Social Marketing: From Offline to Universal (#a4uexpo presentation)

Social Marketing: From Offline to Universal (#a4uexpo presentation)

19th October 2010

At A4UExpo I got to talk for no less than an hour on a topic which lies really close to me. Since a few months I am the “social marketing ambassador” (yes the jokes on the term ‘ambassador’ are many : -) ) and I am ‘hooked’ to search since many years now. In my view we will see a more integrated way of searching in the future. The different channels will be combined which means we will have to target our audiences differently. With “social” getting into our world rapidly we will need a different approach. And thats the approach I discussed last week in London.

You can find the presentation below, but I thought I’d put my talks in writing and let you in on the world I think we are going to see in the near future.

What is Social Marketing?

First of all we need to know what we are talking about. What is Social Marketing? I have had the remark a lot since I started in my new function: “so, you are going to tell us about Social Media, you are going to explain how we should use Twitter“. No, I’m not talking about Social Media here, I’m talking about Social Marketing.

Wikipedia says Social Marketing is “the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good.“. This indicates the origin of Social Marketing lies in the marketing used to “do good”. Marketing guru Kotler takes the approach a bit more in the actual marketing for sales-corner: “Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience and the general society.” He claims.

That’s the official way off describing Social Marketing. In fact, Social Marketing is often used in a different way. The way its mostly used is “Using the target audience to influence the audience by making the audience part of the experience“. Which means that you start looking for those who can influence your target audience, those they actually listen to. And in many cases, that is the audience itself.

It’s a big change, or is it?

Many believe the world is changing and the web is changing even more rapidly. That everything we are doing now is new. This however is a big misunderstanding. We have been using Social Marketing ever since humans started interacting. Just think of it. If you want to go out and have dinner, where do you go? Chances are you will go to a restaurant which is recommended to you by friends or by those who you think know what they are talking about. If they say the restaurant is good, you trust them and you go there. That is nothing new.

And Social Marketing has even been used in writings about history. How’s that? Let me explain. In the World War II England and Germany fought a battle at Dunkirk, France. The Brits were pushed back by the Germans to the Ocean where they had no place to go. They then pulled off a trick which was indeed historical. From everywhere they could the British gathered boats. Big boats, small boats, fishermans boats, even small rowing boats, anything was good. And they managed to get most, if not all, of the soldiers out of there, back to England.

If you take a look at the history books describing the event in both Germany and England you will see a remarkable thing: in the English books the British “won” the battle, in the German books, the Germans “won”. This is Social Marketing at its best. What happened here is that Winston Churchill needed a good moral in England for the war. He therefore, based on the stories of those who were there, ‘turned’ the defeat (British were pushed back) into a victory: the victory being that they got away. By using the stories of those who were there he managed to change history and use Social Marketing to get social good.

So Social Marketing is nothing new. But things are changing right? So what’s new here? New is the fact that last century people got a new option: mass media. With mass media all of a sudden we were able to reach out to a huge audience all at once. We could now spread our message to many with the same effort as we did before, when spreading it to a few. That’s what changed, but then about 60/70 years ago. What is changing now is that we now get tools, like social media and search, with which we can address that same huge audience, but in a personal way.

The video below, originally made by Microsoft, describes the change back we have now. We are moving away from mass-advertising and mass-targeting and moving more towards personal targeting:

What the brand says…

As said, this is not new. If we take this to the web, we see that already in the late 90s we saw Social Marketing evolve online. The Blair Witch Project was one of the first to actually “make use of the crowd” to spread the message. The launching video seemed as if it was made by a bunch of amateur students. That was so well done that people started spreading the video even without asking. Remember those days? You would get one video and your mailbox was full. The movie however became a big success because of this ‘viral’.

The image below (thanks to @billhunt) shows us nicely how on the web the users think and why we should be using Social Marketing to get the best out of our search efforts. The image shows us that the less control a brand has on what they spread out, the more online users trust what is being said. So a TV-campaign will be a lot less valuable than for example user reviews or blogs writing about the brand.

This is a scary thing for brands. Giving away control is something which not many brands ‘dare’ to do. But they don’t need to give away all the control to use the consumer to talk highly of them. I will give a few examples on that further on in this post.

