If you want to establish a social media strategy it is important that the implications of this strategy are well understood, as, unlike normal marketing practice, there is very little control over the outcomes should the horse bolt from the gate. You just never know what may happen!
If you do choose to participate in social media and social network marketing, you owe it to yourself and your followers to engage in meaningful two-way communication. If you don’t reciprocate and participate, your online reputation may be tarnished and your hard-earned following will become worthless.
Don’t obsess about gathering more followers than Paris Hilton, because social media is not a numbers game – it’s all about quality of relationships. It’s better to have a smaller circle and work it actively, than to have thousands of followers and never interact with them.
And if you choose not to participate in social media, at least make the effort to keep your ear to the e-ground. The influence that social media can exert on brands is astounding, so you ignore it at your own peril.
Some tips on how to use social networking to best advantage
1. Let the network establish it’s own level . . . resist the urge to dictate the rules or topic content. You can suggest topics or start a topic conversation, but don’t try and control it.
2. Let consumers have freedom of expression . . . if clients talk freely about their business issues, there may be some hidden gems there that you haven’t thought of.
3. Apply client feedback to show you have listened . . . it’s a great tool to learn what they want, gives you on the spot market intelligence, to be well equipped to improve your service offering or create new ones. Instantaneous product demand!
4. Have long term conversations . . . treat your relationships with consumers as long-term conversations. Don’t just devise short term programmes that open up the conversation for brief periods. Figure out how to become “friends” with your clients. Friends talk to each other, over the long haul.
5. Bring clients into your inner circle . . . product planning meetings no longer are limited to the ideas of yourself or your staff. Use social marketing techniques to identify core enthusiasts, early adopters and identify dissenters to tap into their ideas.
6. Encourage participation . . . offer incentives to get people off the sidelines rather than passively watching the interactions with others. You want greater numbers of engaged customers. They’re the ones who are most loyal to you, and will buy more.
7. View your clients in a different light . . . “old fashioned” marketing communication methods may have treated your clients as “dumb” buyers or recipients of what you offered. But now they have power, to talk back and broadcast their opinions about the your brand. You have no choice but to treat them more carefully, and with more respect than you may have in the past.
8. Don’t cover up mistakes . . . when things go wrong, or make false excuses or get defensive. Recognize that your audience now has the power to “out” your mistakes. Be open and honest, and make a commitment to learning from these mistakes. If you pretend that nothing is wrong, your clients may turn on you – using your own website (and the rest of the Internet) to spread the disdain. Don’t try to spin bad news. You’re not a politician!
9. Interact, don’t sell . . . ask your clients to participate intelligently in the online social community. ie. Bad = posting a press release about your new product. Good = share pre-release news of an upcoming offering and offer sneak previews to selected enthusiasts within your online community, asking them to be reviewers.
10. Serve up passion . . . what do your clients care most about? You want to create interactive, participative online communities around what they are most interested in and passionate about. Social media marketing is in serving this passion.
11. Leverage any of your partners or affiliates as online community leaders . . . while social media is all about people talking to people (and people talking to brands), social online communities can benefit from leaders guiding the conversation and encouraging people to participate. So get people within and affiliated with you to join the conversation. Company executives, employees and affiliates. Try and find some “famous” people in your industry to offer up some content and hold a discussion forum.