Integrating Social Networking with DRTV

Integrating Social Networking with DRTV

Article by Tim Hawthorne

You’d be hard pressed to find a marketer who hasn’t used popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning to stretch its advertising dollars. Whether they are broadcasting 140-character updates on Twitter, posting photos from recent company events on their Facebook walls, or responding to customer comments on Ning, companies across all industries are realizing the value of this broad-reaching, and extremely affordable, channel.

According to market research firm eMarketer, in social network advertising, all roads lead to Facebook. eMarketer forecasts that it will have billion in ad revenues worldwide in 2011. Twitter is expected to attract 0 million in spending. In total, worldwide social network spending is expected to reach almost billion this year. That’s a big chunk of change for a medium that just 10 years ago didn’t even exist.

DRTV and social networking play particularly well together due to the direct nature of both. Through short-form commercials and infomercials, DRTV speaks directly to consumers and urges them to take action. Using even shorter, more concise methods, social networkers are taking a similar approach by engaging past, current and prospective customers online.

In many cases, social networking serves as a viable and cheap adjunct to DRTV campaigns, which have historically been supported by retail- and web-based extensions of themselves. Throw sites like Twitter and Facebook into the mix, and DRTV’s value proposition becomes that much stronger. Create short, online videos from existing infomercials and short-form spots and link them into your social networking messages and updates, and you can stretch your original investment even further.

And while social networking as a marketing convention is still nascent, and really has yet to be figured out completely, the process behind it is pretty simple: you put stuff on the sites, share it with your “friends” or “followers,” who then turn into viral marketers for your firm by sharing the great stuff with their own networks via tweets, walls and other methods. Aside from the time it takes to update and upload the information, there’s very little left for the marketer to do (or, invest in).

Then the real fun begins, for unlike traditional TV, magazine, radio or newspaper advertising, social networking is a two-way street. It engages customers in real conversation. It also expands your horizons for personalizing important business components like customer service; helps you conduct focus groups in an affordable, fast manner; and seamlessly links into the growing mobile marketing movement.

Like anything, integrating social networking into a DRTV campaign takes some work. It’s not enough to simply create a Twitter or Facebook account and sit back while the sales pour in. For social media to work, you must persuade fellow networkers to follow and find you; link up with your site/profile; view your information, photos and videos; interact with you; and share everything with their own networks.

Getting there takes engaging content – something that most direct marketers are already equipped with. It also takes some creativity, and a willingness to put time into “getting social” online on a regular (usually daily, and in some cases hourly) basis. On Twitter, creating sales-oriented tweets requires extraordinary creativity, since the space is limited to 140 characters and multiple entries on the same subject are unwelcome.

As you develop and hone your company’s social networking strategy, and integrate it with your DRTV in a meaningful way, remember that your ultimate goal is to solicit customer feedback and actions. Borrow a page from companies like PepsiCo, Starbucks and Kraft, all of which have intertwined social media marketing into their advertising portfolios. By making their content engaging, interesting and worth sharing, these companies have become pros at getting their customers to become active and engaged product advocates in their online social networking world.

About the Author

Author of over 200 published articles, Tim Hawthorne is Chairman and CEO of Hawthorne Direct, a full service DRTV and New Media ad agency founded in 1986. Since then, Hawthorne has produced or managed over 800 Direct Response TV campaigns for clients such as 3M, Black & Decker, Braun, Discover Card, Time-Life, Nissan, Lawn Boy, Nikon, Oreck, Bose and Feed the Children. Tim is a co-founder of the Electronic Retailing Association, has delivered over 100 speeches worldwide and is the author of the definitive DRTV book The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing. A cum laude graduate of Harvard, Tim was honored with the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) in 2006.

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