogues with customers create a constant feedback loop that gives companies deeper insights into their customers’ motivations and needs, and offers the opportunity to react in real time – with engaging and relevant content.

    For example, many of our clients in the utility industry use Engagement Communications to ask its customers questions about the types of information they want to receive. If a segment of customers are highly concerned with energy conservation, the utility engages them with energy conservation tips. During the hot summer months, customers receive Facebook alerts, email, text or phone messages reminding them to conserve energy by cooking during later hours or closing blinds during the day. Because these messages are sent how and when the customers want to receive them, this approach is meaningful and effective, and improves the overall customer experience.

    In short, social media (and whatever technological advances the future will bring) provides a platform to engage customers in new and intimate ways that today’s consumers have come to expect. But providing relevant content and making a connection with customers in a way that makes them take action is the key to a better customer experience, greater loyalty and a positive impact on the bottom line.

    Best wishes for much success in the coming year,

    Scott Zimmerman, President of www.televox.com