In just one year, two-thirds of the Fortune 100 lost nearly a quarter of their website traffic, while at the same time, Facebook's traffic increased by more than 50%.
Consumers are flocking to social networks in droves because they want news and updates about the people, brands, and topics that they care about in real time. Marketers have subsequently invested in programs that reach audiences where they spend their time, frequently at the expense of their own digital properties by pushing consumers away from their online assets to third-party platforms.
Investing time and resources into a platform like Facebook with constantly changing features that ultimately, will never be in your control—sounds like a risky business. However, we all understand the extreme value that platforms like Facebook bring to our brands—awareness, customer engagement, and mobilization.
Brands and publishers have found value in creating a social presence through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to drive traffic back to their sites through links. However, what they’ve learned is that while you can direct traffic back to your site, without building on that social experience, consumers don’t stay on the brands’ sites very long and ultimately end up heading back to the social platforms to express their opinions and interact around content.
Listening and reacting to users and driving audiences to external social networks like Facebook is only half of the social marketing equation. Today most brands and publishers stop there.
Marketers should continue using social networks for awareness building, viral impact, and new customer acquisition. However, 360-degree social means completing the loop by surfacing the best social content on their owned properties. The next step is making it dead simple for users to interact with each other on the brands’ sites so that they are as engaging and social as the networks their users flock to.
Businesses are beginning to figure out ways to leverage the value of social media platforms. Socializing your online presence allows you to better control and build brand cohesion through messaging, design, and experience, while giving companies the ability to grow deeper consumer relationships and brand affinity.
How is this possible?
Companies like mine are offering ways to make a business’s site more social. Instead of only sending your customers to a third-party site to engage, the conversation can happen directly on your site and mobile apps—in your control, but with the benefits of top social platforms. Through making their websites and mobile apps just as engaging as a social network through a combination of real-time experiences and curated social content, brands and publishers are building communities around their content and products and are able to build a complementary social marketing strategy around these owned properties.
When transitioning to making your site a social hub, here are some things you should consider:
1. Community is No Longer a Single Destination
Consumers are no longer engaged at a single site, message board, or forum. Whether they are making a purchase through your mobile app or reading a blog post about their favorite TV show on your site, they expect to be social at every customer touch point. The common denominator for the consumer’s experience is your brand. The brand is the community.
2. Balance Investment in Social Networks
While creating a social experience through your online presence should be a top priority to any company’s digital strategy, utilizing other platforms should still be a part of that strategy. Companies should maintain a balanced approach to external social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, with their own communities to achieve the right mix of user acquisition and brand loyalty.
3. Listen, Engage, and Integrate
Creating a social brand presence isn’t the final step in bringing them back to your site. The most effective strategy requires that once a brand receives feedback from a consumer, it engages him or her in real time through an integrated social experience on its site. Reacting immediately to a tweet about your brand creates a positive experience for your brand. However, complementing this by engaging them through conversation on your own site builds a longer positive relationship outside the bounds of one social channel.
Brands that are ahead of the curve and embracing the new social model benefit through longer engagement on their sites, the ability to see and react to feedback in real-time, consumers sharing direct content more, and strengthening of brand loyalty. In return, you’ll reduce the risk of missing the conversations happening about your brand online or putting all your eggs in one social platform basket that can change anytime.
No one can predict what the next big social network will be, so rather than investing in driving consumers to Facebook, a longer-term approach is to build a complementary social marketing strategy and aggregate what people are saying across all social networks into an engaging experience on your site or mobile app, making your owned properties the best destination to learn what's happening about your brand in real-time.
[Image: Flickr user Psyberartist]