Dan Zarrella is an award-winning social media and viral marketing scientist, writer, and speaker. His new book is The Social Media Marketing Book. In this interview I try to pin him down and tell me when to use specific social media platforms, services and practices to run a business.
Question: If you could use only one service to market a product, which one would it be?
Answer: It would probably be Facebook because it has a larger user base than other sites like Twitter. For most products a good chunk, if not the majority of your target market, is already on Facebook, and you can easily set up a page to start building and interacting with a community of your fans. For more advanced efforts, Facebook also allows a marketer with some development resources to go a step further and create an application to improve how their target customers interact with each other.
Question: Backing up, when should a company focus on a website?
Answer: Investing in a site is typically one of the first things a company would do when looking at the web for marketing, and I’d agree that it’s a smart idea to build one early in the process. The cost of building a site is so low that it should be a no-brainer. However, it is possible for a company to only have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but no website.
Question: When should a company focus on a blog?
Answer: In many cases a well-developed blog is the most important aspect of a social media marketing effort. The hub of a brand’s social media presence should be their blog since it provides conversational social media content, as well as plenty of opportunities to integrate other social channels.
Question: When should a company focus on Twitter?
Answer: One of my favorite uses of Twitter is for customer service and support. The example I find myself using a lot is Comcast. I live in South Boston and we have a big St. Patrick’s Day parade where the whole town comes and hangs out. Generally everyone is in a great mood and cheers for every float going by.
One year during the parade I remember a Comcast van rolled by, and everyone booed. It was like this great social catharsis where everyone was expressing their displeasure with Comcast’s notoriously bad customer experience. On Twitter, though, the “ComcastCares” account has engaged customers that end with the customer saying, “I wish every company dealt with their customers like Comcast does.” That’s incredible, a simple Twitter conversation can turn one of the worst customer experiences into one of the best.
Question: When should a company focus on Facebook?
Answer: Investing in a Facebook presence should come early in any social media marketing efforts. It costs very little in terms of time, and nothing in terms of money to set up a Facebook page for your brand. Plus, you can leverage existing blog, Twitter and YouTube content to keep it updated with fresh content. When one of my friends becomes a fan of a company’s page, news of that action shows up in their news feed, and I see it, too. The validation of that company’s brand resulting from that action is invaluable and doesn’t come quite as easily on other social media platforms.
Question: What companies would you hold up as excellent examples of marketing use of a website? Blog? Twitter? Facebook? YouTube?
Answer: The earlier Comcast example is one of my favorites. Blendtec’s series of “Will it Blend” videos is a great example of “outsmarting, not outspending” the competition, and I love the story about how Coke handled a fan-created Facebook group that became extremely popular.
Question: What’s more powerful: a “Digg” or a “retweet?”
Answer: When you’re looking at one Digg versus one retweet, I’d say a retweet is far more valuable. If I Digg something, there’s very little chance that many of my friends will notice. On the other hand, if I retweet it, most of them will. However, in the aggregate, a few hundred Diggs can add up to a front-page story and tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of views and links.
Question: What do you think of repeating a tweet multiple times during a day to reach different audiences?
Answer: I’ve seen some popular accounts do this, and it’s particularly off-putting. But it’s a tactic to be approached with care. If you have some content that you think is really awesome, and it got a few retweets the first time you shared it, don’t be afraid to post it again at a different time of day. But watch for people complaining about this and be ready to respond to feedback and tweak your approach. And don’t do it for every tweet.
Question: What are the key elements that make people retweet a tweet?
Answer: Most retweets contain a link, and many contain a direct “call to action” in the form of “please retweet.” Idle chitchat doesn’t get retweeted very often, but noun-heavy headline style posts do. Breaking news often does very well, too.
Question: What do you think of Apple’s absence from any social media marketing whatsoever?
Answer: It’s hard to find fault in Apple’s marketing strategy because they’ve done so well with it. They’ve done a great job at motivating their fans to do their social media marketing for them. Steve Jobs and the whole organization have really dug into the “us vs. them” angle and have made it work.
One of my favorite lessons from studying urban legends and gossip is the “Goliath Effect.” This is where people tend to side with the underdog when they’re pitted against, or being picked on, by a larger organization, and it is very prevalent in social media marketing. Microsoft was the best thing to happen to Apple’s brand.
Question: If you could invest in Twitter, Facebook, or Digg, which would you choose and why?
Answer: If I had more faith in Digg’s ability to get acquired or turn big profits, I’d pick them since I have the feeling they have less dilution at this point. If this was a few years ago, Facebook would be the obvious choice, but in reality I’d pick Twitter right now.
I feel like Twitter has the chance to become a dominant communication platform like email, rather than “just another” social media site like Facebook or YouTube. If they can figure out a way to let third parties continue to innovate using their platform while monetizing it, they’re going to be one of the most successful businesses in the history of computing.