Navigating the Intersection of Social Media & Mobile Marketing

The job of marketing is to manage the communication, delivery, and exchange of value with the members of a firm’s community (prospects, customers, employees, investors, analysts, journalist, etc.).  Marketers employ all kinds of methods, practices, and associated tools, tactics, strategies, measurements, and media to accomplish these three tasks.   In just the last few years two relatively new marketing practices, social media marketing, and mobile marketing, have come to the forefront of marketing and are garnering much attention, and rightfully so since they are both fantastic channels for profitable consumer engagement and they are unique mediums that establish a connected community and consistent “sticky” behavioral patterns with consumers.

Marketers are finding, and there is research to back this up, that both social media and mobile marketing can be cost-effective mechanisms for generating and maintaining brand awareness with a new generation of buyers.  Moreover, they can be used for lead generation, customer acquisition, sales, loyalty and retention, and customer satisfaction programs.  However, for most marketers mining the value of these methods eludes them. Many marketers are unaware of what it takes to employ these new marketing methods or even what to really think of them.   This article explores both social media and mobile marketing practices and provides a definition of each method.  Furthermore, it shows how both can and should work together to enable value-generating interactivity with members of your community.

A look at social media

Social media has taken the world by storm; you hear about it nearly everywhere.  Daily, millions, if not billions, of people around the world, within small private groups and large public forums, are: congregating, communicating, collaborating, forming and building relationships, sharing, creating, reviewing and opinionating, exchanging, sponsoring, evangelizing and commercializing on nearly every topic, service and product imaginable.

All this social interaction started on a foundation of the Internet (note: as is discussed later in this article, social media has gone mobile as well) and through numerous Internet-powered forums, media, that offer a wide range of user experiences and capability, including:

  • Blogs and micro-blogs, blogs and micro-blogs are web site where invited contributors write articles and journals about their thoughts and ideas (micro-blogs are sites for publishing articles of a couple hundred words or less and blogs are sites for publishing articles of any length).
  • Chat rooms and message boards, chat rooms and message boards are meeting places on the Internet where people synchronously interact in real-time to share messages and/or interact asynchronously by leaving messages and waiting for a response.
  • Wikis, Wikis are web sites where members of a community collaborate on the authoring of an article or a piece of content, i.e. the community writes the piece collaboratively by having each community member contribute their own thoughts and ideas to the piece.
  • Networking sites, networking sites are web sites where people list their profile, find each other and interact.
  • Event sites, event sites are web sites where people share information about events, dates, times, offer comments and opinions about a past or upcoming event, etc.
  • News sharing, news sharing sites are web sites that are used to report and disseminate news and that allow members of the community to come together to add commentary and share options around the news.
  • Multi-media sharing sites, multi-media sharing sites are web sites that give people the ability to view and share photos, animation, videos, audio and live broadcasts.
  • Entertainment sites, entertainment sites are websites that give people the opportunity to play games and congregate in virtual worlds while online, typically each site is geared to a particular demographic.

There are three approaches marketers can use to adopt the above social media services (note, these are just a few of the most common examples of social media, there are many other types).   Marketers can view these services as:

  1. stand alone product or service offerings
  2. a feature or capability of a product or service offering
  3. an element of a marketing promotion or campaign.  

Examples for each of the three approached social media in marketing are provided in the list below.

  • As a product or service offering, As a product or service offering a marketer’s entire service, may be geared around one or more of these social media concepts listed above. Evite.com (www.evite.com) for events sharing, Facebook (www.facebook.com) for networking, and YouTube (www.youtube.com) for video sharing are just three examples of the most popular forms of standalone social marketing in a sea of literally millions of possible examples to refer to.
  • As a capability in product or service offering, As a capability within a product or service, a marketer may choose to augment their core offering by integrating social media capabilities to encourage community interactivity on and around their product service. For example, Amazon (www.amazon.com) sells goods and services online and as part of its offering, it provides the capability for members of its community to write comments and opinions about anything being offered. Another example is when firms offer user forums where members of the community can contribute suggestions on how to use a product or address a problem with the product or service. Drupal Forum (http://drupal.org/forum) is a perfect example of this, members of the Drupal community help each other use the software and get the most value from it.
  • As an element of marketing promotion, In order to have someone buy and/or utilize a product or service, marketers often encourage people to engage with the product or service, experience it, talk about it, contribute to it, and social media is a great method to accomplish this. By integrating social media capabilities into a marketing promotion marketers provide their prospects and existing customers with the capability to share their opinions and campaign experience with friends (this can be very viral). For example, as of the time of this writing Hardee’s, a leading quick service restaurant, is leveraging social media in their “Help us name our holes” promotion by asking the members of their community, namely all of us, to come up with a good name of their new biscuit hole offering (http://nameourholes.com/). This program is a great example of integrating social media into a promotion. Another example can be found at the Ad Council which, in a cause marketing program (www.boostup.org), is using social media to help high-schools kids stay in school members of the community can send kids a message to encourage them to say in school.

