Managing Director at F+W Media International
29 July 2009 11:06am
Not sure that I can do this question justice in a single post but will try.
Although our core business is in publishing, we run a successfull direct to consumer business selling our books (and supporting products) through mail order and eCommerce channels. Our DTC business is targeted at niche markets of craft, photography, art, equestrian - all to match our publishing focus.
Our digital business strategy is eCommerce focussed and we have successfull partnership with magazines and other complimentary businesses driving traffic and through our affiliate programme. We have a basic but developing social media strategy and, although there is always work to be done to improve, we are active across the various online and offline media channels.
With ever increasing frequency, consultancies & suppliers contact me to try and sell me a social network solution. But, while we've embraced the concept of community as a business and have created a level of this around our ecommerce business, I've resisted trying to create our own social network to date.
My argument is that there are already many networks in our interest communities, from the generalist Facebook/MySpace/Twitter through to the category specific run by magazine businesses etc. I'm not convinced that we need to create our own social network environment ourselves - rather that we are better off working with the network opportunities that are out there already and keep our focus on our core ecommerce business. But am I right in this thinking?
eCommerce Director at Strangewood Group
29 July 2009 11:40am
I was reading this article this morning that clearly illustrates how a relatively unknown brand has leveraged customer engagement and significant reach using Twitter:
This niche website offering advice on blackberrys has 20,000 followers and significant numbers of monthly visitors, not least it helps them with their 'long tail' search terms with sem.
Can we really afford to ignore such a fantastic marketing tool.
PRODUCT MANAGER at Phaidon Press Ltd
29 July 2009 13:41pm
I have worked in a very similar market to yourself and think your argument and current thinking are pretty sound, unless you have asked your customers if they would be interested in a book specific network?
There are numerous relevant groups on the big platforms to do with arts, crafts, photography etc and its definitely worth getting involved and start using these channels to promote your product and books are a great entry point to many of these groups.
But if you haven’t already you should probably consider, having some web 2.0 tools to help you learn more about your customers? These could be simple forums such as what are you reading at the moment? users rating books, submitting reviews etc. conversations with the authors etc etc etc. or even a blog around certain subject areas. (the creative potential is pretty endless with books)
I'd also check out some of the book specific platforms out there such as Shelfari, Good reads, Library thing, Booktribes, Revvish . Not only as to how you can contribute or join in as part of online acquisition strategy, but also in how they have fostered specific book networking sites and how this might relate to your own network should you start one?
In order to invest in a network platform I would certainly do the maths and research first before investing much more time and effort into building your own platform. Esp as I imagine your margins are probably quite low and a network platform could be quite a heavy investment when it could be cheaper and more effective to concentrate on optimising the site for sales conversion and acquisition activities of which existing social platforms should play a part. . Hope makes sense and good luck with the project.
29 July 2009 13:42pm
I guarantee you will receive conflicting answers to your question. Those agencies that can help organisations create their own social networks will probably say "yes". However, it sounds that what you want to achieve is a stronger interaction or engagement with your existing clients (sustaining as much loyalty and advocacy as possible) and to attract new customers.
Building your own social network is achievable, and shouldn't be that expensive, but does your brand have a strong enough "pull" to change people's online behaviour and reduce the time they spend in their existing networks and then devote this time to your own? I personally think they probably won't, and you will be better off investing in a strategy to tap into their existing behaviour and interact with them this way.
The key considerations are to fully understand your customers (values, motivation and behaviour) and then create an online communications approach (via the social web) to provide them with information that has a value for them. Then the harder bit is ensuring you proactively engage with them...now becoming a 24 by 7 activity.
I hope that helps you. This blog post on econsultancy may help you in your consideration as well.
Business Development at Juice Digital
30 July 2009 14:18pm
I think you are confusing "social media networking", which is essentially an individual activity and important in a CRM sense, and Social Media Marketing, a professional marketing communications discipline which uses social media to leverage sales.
Every outward facing executive should use social media networking to partly replace and enhance offline networking, something that is valuable to any business.
As far as Social Media Marketing goes, if you not including this in your marketing plans, you are missing something very valuable and the fastest-growing communications platform in history. It is now how most people use the Web.
30 July 2009 16:22pm
Jeremy (and others) thanks for your thoughts.
Reference the social media marketing/social media networking point - I think I understand your comment here but not sure that it answers my question.
There's no doubt that social media marketing is a key part of our strategy and we understand its importance in the mix. The decision I am trying to make is if our strategy should be to continue to leverage our brand on existing social media platforms (from the generalist of Facebook/MySpace/Twitter through to the category specific) or to create our own network.
30 July 2009 16:29pm
Good point, James.
Creating your own online community on Ning.com is time-consuming: you would need a full-time moderator/content-producer.
I don't think the effect on your SEO would be as powerful as using a number of existing platforms, together with all the multiplicity of backlinks to your website/blog and hyperlinks from Twitter to the social media content.
It's the content syndication effect (with thanks to Charles Heflin).
30 July 2009 16:35pm
I'll just re-iterate the main point o my previous post if I may. Please don't create your own community. Putting the technicalities, cost and time to manage to one side; you are asking people to change their behaviour...typically they won't. You need a strategy that taps into their existing online "habits" and enhances their experience. Give them things of value whilst improving brand awareness and interest around David and Charles.
I hope that helps
Web PR Consultant at Clickthrough Marketing
17 August 2009 13:52pm
I would agree with Karl about not creating your own social media community platform UNLESS you already have huge brand loyalty and a demonstrable interest by your existing community to focus their energies around such a community space. Why not ask your users that simple question - "Do you want your own space to discuss the books, arts etc?"
It may be that your affiliates would be interested, whilst your general consumers are not, in which case - what is the business model for an affiliate support/social network? Would it considerably increase sales through affiliates' activities, provide them with an area to support each other, share good ideas for marketing and so on, or would it be unused?
Ning is free to set up, but expensive on time costs to monitor, keep lively and so on, but if you have a large user base who are not catered for elsewhere, or have not discovered where there are already social communities that would fit their interests, then it would be an option to consider. However, just providing links to existing external resources (where you have a presence in particular) might prove in itself valuable to your visitors.
Otherwise, your existing strategy seems to be sound until you establish what your "followers" actually want. There are many ways of discovering this beyond a survey, including monitoring interest in your Tweets, forum posts elsewhere etc.
The State of Digital in MENA report, published by Econsultancy (and supported by ArabianBusiness.com), looks in detail at use of different traditional and online marketing channels in the Middle East and North Africa. The report also looks at how companies are using social media for marketing, how businesses are measuring marketing effectiveness and examines the barriers to digital marketing and e-commerce in the region.
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