Who Controls the Marketing “Asset”?

A friend of mine who is the CEO of an interactive agency and I often get into long debates about the best ways to utilize social media marketing services for our clients.  We both agree that social media is a must as a marketing tool, due to its low cost (when including time and effort as a cost of doing business) and its impact on the customer lifecycle.  Social media is key to facilitating conversation, an important aspect of maintaining a relationship with customers. 

My friend’s point of contention is that unlike other marketing programs (such as email), where you own your list of subscribers (fans or followers) aka “the asset”, you don’t own your Facebook fans or your Twitter followers.  For example, one of my client’s recently lost six weeks’ worth of Twitter updates.  They just vanished, lost in the twitterspherer…and haven’t been seen since.  This was a very big deal since each unique “tweet” provides an important gateway to their site on a daily basis…very similar to how email is utilized as a marketing tool.  I have another client whose Facebook account was completed turned off – including her business page – because she was posting too much on the discussion boards of pages she was a fan of.  That’s right – she was turned off for USING their service as it was meant to be used.  I won’t even go into my clients’ many issues with Newsvine and their tendency to turn off accounts without explanation.

In these cases, a significant marketing asset is at the mercy of the service itself with no recourse or back up in the event of data loss.  Now, we won’t be seeing Facebook or Twitter going out of business anytime soon,  but if they did – that data, your “asset” and even contact information are not exportable into your hands. CEO point is well taken.

Therefore, what marketers need to understand is that when it comes to social media – where you are creating an engaging conversation with end users – you still need to a) utilize it (always with your success metric in mind) for traffic growth and data acquisition in a measurable way, and b) make sure that you don’t abandon your other controllable marketing efforts – SEO, SEM, media buying, email etc.  What I showed my friend is a case study of another one of my clients:  Click here to take a look at this Facebook page for EarthPromise.com.  Notice how we are utilizing membership creation and email capture via content blocks on the Facebook page itself.  Our focus is to utilize Facebook as a community tool for conversation but also to lure users to our website so that we can capture the data information (“the asset”) in our possession.  This way, we own the data, thus limiting our dependence on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to keep track of our customers.  We utilize the same asset-capturing techniques on Twitter by posting each update with a link back to EarthPromise.com and by using an auto Direct Message to new followers asking them to join EarthPromise or to become a fan on Facebook.  Each of these tactics is measured for success within our analytics tracking system.  In addition, we use these social media marketing channels to improve our SEO rankings by creating linkage back to the site…we’ll further discuss this strategy in another blog post. 

It makes you wonder whether big brand marketers such as M&Ms/Mars and The Home Depot, for all their success in growing a “fan” base and improving customer service, have given a thought as to what would happen tomorrow if their “base” of fans and followers would suddenly disappear.  The consequence of not having a back up / redundancy plan would undoubtedly be significant.  It’s a pretty scary thought. 

Originally Posted on Big Couch Media