This can be carried through very far. The movie “The Joneses” (trailer below) shows how a “so called family” can affect the way others think of products. Though he movie is an example of how things can go wrong, it also shows how people can be affected by the opinions of others. They believe their friends, are jealous of them and want what they have and will buy stuff if their friends say its good.

Be sure to see that movie.

The changing search engines

Where we are changing back to the use of Social Marketing search engines know they have to change with us. Just delivering text results doesn’t do it anymore for the search engines. They need to service their searchers a lot better. The search engines now try to understand what the searcher is actually looking for. Are you searching for “Jaguar” did you mean the car or the animal? The search engines are trying to grab the “user intent”. They want to know what you are really after.

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt they will succeed on that. He claims that in the near future Google knows “Where You Are” and “What You Like”. As long as you give data to Google, they will be giving you more and more enhanced search results. That is in a way scary, but can also be something which is not that bad. After all, you now already get ads based on your profile, which makes the ads much more relevant to what you want. Not many people complain about that.

The problem here is that in trying to understand the user intent the search engines are much more focussing on the user experience. After all, getting the intent is hard, so why not go for the next best thing? All the changes Google made in the past months all have a huge “user experience” in them. Make it faster, make it more convenient. That is not the “intent” they were looking for, but its a first step.

In comes Universal Search

There have been many changes made in Google over the past years. Some claimed Instant Search was the biggest one so far. The biggest however has not been one which happened overnight but was implemented over time: Universal or Blended Search. The blending of different vertical results plays a huge role in how we can use Social Marketing to get the best out of search.

Universal Search gives us more options than the ten text results we were aiming for until now. With Universal Search we can dominate the search results without actually having our site in the top ten (though we still want that don’t worry ;- ) ). After all Universal Search integrates the different options for ranking: you can get video results in there, images, news, local and much more.

Change of mind

So what is the biggest change for us? The biggest change is that we have to change the way we think about search. Off course we still need to look at all the SEO elements out there, they are still important. But we also need to look outside of our website and start using the Universal possibilities. And use them with the Social aspect. Involve your audience, let them spread your images and let them make videos for you.


But how do you do that? There are three main pillars here:

1. Get your website in order

First of all, get your SEO in order, make sure you optimize your website and keep Universal Search in mind: optimize your images, get into Google News, make sure you are listed in Google Places and make sure you have video sitemaps in your website. In that matter: be sure to check out Yoast’s post on video optimization.

2. Combine offline and online

Make sure that if you do offline marketing to follow that up online. Doing a radio commercial? Make sure people can find you once they get home and start searching.

3. Use all the channels

Combine the different channels, both online and offline. Connect with your potential clients on Social Media (Twitter, Facebook or what ever social media your potential visitors are using. Make YouTube videos, post them and optimize them. Also start using others for your optimization efforts. Use bloggers to spread your word (see below).

The next thing you need to do is put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Integrate the different elements on- and off site.

Using blogs

A very good way of integrating the different channels is have other blogs write about you. That way you can really make use of the rankings these blogs already have. It’s something many people forget: a ranking about you is almost as valuable as a ranking from you. If a blog writes about you and ranks in the top ten it a) takes the position of a possible competitor, b) drives your brand awareness and c) directs indirect traffic to your website.

There are many examples of successful usage of blogs to get your brand out there. A good example is the launch of the theme park “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”. For the launch of the theme park Universal (no not the search, the film makers) found seven influential bloggers to see a very special webcast. Straight from Dumbledore’s office they announced the new theme park. The seven bloggers were so enthusiastic that they started spreading the word immediately through all different channels: blogs, forums, social media. The word spread rapidly and without a big effort Universal was able to get all sorts of different results into Universal Search. A search for “the wizarding world of harry potter” now gives back all sorts of different universal elements.

There are more examples like this, like the launch of a new LCD television by Sony, but the main lesson to be learned here is that you can use others to spread your word and get them ranking in Universal Search by providing them the right material (think videos, images etcetera). They will let you dominate the search results, maybe not just with your website, but ten results about you also have a lot of value. And remember, these bloggers also will all link at you, just think of the links you will get ;- ).

Below my presentation from A4U


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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