A core and common thread that is fundamental to all the social media services and programs listed above is content.  Content refers to the text, images, animations, games, videos and related forms of information that is generated by not just the marketer but, and more importantly so, by a firm’s community members.  Community members engaging with a social media enabled product, service or promotion can view, read, watch, play and interact with the content, and, if they’re so inclined, can contribute content of their own (a process commonly referred to as user-generated content). For example, they may choose to contribute a comment or opinion about a book they’ve read, rate the hotel they just stayed at, or as in the case of the Hardee’s program noted above suggest a name for a the new biscuit hole (you should check out the Hardee’s web site, some of the suggestions are pretty funny—if not totally out there!).

It is the social interaction, the community element, that brings social media to life.  It is also the scariest part of social media for most marketers since it is impossible to know what someone might say (this fear can be mitigated by adding moderation elements)

A look into mobile marketing

            The Mobile Marketing Association (www.mmaglobal.com), a the leading trade association supporting marketers in their use of the mobile channel, defines mobile marketing as “the use of wireless media as an integrated content delivery and direct response vehicle with a cross-media or stand-alone marketing communications program.”   This definition can be quite a mouthful.  Let’s break it down into its parts.

  • wireless media, wireless media refers to the many media paths through the mobile channel, including: Short Messaging Service (SMS, or also commonly referred to as text messaging), Multi-media messaging service (MMS), Email, Voice (both live-agent and automated interactive response services), Internet, mobile Internet, Bluetooth and applications (including J2ME, iPhone, Palm, Microsoft, Blackberry, Symbian and others).  There is not enough room in this article to discuss the unique nature of each of these media, but suffice it to say it is good to remember the lesson from Marshal McLuhan (1964), “the medium is the message,” every one of these mediums affects the message and the interaction with the customer.
  • integrated content delivery, integrated content delivery refers to the fact that each of the wireless media above can be used to deliver content, including text, animation, audio, images, video, MMS and related content types (the type of content that can be delivered and the file format of this content is dependent on the carrier network and the mobile device the mobile subscriber is using—there are literally thousands of possible combinations).
  • direct response, direct response refers to the capability of mobile to be used as an interactive channel such that when a mobile subscriber contacts the marketer through one of the interactive mobile media noted above the marketer can respond directly.
  • stand-alone programs, stand-alone programs refer to marketing programs wheremobile is used in ad hoc, mobile only, marketing campaign, for example a text alert service.
  • cross-media programs, cross-media programs refer to integrated marketing programs where traditional, new and social media, and mobile media are integrated in a coordinated approach, also commonly referred to as the mobile enhancement to traditional and new media.

With this understanding of mobile marketing, we can then emphasize a key point of mobile marketing; specifically that mobile marketing enables two approaches to consumer engagement, 1) a direct approach and 2) an indirect approach.  In the direct approach the numerous media paths (again, SMS, MMS, Email, voice, Internet, mobile Internet, Bluetooth and application) are used to directly engage an individual through marketer initiated communication (push marketing) or consumer initiated communication (pull marketing) when an individual proactively visits the marketers mobile media property.  In the indirect approach  mobile marketing call-to-actions are integrated within all the media and elements of a traditional or new media marking campaign.  The following list provides some examples of both approaches: 

  • Direct mobile marketing promotions, direct mobile marketing promotions include text alert services, mobile web sites, integrated voice response services, multi-media alert services, proximity alerts (alerts with Bluetooth and WiFi.).  For example some TCBY yogurt franchises are sending out mobile coupons to drive traffic to their stores (a recently DMA webinar with iLoop Mobile and MoneyMailer reported how a TCBY franchise is generating 12% response rates with its mobile programs).
  • Indirect mobile marketing promotions, with indirect mobile marketing promotions mobile call-to-actions are added to television, radio, print, outdoor media, point-of-sale displays, web sites, email, social media, advertising in mobile content (text, mobile Web Sites, mobile television, games, etc.) and related traditional and new media.  For example, the DMA is promoting its mobile text service on the web, in email and in this article: “Text POINT to 47201 to join the Direct Marketing Association Mobile Marketing Council Text Alert Service” (std. text messaging rates apply).

There are two additional approaches to mobile marketing that are not captured in the definition and explanation above, specifically that the mobile channel and the numerous media above can be used as a stand alone product or service offering, such as publishers web site to deliver content (http://www.weatherchannel.com for example), or as an element to augment a product or service; for instance, Hasbro has mobile enabled the board game “Clue Secrets & Spies” with text messaging.

One final note, within all mobile marketing approaches above, it is common for many marketers to include any number of different incentives to encourage consumers to participate in mobile marketing programs, including the offering of sweepstakes, voting and polling options, couponing, rebates, sample product offers, free content, loyalty programs rewards and more.  One of the most effective marketers out there using a tried and true marketing incentive, couponing, is MoneyMailer (http://www.moneymailer.com).  MoneyMailer is mobile enhancing its shared mail coupons with mobile call-to-action and is generated phenomenal results for its clients.

