To Maximize Social ROI, Think Like A Pirate

post by: Mark Williams

Does it seem like you’re spending a lot of time trying to create compelling, engaging content, but still struggling to come up with a social ROI?

If you answered “yes,” you’re like many brands that we see across many industries. At SXSW 2014, I led a customer-insights workshop that offered a readily achievable path to social ROI.

Here’s where it starts: You have to learn to think like a pirate.

Back in the days of yore, pirate operations were often similar to your social media team’s work today – an understaffed few trying to capture a small, lucrative segment of a large market using only basic tools and inferior technology, often short on training, resources and desperate to get an ROI. As a pirate, one’s livelihood depended on getting immediate results while armed mostly with wit and skill.

Does that sound familiar?

Successful pirates and social marketers know that the key to their success is to begin at the end – knowing that they want to achieve ROI first, and then soliciting engagement to gain insights that will help them attain their treasure.

It may seem like a stretch, but consider the steps pirates would take to determine which ship to plunder. First they engage other sailors in the tavern with liquor and small talk to discover which ships are in the area, what valuable cargo they’re carrying, where they’re heading, how the ship is armed, and how large its crew is. Armed with those insights, pirates will deepen their engagement with merchant ships by following them to sea, always looking for more information.

When they have all the data they need, they put themselves into an advantageous position so their target willingly surrenders their treasure without much of a fight.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you stalk your customers like prey and treat sales like plunder, but smart social media marketers take a similar approach. Their treasured “booty” isn’t worthless comments, likes, and shares, but real insight into the wants and needs of their customers.

What information are you getting from customers to tell you where the treasure of their sales is hidden? How do you ask for that information? Who are you targeting with your engagement and why?

The list of insight treasure that customers offer in social channels is long and varied, and we explored it in-depth at SXSW. For now, here is a short insight development how-to.

Content Planning for Insights

1. Identify customer insights that could contribute to business decision making. You might want to know when peak purchasing cycles occur during the year, or which product features matter the most or the least. Who or what influences purchasing decisions? What values do your customers hold that can be associated with your product or service?

2. Share something of value in exchange for engagement. This could be information, inside access to new products or practices, coupons/discounts, “social only” specials, or advanced product knowledge.

3. Once you have their attention, make an easy ask. Ask for an opinion outright, or for their participation in a poll or survey. Give them a fill-in-the-blank question. Make your questions simple and direct.

4. Before posting that request, ask yourself, “Why is it important that I know this?” Refer back to #1 to confirm it will contribute to those business-critical insights you’re seeking. If you don’t see a link that drives you and your customer to a mutual, meaningful goal, then rethink the approach and develop new content.

Are you actively creating content with insights in mind? What information are you looking for? If we missed you at SXSW this past year, let’s make sure to connect and get together at the next one! 

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