Can you apply the spirit of social media to other marketing channels?
At this year’s SMX East, after my presentation on Landing Page Usefulness—emphasizing a “usefulness” mission over “usability” tactics—it struck me: great landing pages can bring many of the ideals of social media to paid search marketing campaigns.
Here are five principles of social media marketing that can energize your landing page program:
1. Engage in specific conversations, not generic one-size-fits-all talk.
When a company engages in social media, the worst thing it can do is echo canned, cut-and-paste responses to every incoming comment. It’s painful just to imagine! Yet many paid search marketing campaigns commit that very faux pas: a user clicks on a keyword/ad combination with a specific promise, and then they are unceremoniously tossed to a general-purpose page. Such “message mismatch” between keywords/ads and their associated landing pages damages brands and hobbles conversion rates.
The reason I advocate deploying dozens—or even hundreds—of landing pages is because doing so lets you deliver focused and well-matched introductory dialogues with respondents, framed in their terms. As I said in my presentation, the goal is have respondents exclaim, “thank you, that was exactly what I was looking for!”
It’s not about optimizing one page to rule them all—an illusory, marketer-centric fantasy—but deploying many separate pages that each speak authentically to their niche. That’s the kind of respect that honest social media marketing shows to people reaching out to you, and a good landing page strategy can live up to the spirit of that goal.
2. Embrace “constant content,” continually releasing new ideas out into the world.
From blogging to tweeting, the engine of social media is the frequent generation of content. Hopefully it doesn’t take a committee or half a dozen pairs of hands to put up a new blog post or to update your Facebook fan page. The incentives in social media are to be fast, prolific, experimental, relevant and real.
The same tenets should apply to landing pages.
Sometimes, when I suggest that people should publish dozens or hundreds of landing pages, I get a look of incredulity: how could we ever create so many landing pages? Yet organizations who embrace social media marketing produce 10-times as much content without breaking a sweat. The resistance to such agile production of landing pages is often a hang-up from the bygone days of long-cycle web development. Today, deploying new landing pages should be as easy as—maybe even easier than—posting to your blog.
If you have a good content management system (CMS), a nice collection of page design templates, a shared library of images, maybe a few reusable Flash components, and a standardized mechanism for data collection and analytics tracking, then you’re ready to crank out landing pages on demand. And if you don’t have all of those pieces yet, none of them are particularly difficult to put in place.
3. Harness fast feedback to learn about your audience.
Arguably the best feature of social media is that it lets you tap into candid and immediate feedback from your market, albeit in an unstructured manner. It’s a wonderful environment to put ideas out into the community and quickly gauge reaction.
However, you can also solicit a different kind of feedback—more quantifiable and more directly connected to sales—through rapid experimentation with landing pages and keyword buys. Participation is more predictable with such PPC experiments, and the results can be easily benchmarked against your e-commerce or lead funnel metrics. It’s a small, low-risk investment that can help you discover big wins.
Struck with a novel theory about an unaddressed customer segment over your morning coffee? Don’t just hypothesize about it or file it for the next quarterly planning meeting. Launch a targeted search ad and tightly matched landing page for it before lunch and have real-world feedback by the next day. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can test and tweak as you go along—an ongoing feedback loop.
Ads and landing pages also lend themselves to A/B tests, in a more controlled fashion than variations in social media tactics. If you structure your tests with good hypotheses, you can learn a lot about audience preferences and personas.
4. Open up a dialogue by asking relevant questions—and respecting the answers.
Social media is a conversation, not a soliloquy. People can ask questions, usually quite informally, to help identify the content or information that’s most relevant to their interests. This allows a single discussion to adapt itself to many different participants.
A similar dynamic can be achieved with landing pages. Sometimes, you have to field clicks from keywords/ads that appeal to several different segments of respondents. Instead of reducing the specificity of your content to a bland common denominator—the ill-fated, one-page-to-rule-them-all approach—start by offering them a few meaningful choices. Are you more interested in A, B, or C? Based on their one-click selection, you then deliver more detailed content that’s tailored to their needs.
This technique is known as multi-step landing pages or conversion paths. It can be a tremendous source of feedback, especially when you test different types of choices. However, it’s crucial that the choices genuinely help respondents find what is most useful to them—you want segmentation that benefits users, not just marketers. Remember, we’re striving for that “thank you, that was exactly what I was looking for” effect.
5. Champion transparency and authenticity over cleverness and technology.
The essence of social media is its authenticity, plain and simple. You can try to manipulate it with gimmicks and complicated machinery, but such machinations tend to fall flat. People love what’s real in social media, not what’s artificially crafted to appear real. Human trust is more important than plastic perfection.
Certainly this holds true with landing pages as well. There’s no shortage of sophisticated software you can use to dynamically alter your pages to users based on their IP address or behavioral profile. You can layer rules upon rules to calculate the optimal offer for each respondent. But inevitably, such overly processed experiences lose their authenticity.
Similarly, you can play UI tricks to try to force people to engage with your page (e.g., you must fill out this form before continuing!), but it’s almost always more of a turn-off than a successful hard-sell tactic. If you’re going to remove your regular navigation choices from a landing page, do so because it helps eliminate clutter for a respondent in that context—but still always give them an option to easily jump to your main site.
Be genuine, creative, open, and enthusiastic in your landing pages, and you will win more converts.
Landing pages, like social media, are something that you get better at by doing. So release your inhibitions and make more landing pages.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.