Bringing mobile and social together and why we should care

The above discussion offers a small glimpse into social media and mobile marketing practices and rich interaction that can be had with both marketing methods.  Marketers should not ignore the critical importance and impact mobile and social media marketing will have on their efforts.  As standalone practices both social media and mobile marketing can be very effective, but when one looks at the industry trends in regards to their use the importance of these channels increases dramatically, especially when they’re used together.

It is well known that consumer participation with traditional media channels (television, newspapers, radio, etc.) while not dead is in decline.  It is similarly well know that consumer adoption and participation with social and mobile media is on the rise.  No matter how you cut it, you can look at age, gender, ethnicity, social-economic, physiographic, preferences and behavioral factors, and you’ll find an increased adoption of social media and mobile media by all consumers.  For example, consumers are engaging in social media in droves.  A January 2009 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 35% of adults (up from 8% in 2005) and 65% of teens are using social media. The report notes how 85% have profiles on multiple social media sites and they’re not just using these sites periodically, daily and weekly use is increasing.  As for the mobile media the numbers are even stronger. Worldwide there are 4.1 billion mobile subscribers, roughly 65% of the global population (compared to 23% Internet use world wide).  There are 232 million mobile subscribers in the United States, about 76% of the population.   In the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (March 2009) nearly 35% of the U.S population has shut off or stopped using their landline phone. Comscore, a leading mobile researcher firm, tells use that nearly 60~90% of mobile subscribers use are using text messaging, 20% are using the mobile Internet and applications for platforms like the iPhone are on the rise.  Furthermore, the Comscore data shows that for certain demographics, like Hispanics and African Americans, the mobile phone is a primary channel for news and information as well as social media interaction.  Given these statistics it is imperative that marketers find a way to bring both mobile marketing and social media into their programs.

By bringing mobile and social media together you get the best of both worlds.  Not only can you create a forum for community engagement and contribution with social media, but by adding a mobile component you enable the contribution and engagement to happen anywhere and at any time the mood hits the consumer, since the mobile phone is nearly always within arms reach.  Facebook on the Apple iPhone, for example, is a great experience.

Two great examples of mobile marketing and social media interaction have already been mentioned earlier in this article the Hardee’s and Boostup.org marketing programs, both of which have social and mobile media elements.   The Hardee’s program not only has a broadband site, but also a mobile web site (http://hardees.mtiny.mobi) which allows visitors to suggest names for the biscuit holes, learn about the product, share mobile greeting cards and the site with friends, all great examples of social media in action within a mobile web site.  The Ad Council Boostup.org program, also noted above, uses mobile as well.  Visitors to the site http://boostup.org can initiate a text message to encourage kids to stay in schools.  Twitter, the iPhone Facebook application and countless other great examples of mobile and social media interaction can be found, a good place to start looking for more case studies is at the mobile marketing industry’s leading trade magazine Mobile Marketer (http://www.mobilemarketer.com).

Conclusion

Mobile marketing and social media are phenomenon that can not be ignored.  Consumers embrace them both, and as noted above their intersection and the interplay between the two can be quite powerful.

We’re just getting started.  Marketers are just learning how to employ social media and mobile marketing.   A recent Aberdeen Group report, “The ROI on Mobile Marketing” (Sept. 2009), reports that 19% of marketers have been using mobile marketing for at least two years and that another 22% have just started using it in the last 6 months.  Moreover, per the report, only 18% of marketers have begun integrating social media into their mobile marketing practices (if you’d like a free copy of the Aberdeen report email iLoop Mobile at mobilelabs@iloopmobile.com).    What this tells us is that mobile and social media are new media just now being adopted and learned.  It it also tells us that they are mediums that are being embraced now, which is good, since it is within these two media that our customers are congregating.

SIDEBAR CHARITY: Special Olympics Northern California

Mobile and social media have both become critical elements of any marketing program.  One area of marketing were we are seeing increased adoption and the convergence of these two marketing practices is in the realm of cause marketing and giving.   Through and with mobile and social media we can now offer micro donations through our mobile phone.  To learn more about this process see the article “How nonprofits can raise funds through the mobile” at channelhttp://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/3924.html. 

Here is an example of a charity raising money through mobile giving:

Special Olympics Northern California serves more than 13,000 individuals with developmental disabilities. From the Oregon border to Monterey and Tulare counties, its athletes have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of sports trainings and competitions that take place throughout the year.   You can support Special Olympics Northern California by texting SONC to 20222 to donate $5 via your mobile phone.  For more information view the Mobile Giving terms and conditions at http://www.mobilegiving.org/T/Default.aspx or visit Special Olympics Northern California at http://www.sonc.org.

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