June 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

360i offers retailers a playbook for social marketing

As more retailers invest in social networking and social media to get their messages to the widest audience possible, they must understand the growing social realm in great detail, the online marketing firm advises in its “Social Marketing Playbook.”

64% of retailers have made investments in social networking and social media while another 22% plan to do so within the next 12 months, according to a new study from Forrester Research Inc. What’s more, 30.5% of retailers say in 2009 social network presences will perform better as a marketing vehicle than paid search or search engine optimization, according to a recent Internet Retailer survey.

This is why digital marketing firm 360i LLC has published the new “Social Marketing Playbook,” available for free on the firm’s web site. The company says the report is designed to help marketers navigate the new online marketing landscape and provide a framework for building successful social programs from creation to execution.

“Before getting started in social marketing, retailers should actively listen and observe the social landscape to understand where their customers are, what they are saying and what competitors are doing in the social realm,” the report advises. “With a good understanding of the landscape, a solid strategy can be derived from establishing clear objectives and success metrics, viewing all opportunities through a brand’s unique strategic lens, and crafting a unifying concept and brand voice to tie a social program together.”

The goal of marketing via social networks, big or small, is to gain as many fans as possible so the content and special offers provided reach the widest audience. Building up a fan base is one thing, but maintaining it presents a different challenge for marketers.

“Actively nurturing and retaining the community aggregated can lead to deeper brand loyalty and more frequent, helpful customer feedback,” the “Social Marketing Playbook” says. “Marketers will benefit most if they continually provide value to fans once they’ve arrived. This will keep the conversations flowing and foster more engaging relationships between brand and consumer that provide value to both sides.”

When carefully thought out and planned, a social marketing program can enhance an overall online marketing program and help consumers better understand a retailer’s brand, the report says. “For brands willing to step up to the plate,” it concludes, “this presents a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate and expand their customer base.”

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