American Marketer


Social media marketing means talking with consumers, not at them: study

January 21, 2011

Social media is important for luxury brands


An Alterian study, which found that less than one-third of companies have a strong understanding of social media conversations happening around their brand, has some very important implications for luxury marketers.

The problem lies in the disconnects in the data between how engaged marketers said they actually were with the social media conversations happening around their brand versus how at risk they claimed they are.

“For example, the relatively low percentage who state they are analyzing their data, personalizing their Web sites and emails yet the majority feel their brands are only somewhat or not at all at risk,” said Donnell Wright, director of global research and insights a well as sales support at Alterian, Chicago.

“It’s surprising that so many marketers don’t seem to realize that their customers are both evaluating the quality of their relationships through the filter of all the relationships they have with brands but are also participating in raising the bar as to their expectations about the quality of their interactions based on all the interactions they have online and through their utilization of social media,” she said.

“In addition, the apparent lack of planning and control that marketers appear to have based on their limited use of metrics was another key finding.”

Alterian’s 8th annual survey polled nearly 1,500 marketers, agencies, marketing service providers and systems integrators from across the globe. This year’s topic, “How Engaged is Your Brand?” examined marketing expenditure, social media measurement and the level of personalization across digital channels.

Key findings

Seven in 10 respondents indicated they have very little to no understanding (31 percent) or use a few ad-hoc tools to track and measure social media conversations (39 percent).

Almost 80 percent are concerned their brand is at risk from not being as engaged with customers, or failing to have a good grasp of how online conversations are impacting their brand.

The majority said they recognize the problem areas and are taking actions to fix them, such as dedicating a larger portion of the marketing budget toward the social and digital space.

Still, a large portion of marketers appear to be limited in analytical competency, meaning they have no analytical experience concerning digital media (6 percent), stop at the basic analytical level (29 percent) or struggle to tie analytics back to the campaign strategy (28 percent).


A large portion of marketers focus on creating a customized brand experience for at least one channel – Web site, direct mail, email, social media – with only 9 percent admitting to not personalizing any channel.

One-third use their company Web site as a corporate brochure, while more than half (55 percent) concentrate on offers and campaigns to specifically drive Web site interaction.

What’s surprising is that only a small number of marketers (11 percent) tailor each Web site visitor’s experience.


Alterian’s findings indicate that a mass-marketing strategy is still considered the norm by many. Marketers, both luxury and non-luxury, need to focus on improving their Web site and email engagement strategy through message customization.

Message customization should be based on individual preferences and needs and not on a specific segment.

Apparently, the study’s findings indicate that many marketers understand the importance of personalization in email marketing.

In fact, 43 percent say they use some type of segmentation strategy to deliver specific email messages to each audience, although only a small portion (13 percent) deliver emails based on preferences at the individual customer level.

Brands need to set up a framework for measuring and evaluating your marketing efforts across all channels – not just social media, to determine how to best leverage the social channel as part of a multichannel strategy,” Ms. Wright said.

“Brands have to realize that social media conversations are happening about them regardless of whether or not the brand engages in them,” she said. “Letting these happen without your involvement puts your brand’s health into other people’s hands.

“Social media conversations break a brand when customers feel things are going wrong and create negative campaigns that catch mainstream media attention. Social media conversations make a brand when the channel leveraged as an interactive relationship between the customer and the brand.”


So, what should luxury marketers be doing to manage the social media conversations happening around their brands?

First, luxury markets should take a step back and look at their overall marketing strategy.

“Are you interacting with your customers or are you really just talking at them?” Ms. Wright said. “Figure out how your customers want to engage with you. Talk to them. Look at who else they are talking to and about.

“Use that information to define your utilization of each channel to figure out the highest and best use of each channel for your brand and your customer relationships,” she said. “Then work across all internal departments to develop a cohesive marketing strategy and the key performance metrics that you will use to track and measure your performance.”