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April 17, 2010
Using Social Media to Get to First Base

It's no wonder there’s fan frenzy over social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networks excel at connecting, or what I call first base.

The trouble is, it’s hard to score customers when you’re hitting singles and hanging out at first base. You have to push beyond connection to engagement or what I call second base. If the prospective customer becomes emotionally attached to the brand, you’re standing on third base and 90 feet from converting prospect into customer and kissing home plate.

My point? Social media is great for connecting, not so great for conversion.

Having made that opinion public, let me state I’m a huge fan of social media. I’ve attended countless webinars by Brian Solis, Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, and many other social medialites. I have a well-thumbed copy of "Groundswell." I know all about Fiskateers’ site and Big Gay Ice Cream Truck’s use of Twitter.

To be perfectly honest, they all say the same thing: Social media is about listening and helping. You have to find the people with passion and figure out how it relates to your brand or company, and then create an online community just for them. That’s cool, but what about generating sales and hitting the numbers? Sooner or later, our stuff has to generate business.

Recently, the head of a small agency told me, “Social media is an important part of the marketing mix. But you can’t abandon traditional media. ... People are still watching TV and driving by billboards.”

I think that’s true. Where traditional agencies can add value is bridging traditional to social media and racking up RBIs (Results Brought In) for clients. Let me illustrate. I don’t know if an agency was involved in this marketing effort, but I love the social combined with the tried-and-true tactic.

During a two-day period in January, over 250,000 Facebook users became fans of Einstein Bros. Bagels. By becoming a Facebook fan of Einstein, you could download a coupon for a free bagel between Jan. 25-31.

This was unprecedented in Facebook fan-drive history. In one single promotion, this regional bagel eatery collected as many Facebook fans as major brands with virtually no media spending on advertising. The driver was the coupon and free offer designed to get people into the restaurant.

Before the Internet, you might have seen that coupon in the newspaper or in your mailbox. On Facebook, the traditional traffic-generating coupon and free offer work like magic, even if people don’t redeem the coupon. That’s because once you’re a Facebook fan, they can message you anytime they want for free.

Wait, there’s more. Einstein is doing the promotion again -- Free Bagel Fridays in May. I downloaded the coupon and got this message: “Allowing Offers access will let it pull your profile information, photos, your friends' info, and other content that it requires to work.”

Whoa. I just gave away my Facebook info and gave up all my Facebook friends for a free bagel. When you put it that way, it’s kind of scary, yet you can see how intoxicating social media is. It’s not about free bagels. It’s about free messaging to thousands of people. The tipping point was when someone had the idea to do a coupon for a free bagel on Facebook.

Dismiss the talk that social media doesn’t work or only works for certain businesses or is just another tool in the marketing toolbox, but it’s so much more. Social media’s rightful place is in connecting and engaging (first and second base). When you need to get to third base and make emotional connections, add in traditional tactics until you convert prospects into customers and rack up RBIs -- Results Brought In.

Social media. It really is a whole new ballgame.



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Mike Ogden is a digital/senior writer based in Kansas City. Ad agency stops have enabled him to create for major brands like American Century, Capital One, Sprint, and USAA. Seasoned and sharp with a touch of gray, Ogden, aka Og, is known for creating and championing ideas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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