Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Equation's leap into the world of social media

As noted in our 2009 Marketing Industry Trends Study, social media is here to stay; as the large majority of brands and advertisers are currently implementing SM or planning to in the near future.

What follows is our experience entering the world of Web 2.0 and how with a little bit of luck and some great guidance, we were able to to succeed in using social media to help build the Equation brand and create some very positive buzz for the company. We hope that any companies considering a similar leap will find our story useful and maybe even a little inspiring.

Entering the world of Web 2.0 - Where to start?

The first (and probably best) step that Equation Research took when looking for a good way to use Social Media to promote our brand was to partner with someone who truly understands the space. An introduction to Christina Kerley (CK), a marketing strategist and social media specialist, helped us to think about Social Media as a way to truly engage our audience as opposed to a means to broadcast a marketing message. That distinction is key and may seem obvious until you realize just how many companies out there are simply using Social Media as another marketing ‘channel’ to distribute what really amounts to advertising. If not for CK, we may have been destined to go that route as well.

How to best engage a B2B audience?

Learning the tools of Social Media is an important, but not particularly difficult step. Anyone can start a blog, set up a Facebook page or send a tweet, but the real challenge was in finding a way to connect with our target audience. As a brand and advertising research company, we needed to find a way to start a conversation with marketers and do it in a way that created real value for them.

The solution was to put a unique twist on the Marketing Industry Trends study that Equation runs each year. In previous years, we would create the questions, field a survey among advertising and marketing professionals, analyze the results and provide the respondents with a summary at the end.

In 2009, we directly engaged the marketing community by allowing them to create the survey questions and decide on the key issues that they wanted to see answered by their peers. CK was able to facilitate this effort via her column on the marketing website www.marketingprofs.com and the feedback was outstanding! To our knowledge, this was the first time that a study was designed by and for the community it’s targeting.

The results

The community was genuinely excited about the idea and marketers embraced the crowdsourced approach to research. The focus of the questions suggested by the community was largely on Social Media and other emerging marketing tactics. From there, Equation’s job was easy – to select the questions that best represented what the community was asking and to deliver a great report when we were already assured that the audience would find the content both interesting and important.

After releasing the results exclusively to the MarketingProfs readers who created the questions, it was truly wonderful to see the study take on a life of its own. Apart from a press release , a blog post and a few tweets, Equation was best served by staying out of the way as marketers and readers shared the study with their peers, colleagues and friends using a variety of social networking tools.

The study results (along with some very positive mentions of Equation) appeared in numerous articles and dozens of marketing industry blog posts, including some of the most well-read Social Media blogs. Equation also created a landing page where anyone interested in the study could go to download the report and give their permission to be contacted by Equation – on an ongoing basis or for an immediate research need.

Overall the effort was a tremendous brand building success for Equation, resulting in hundreds of fresh connections in our target market as well as some great immediate new business prospects. And, some kind words from CK:

“Through their community-directed research study, Equation’s approach to engaging online audiences provides a prime example (and best practice) for all companies entering the Social Web. Equation Research involved the community at the outset of the project and then created a thorough set of data and findings that community members could use to improve their own work. Equation’s research work is impressive… and their marketing practices equally so.”
--Christina “CK” Kerley

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