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Op-Ed: What The Hell Is Sustained Social Marketing?

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Advertising In A Recession: The Art Of A Sustained Social Marketing Campaign”
By Managing Director Brian Marr, along with creative directors/co-founders Ian Cohen and Cal McAllister – all of The Wexley School For Girls

So, how can you be considered a serious marketing company without creating a new catch phrase? You can’t, so here it is Mr. or Mrs. High-level thinker: “Sustained social marketing” – it’s a phrase we developed at Wexley School for Girls to describe our approach to answering today’s marketing and advertising demands. Actually we generally don’t sit around creating marketing phrases for ourselves, but we couldn’t help ourselves this time. Based on the explosion of social media and the line disappearing between what people used to call “above the line” and “below the line,” we’ve had to continually adapt to what integration means.

When we discuss sustained social marketing with our clients, we’re talking about a combination of highly integrated traditional and new media tactics over a sustained amount of time. It involves a foundation of social engagement with your online core, independent of advertising campaigns. Waves of traditional media, PR, viral, interactive and grassroot/guerrilla efforts are fully integrated, architected together and rolled out over a predetermined period.

It’s not rocket science. Or maybe it is, but in today’s economic climate, it’s even more important to make certain any investments are working together to achieve maximum return. With all the social marketing opportunities, it’s easy to get diluted. Though we never make mistakes ourselves, we have witnessed some and wanted to share some of the lessons that can be learned:

Lesson #1: Just doing a viral video as a less expensive and unexpected way to reach your customers was something that used to work. That was way back in the 2000′s when they were novel and people weren’t putting out the quantity we see on video sharing sites today. Now, what’s it up to, 60,000 new videos a day? Give us a break. You’re tossing a needle into a haystack. Viral still works, but it must be supported with an integrated campaign to be successful. That is, unless you’re extremely lucky.

Lesson #2: Social media engagement can’t be treated like a traditional campaign; it’s one of the fundamentals of marketing. If you’re a marketer, this means building social media into your day-to-day marketing strategy and potentially hiring someone, or a team, dedicated to running it. That’s where the “sustained” comes from. A media buy used to do it with repetition. The landscape has changed.


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Lesson #3: Measuring impressions alone is a worthless exercise with today’s customer without also measuring engagement. Too many brands make the assumption that consumers will believe their message if they continue yelling it at them. It used to work when that was one of the only ways consumers got information, but today it’s just not the case. Engaging your influential customers as part of the campaign – actually giving them a chance to spend some time with a brand and enjoy themselves – is required in today’s marketplace. They’re going to do it with our without you. Time for you to run and catch up to the two-way communication train, it left the station a year ago.

Ok, big conclusion (if we could add real fireworks to the internet we would): At a time when budgets are tight, and when one-hit ad campaign endeavors have limited success, sustained social marketing offers marketers the opportunity to connect with customers in a deeper way and create love affairs with their brands. And ideally it will also prove to be less frivolous and more meaningful than a massive traditional media buy. Thanks for reading this little piece of sustained social media that, combined with our many other online projects, is at this very moment branding ourselves. See?

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