Most organisations today recognise the potential of social media marketing to make a significant contribution in helping to drive their brands and their business forward. They appreciate the value of maximising engagement with their customers and prospects and many brand owners regularly create entertaining or informative branded video content to be published on social hubs such as YouTube or Flickr, and shared across social networks through channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. While it is often the case, the branded content need not always be a video – it can be anything from photographs to podcasts, editorial, perhaps a game or a useful app.
Most important is that it should engage the viewer and stimulate a positive response, hopefully to the extent that they then share it with their network contacts, bringing more and more people closer to the brand. But encouraging broad distribution for your branded content is just one aspect of social media marketing – with a cohesive social media strategy in place much more can be done to gently ‘nudge’ prospects towards your brand, and ultimately to a place where they might feel predisposed to purchase – such a strategy is referred to as ‘Nudge Marketing’.
At the heart of nudge marketing is ‘choice architecture’ – the art of arranging options to indirectly influencing purchasing decisions. As the web has led to consumers being increasingly empowered to pick and choose the media and messages they are prepared to expose themselves to, switched-on brand owners have quickly realised that brands should not appear to be selling themselves on the social web – instead they must gently, and sincerely, show genuine interest in their audience and encourage their prospects to engage with them to build loyalty and cultivate advocacy.
There are four aspects to a nudge marketing strategy; 1) social media, introduced by 2) social signposting, to be shared across 3) social networks, by the use of 4) social tools.
The first step is to create social media (original branded content) which people will find entertaining, informative or useful – the more it is so, the more likely prospects are to engage in a meaningful way with the brand and appreciate its values.
Brands must encourage customers to engage, and must cultivate advocacy
But it doesn’t matter how engaging the content is likely to be if no-one sees it. So a brand needs to jump-start the campaign with a link-generation exercise, exposing the content through signposts owned by the brand such as its own website, company blog, Twitter activity, Facebook group and PR activity as well as paid-for links including paid search, seeding initiatives and offline media advertising.
By continuously refining the content offered according to feedback received, brands can encourage potential customers to immerse themselves further in the brand and to share their experience with others across their social networks including Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn, using social tools such as a sharing facility, ratings, ‘like’ buttons, bookmarking, and other simple-to-use, instant referral devices.
Today’s empowered consumer will decide whether they’re to be sold to or not.
The success of a social web nudge campaign is not measured by direct conversion to sales although, of course, increased or at least maintained sales is the ultimate aim of all brand marketing initiatives, online and offline. Success is judged by how effective the campaign has been in encouraging and rewarding positive customer engagement with the brand, building relationships, developing loyalty and cultivating advocacy across the web.
And nudge marketing is not exclusive to online activity, this softly-softly approach to brandbuilding can increasingly be seen in much offline, conventional advertising too. In a world where the customer really is King, empowered by the web, brands of today must be very mindful to nudge, and not shove.
Andy Sellers is founder and Creative Director of S&® the brandvertising agency, and a ‘Seriously Creative’ Consultant.