Brands and businesses were initially skeptical about the validity of social as a marketing and business development channel. Now, it seems the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme.
The hype around Facebook, and social media in general, appears to have dulled the senses of marketers and brand managers. Consequently, many have handed over the keys of the kingdom when it comes to protecting the integrity of the brand, the relationships created, and optimum return on the investment in social.
Why should brands make the website the ultimate destination, rather than leaving engagement and relationships to reside on social media platforms?
Reason 1: Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law
When the relationship is established, cultivated and maintained on the social platform only, the relationship may be connected to the brand, but it is owned by the platform.
If relationships are worth their weight in gold, most marketers leave the social media mine untapped. When was the last time you downloaded your Facebook friends as connections? Do you export your LinkedIn connections regularly? If the reasons to do so are unclear, I recommend reading the post "Who Owns Your Social Network?"
Some social media platforms make it difficult to leverage relationships outside the environment they created for you. After all, when you take it off their site, they lose leverage, data and no longer own the relationship.
Losing control as the conduit for relationships between people and brands would be inconsistent with how most social platforms survive. So, the responsibility to take ownership of the relationships initiated through social media falls squarely on the shoulders of the brand manager.
Lure Them Home
The indisputable truth is that brands are seeking to leverage social to further their own goals, not those of the platform.
One of the most effective ways to optimize ROI from social media marketing efforts is to establish and cultivate relationships on social media, and then lure them to home: the website. The website affords greater flexibility in customizing the user experience with unique landing pages, soliciting feedback, inviting opt-in for future email communication, special offers, the collection and application of data and analytics, to improve every step of the way.
Reason 2: The Marketplace is No Longer Static
Unlike historic marketplaces like Rome and Main Street, where customers have historically traveled to a static marketplace, today's customer is more transient than ever, forcing brands to meet customers wherever they are.
Customers have unprecedented control in how they interact with information and brands. Ninety percent of daily media interactions are screen-based as sequential or simultaneous sessions on smartphones, laptop/PCs, tablets, and televisions; with the remaining 10 percent via radio, newspaper, or magazines according to Google: The New Multi-Screen World.
Marketers Must Meet Customers Wherever They Are - Then Bring Them Home
Social media has become a vital aspect of an integrated marketing strategy. Rather than being viewed as an additional standalone destination, social media best serves the brand who views social as a qualified source of traffic to the website.
Should brands be engaged on social media? Absolutely! However, as this list will demonstrate, the return of social media investments can be cultivated with more control, measurement and long-term benefit when they graduate from the social platform to the brand's primary digital footprint – the website.
Reason 3: Social Users Are Moving Targets
Nearly 58 percent of Americans are active daily on social media platforms. Activity varies, according to the primary objective of the user according to findings shared by NM Incite:
- 89 percent of users use social media to keep in touch with friends and family
- 67 percent use social media for entertainment
- 66 percent use social media to learn about products and services
- 48 percent use social media for career networking
Where target audiences reside will also impact which social platforms your audience is most like to be investing their time, as illustrated by data compiled by multiple sources.
Note the difference in share between Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest. When you have customers in multiple countries, investing across multiple platforms that lead to the website as the authoritative destination for the brand makes even more sense.
Orchestrating Efforts Across Multiple Platforms is Easier When Pointing to One Destination: the Website
Smart marketers recognize that putting their social media eggs all in one "basket" will minimize potential to achieve best results from social media marketing efforts.
Customers are engaging brands on social media, and expect brands to reciprocate. Reaching target audiences wherever they are in the social landscape is a strong motivating factor when developing the social media marketing plan.
Many brands will find it necessary to focus efforts on the most effective or rewarding networks, ruling out others. A vacancy in the social landscape can be a liability, or at very least missed opportunity.
It is wise to "stake a claim" and protect the brand's representation on as many social media platforms possible, even if cultivated at a later date. As Andy Beal, CEO of Trackur and recognized online reputation consultant recently stated at Pubcon New Orleans; "Leave no social media profile vacant". And, when each and every platform leads back to the website, the customer can easily connect the dots and engage the brand, even if they aren't proactive on a particular social site.
The cultivation of relationships and interaction is much more effective, and easier to manage consistently, when all action, conversion-related conversations are directed to one source – the website.
Reason 4: Social Media Platforms Impose Terms and Limitations
This is concerning given how active brands are active on Facebook and other social platforms. Although a small sampling, this indicates how unaware social marketers may be of the implications and potential outcomes created by brand engagement on various social platforms.
Chances are, if legal counsel was required to review social media policies like the Facebook Terms below, marketers would be further encouraged to use social platforms to bring customers to the website.
Facebook Terms of Service, May 2013
The brand may aggregate many fans, friends, and followers on social media. However, brands unable to strategically leverage the platform to support goals and KPI's will struggle to realize a return on the investment in social.
Social Platform terms currently include:
- Users grant Facebook non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content posted on or in connection with Facebook.
- Google automatically Gmail with contacts on Google+, and limits circles to 5,000.
- Google+ brand pages allow less features than individual accounts.
- Facebook imposes limitations with contest and promotion rules, which has been problematic for marketers.
- Platforms can, and do, change at will, sometimes eliminating validity and functionality of features brands have invested into leveraging the platform.
- …and the list goes on.
Brands Can Control Content, Assets, Contests, and Relationships Better on the Website
Rather than conforming to the rules of each individual social platform, marketers would be wise to consider leveraging social media platforms to promote, build momentum, sharing and exposure that ultimately leads to the website, where assets, rules and relationships can be managed according to what is in the best interest of the brand.
Reason 5: Revenues May Be Diminished on Social Platforms
Offering a commerce transaction on a social platforms may have an appropriate time and place. As expected, F-commerce and storefronts were short-lived and have been replaced predominately by "gifting" sales on Facebook. Yet, many are still looking to move the shopping experience to the social platform rather than bringing the customer to their own domain.
For most selling goods and services, the social platform could reduce potential sales compared to those generated on the ecommerce website where related product and services can be presented to increase the total sale before check-out.
The screen capture below illustrates the many opportunities on an ecommerce website to engage the user, promote conversion and increase average sales that social platforms can't provide.
Own the Data
Because data is worth its weight in gold, many of the benefits reaped from an on-site purchase experience are lost when the transaction is moved to the social platform.
Brands will want to strategically evaluate options, test the model and compare to benefits of maintaining ownership of transactional and relationship data when determining what will be managed on the social platform and what is best managed on the website.
Reason 6: Social Platforms Are Businesses
The wonderfully "free" social platforms that society has embraced to connect on a personal and professional level were designed to make money. They may not have known exactly how when they first began, but rest assured, each have had shareholders or stakeholders like partners, investors and VC's to answer to from the very beginning.
Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, and other social platforms are continually developing features to improve the user experience. The core purpose of most of these features isn't always driven by making the platform work better for users. It is often grounded in the fundamental need to aggregate specific data and revenue streams to support the goals and objectives of the platform.
How well the platform works for businesses and brands is secondary. It is important to maintain this perspective throughout the relationship with each platform.
Social media offers unprecedented access to cultivate relationships with customers, one at a time. For those who seek to build sustainable brands, social media should never take the place of the website as the ultimate destination of the brand.