For a while now, there's been too much talk about social media vs. email vs. search. All of these tactics can work together seamlessly to create a robust, optimized content marketing engine that pays real dividends in increased website traffic, and conversions.
A collaboration between RESMARK Systems (a provider of hospitality software), Western River Expeditions (an adventure tour company), Compendium Blogware (provider of corporate content creation software), and ExactTarget (provider of enterprise messaging software) shows how this can be done day-to-day. (Note to readers: all of these companies are Convince & Convert clients. However, I did not set up or advise on this program)
Once you and your family and friends have returned to dry land following an awesome Grand Canyon rafting trip - or similar adventure, the RESMARK system (powered by ExactTarget) automatically sends you an email, asking you to share your story and photos. The email is well-designed, personalized, and compelling. So much so, that 49% of recipients take the time to write about their experiences on a website form Western River provides.
The contents of this form are scanned by the Western River team, and are then posted (usually within minutes) to the company's blog, which resides on the Compendium Blogware software. Compendium is a uniquely powerful blogging platform because it creates separate, "compended" blogs for each keyword. Thus, Western River doesn't really have one blog, it has hundreds of keyword-focused blogs. Consequently, if someone searches for "Colorado River Whitewater Rafting" on Google, they'll likely find that version of the Western River blog, which contains only posts about "Colorado River Whitewater Rafting". The software automatically harvests and organizes topically similar posts for maximum search effectiveness.
Virality, Quick and Easy
Once the stories are approved and posted on the blog, RESMARK automatically triggers another email, notifying the author and asking them to share the story on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. This of course creates a mini viral effect, as trip participants invite their friends, family, and desk-bound colleagues to check out their tales of whitewater adventure, dining al fresco, and sparkling waterfalls.
Since April, 2010 Western River has collected more than 1,100 of these customer stories. And once the system was set up and the business rules determined, the company spends almost no time managing the program. "We scan the stories before pushing them live on the blog, and we of course interact with guests and previous guests on Facebook and other places, but it's very little work day-to-day." said Brandon Lake, Vice President of Western River.
More Work Upfront, Less Ongoing
What I love about this program (in addition to the eye-popping results):
- It's rooted in helpfulness, not marketing. Guests want to share their story. RESMARK and Western River is enabling that with a well-timed email nudge.
- It gives fans an appropriate assignment. The story collection form doesn't require a manifesto, video clip, haiku or any other content hijinks. Guests type their story - upload a photo if they want - add their name and address. That's it.
- It turns advocates into volunteer marketers. Each story shared becomes new content for the blog. That content helps the company with SEO, and also builds a real-time, living FAQ of customer testimonials and insights.
- It makes sharing simple. As Brian Solis has written about a lot, social optimization needs to be simple. You have to ask for sharing behavior in a relevant, contextual, streamlined fashion. With the second "your story is live, now share it" email and links, Western River is doing this perfectly.
- It punches a hole in the theory that social media and content creation success has to be a huge time commitment. This program definitely required some set up and integration work that goes well beyond the norm. But after that, Western River spends a few minutes a day on oversight and interaction, freeing up the rest of their time to actually run their core business. RESMARK has now packaged the integration, making it available to other tour operators globally.
As I've written several times, the people in your company responsible for email, and the people responsible for social media should be the same people. Remember, the first step in social media effectiveness shouldn't be building an empire of half-baked, free-standing social outposts, but rather determining had to add social frosting to your existing marketing cake.
How are you integrating social media into other programs? Sound off in the comments, and maybe we'll put together another post with great examples.