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Web marketing—Chart a winning course with social media

Social media is enabling companies to expand their Web marketing efforts at a minimal cost and more quickly than with traditional advertising. Consumers can be engaged now as “fans” to promote a company’s products and services, and companies can track the effectiveness of different Web marketing efforts.

The battery manufacturer Rayovac has always focused on mothers as the target consumer. “They make most of the household purchasing decisions,” explains David Carlson, creative director at Rayovac, who adds that mothers are the primary users of social media tools. So when new executives assumed key positions at the beginning of the year, they decided to make “mommy bloggers” the target of their initial venture into social media marketing. But before undertaking the venture, Rayovac engaged a partner to handle the social media-based marketing campaign and analytics.

Carlson learned from a former colleague about Shoutlet, a social media marketing platform that provides tools to build and monitor marketing campaigns using combinations of widgets, video, RSS feeds and e-mail through a single dashboard.

“They had the correct tools for us and a good roadmap for the future,” Carlson says. “We were looking for a firm that could provide us with relevant visitor outreach. We can roll with as many of their social media tools at one time as we reach.”

The first social media outreach for Rayovac through Shoutlet was providing 200 targeted bloggers with $3 off “coupons” that the bloggers could easily add to their pages. The bloggers didn’t receive any compensation, but offered the discounts as a service to their readership, according to Carlson.

Clicking on the coupon brought the consumer to the Rayovac home page. The redemption rate was 33 percent, far higher than other coupon campaigns. “Within 48 hours, we had 5,000 Facebook fans. We had only 200 when we started,” Carlson says.

However, the campaign also provided a tough lesson. The coupons were in a PDF format, with only an expiration date. Some people printed off several copies, according to Carlson, so subsequent campaigns have had ceilings on the total number of coupons that consumers can redeem.

Through the Shoutlet tools, Rayovac also places online “commercials,” tracking which bloggers use them and their effectiveness by tracing the origination of Web site hits.

Engines provide results

While Rayovac is focusing its social media efforts on bloggers, others are using social media engines as the core of their Web marketing efforts. Zu Audio, a provider of high-end speakers and cables for music buffs, doesn’t have any retail locations, and instead uses a direct-to-consumer model to sell its products, relying on its Web site to drive sales.

But when Kristian Pettengill joined the company as its new CEO in the middle of 2010, he wanted to expand sales without a large additional investment in marketing. A low-cost marketing campaign was seen as critical for the launch of the Omen, the company’s first sub-$1,000 speaker, during the second half of the year.

“We’re a small company with limited resources,” Pettengill says. “I look at Internet advertising as a spider web, with our website at the center. Social media helps us expand the reach of our website.”

“Rather than sending out announcements to an e-mail list of customers, you just update your Twitter account and it automatically goes out to everyone who is following you on Twitter,” Pettengill says. “Then they can retweet it, and it spreads like wildfire across Twitter.”

So Pettengill looked for a marketing firm that would help him use social media effectively, including analysis of sales leads and lead conversions. He found AgencyQ, a marketing and technology company, whose CEO, Tim Neill, is a music fan.

The first step was a new microsite that AgencyQ developed for Zu Audio featuring the new Omen speakers. The microsite feeds into Zu Audio’s website. Using the free version of HootSuite, one of many available social media management tools, all the marketing firm has to do is post an update on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and the other social media engines are updated automatically. There are several other social media engines, but those three were seen as being the most effective for reaching Zu Audio customers and target prospects.

Using another free tool, Google Analytics, AgencyQ tracks leads, reposts and retweets, as well as conversions to sales. That information helps Pettengill determine shifts in marketing strategy.

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