The New Social Marketing Paradigm: Converting Anonymous Fans and Followers into Profitable Relationships

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Over the past few years, social media has grown from a seemingly pop culture trend to becoming a critical marketing tool for both B2C and B2B organizations. However, while many brands have succeeded in building large communities of fans and followers on social networks, very few have been able to convert them into qualified contacts and ultimately maximize the full revenue potential of these captive and engaged audiences.

Let’s start with one of the social marketing challenges facing marketers – selecting the right social media channels to allocate efforts and budget. Although there are currently 200 or so different sites, some won’t be a good fit for a particular brand and its marketing objectives, while other sites simply won’t be around tomorrow.

Among this continuously-growing and evolving group, a single channel stands out as a must have: Facebook. The usage figures are mind boggling. As of June 2011, Facebook has more than 687 million registered users, half of which log on to the site on any given day. What’s even more impressive is that collectively, these users spend 700 billion minutes per month on the site (Source: Facebook, Statistics as of June 2011). Such engagement presents a tremendous opportunity for marketers.

The combination of huge audiences and prolonged connection times on social media sites, particularly Facebook, is proving a boon for marketers. The figures speak for themselves: in June 2010, Facebook surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States. Moreover, Facebook led all online publishers in Q1 2011 with 346 billion display ad impressions, representing 31.2 percent marketer share.

…only a few attempts to engage fans in a sustainable commercial relationship have shown lasting success.

Social media, as such, has become a powerful tool for marketers, offering them the opportunity to reach an extremely widespread audience and to initiate communications strategies that are significantly more targeted than those of traditional mass media (e.g. television, newspapers, billboards, etc.). As a result of viral marketing tactics on social media, brands have succeeded in amassing sizeable fan communities. To date, they’ve spent most of their efforts moderating these communities, listening to comments and opinions expressed by consumers, and delivering mass marketing messages to fans and followers.

Yet, only a few attempts to engage fans in a sustainable commercial relationship have shown lasting success. Businesses have a tremendous opportunity to apply proven direct marketing techniques to social channels in order to convert these anonymous fans and followers into loyal and profitable relationships. Nonetheless, the key to success lies within the propensity of marketers to adapt their rules of engagement to the fundamental values of social media: permission, transparency, trust, and relevancy.

At Neolane, we have developed a five-step roadmap to ensure that social marketing strategies are successful and brands can effectively turn fans and followers into qualified contacts and fully maximize the revenue potential of these audiences.


Within this roadmap, social opt-in is one of the most critical steps in gaining individual permissions to enable better personalization, which ultimately leads to more valuable long-term and trusting customer engagement.

Social Opt-In: Transforming anonymous fans into qualified contacts

On all social networks, users specify their tastes and preferences in a way that may be considered “weak” – both from the consumer’s standpoint, as they have simply clicked the “Like” or “Follow” button, as well as from the brand’s point of view, because marketers simply counted the number of fans and followers, without knowing who these consumers are, and without being able to engage them in one-to-one dialogues.

It is now possible for brands to incorporate their traditional channel acquisition expertise into social media to transform these millions of anonymous interest marketers into identified, qualified and opted-in contacts. To do this, marketing teams may implement a variety of tactics, including:

  • Applying traditional direct marketing tactics, including integrating games, competitions, and quizzes into social networks. This technique, which collects an email or product preferences in exchange for consumer participation, is increasingly being used by brands on Facebook;
  • Using the technological developments introduced by social media sites, Facebook, for example, provides an API for retrieving social information from consumers once their permission has been granted. Twitter, on the other hand, proposes to repatriate some data about a brand’s followers, such as a Twitter handle, number of followers, tweets and re-tweets.

Once newly acquired contacts have been entered into a central marketing database, marketers may also use social media to enrich these contact profiles and to qualify their areas of interest. Of course, the latter must only be done with proper consent and in compliance with the regulations stipulated by the various media.

Once the fan is acquired, the company can enrich the customer’s current profile or build a new profile based on available social information, and then engage through an automated opt-in process.

To understand the impact of social opt-in, consider the example of a global financial services company that offers several products ranging from credit cards to small business financing. Even though the company has an active Facebook page, it wasn’t able to link a Facebook fan to an existing account, leaving valuable marketing opportunities untapped. With the right solution, organizations can acquire information based on publicly available fan information. Once the fan is acquired, the company can enrich the customer’s current profile or build a new profile based on available social information, and then engage through an automated opt-in process. That company can also use new Twitter functionality to auto-follow back new followers and take advantage of direct message capabilities to push personalized offers.

These multiple acquisition and permission tactics are all the more important for marketing departments as they move from one-shot marketing campaigns to more interactive and sustainable dialogues, across multiple communication channels, and across the customer lifecycle. The contact information and opt-ins collected means that marketers have a reliable and cost-effective source of contact data and available channels at their disposal.

To learn more about blending social networks with other direct marketing channels, building dynamic one-to-one personalized relationships with fans and followers, and accelerating ROI, you can download Neolane’s recently published white paper, The Real Secret to Unlocking Social Marketing ROI.

Mathieu Hannouz
Mathieu Hannouz is the senior product marketing manager at conversational marketing technology provider Neolane, Inc.. He is responsible for driving the launch of Neolane's key product features across North-America including identifying target markets and opportunities, the creation and development of messaging, positioning and launch materials. Mathieu is Neolane's resident expert on Social Marketing. You can follow him on twitter @repackaged.

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