Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What Google+ Means for Direct Marketers

The tools may have changed, but the song remains the same.

The Web is now personal. VERY personal. Everyone is a content producer, whether they realize it or not.

Google realizes this. Google's deal with Twitter has run out so it no longer has Twitter content in its search, and Facebook is giving content to Bing, so Google needs its own source of social from which to draw content and, most importantly, in which to embed its advertising platform (AdWords).

Google knows personal recommendation is important, and so do we. It knows business has to have its place in any new channel in order to generate advertising revenue. Google, still the search king, knows it needs to sell advertising, and that Facebook social ads lead in the social space. Google, just like those of us in one-to-one marketing, realizes it's all about people. Because of this, Google has built its own social network: Google+ (which is now open to everyone, no invite required).

Everyone is posting links, sharing content, making recommendations, telling their friends about the good and bad in their daily lives, about the great coffee they just had, about the lousy service at the hotel they just stayed in, and about their love of a million long-tail niche hobbies and interests (perfect for generating ad revenue by displaying relevant opportunities along with the public message). The basic principals are there across every tool and channel.

Strategy should not be based on tools like Google+. Strategy should be based on business objectives. Tools like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are, as appropriate, a means to achieving business goals through communication, but are not strategies in themselves.

Content is king, even today, and the not-so-secret sauce is in the message and what you do with it. That's not going to change for direct marketers anytime soon. Research, engagement, listening, measurement, creating good content, fostering relationships, these remain the same. What is changing is the opportunity, and how you can use it.

When people choose to be a part of your community, it's important to give them something in return. They are letting you into their Google+, Twitter or Facebook streams, and it's critical to give something back. That may be as simple as offers, entertainment, a behind-the-scenes look at our brand, 'secret' knowledge, breaking news, etc. but should always be human and engaging. You still have to generate genuine opportunities to get your community talking and sharing. A community should feel that it is being heard and that, when opinion is sought, it is being acted upon. Being inclusive, and being personal, is being social. These are the fundamental principles of communication, and regardless of your goals or the delivery method they're key to good community. That's unlikely to ever change.

We can bet that soon Google+ will give us business profiles and then paid advertising. Just like Facebook, this is your opportunity to reach out to your audience and show them the value in becoming a part of your community and tuning in to your message. It's your chance to listen and gather opinion and deliver good, entertaining content value. How you do this should be based on clear strategy, and should be sympathetic to the community you gather. Here you can say "Join us. It'll be fun, rewarding, and advantageous."

One of the most valuable elements of one-to-one marketing in the social space is the ability to recognize those loyal customers who make repeat purchases, and to let them know they are appreciated and that they are important. Who is adding to the conversation? Who is taking your message forward? Who CAN take the message forward? These people are the ones to foster and reward above all others. Heck, you owe them that even if it's just though personal thanks and good messaging. A bottle of wine in the post or a voucher for a special event goes a long way to turn someone into a lifetime brand evangelist. The tools may change, but the principals remain the same. Social media lends itself perfectly to one-to-one marketing, and this is where powerful lifelong relationships can be forged.

Google+ is new. Anyone who claims to have a secret answer to making it work for business right now is selling snake oil. There are, however, those basic core principals of communication that will see you through. There're a million tricks and tips and tweaks for every tool and channel, but there's always a constant: social media is about people, and what's important is how you talk and listen - not where.

This article was first published on the Target Marketing Magazine website, Sept 21st 2011, and is republished with permission.