You will be hard-pressed to find someone who does not think that social media should play a vital role in a complete marketing strategy. The next question is what does that role look like and how do I ensure success that goes beyond making sure that the Facebook logo is on my home page?
Social media presents an amazing opportunity for businesses of all types, but we believe that you have to have the right perspective on what that opportunity actually is. If you have spent time, money and resources to add social media focus to your marketing strategy and feel skeptical about the results, this post may be for you.
I came across a powerful quote by author and social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, that will drive home the point of this post. “Social media is not a fad because it’s human.” Social media is the opportunity for a conversation, with all the benefits that a conversation can bring. As with any healthy conversation, you have to be willing to both talk and listen. Like most digital agencies, we have clients who have merely set up a Facebook page and a Youtube channel. It is not surprising that those companies are not convinced that social media is the future because they have seen little in the way of results. In that approach, it is like saying hello and then sticking your fingers in your ears when they want to talk. The first goal in social media has to be a great conversation. If it is not, your audience will smell it a mile away and may “like” you, but they won’t love you. If you value the conversation over any other direct result, you will find benefits that go a lot further than leads. Oh and you will get the leads too.
The following are three things that you can do to “start the conversation” and build a platform that will produce results:
Make a plan
It is better to wait and do it right than to jump out there and miss the opportunity to truly engage the first batch of users that come to you. Remember, the goal is not a “like” but a conversation. To make that happen, you will need a plan that is not only comprehensive but creative. A social media audit is a great place to start so that you can not only discover gaps that exist but also see where people may already be talking about you. For example, you may discover that people are already saying good or bad things about you on Yelp, Yahoo or Google. You need to know that and listen to what they are saying. In the past, many companies paid good money for that information. Now you can have that information for the cost of your time to go and get it. If you don’t have time, pay someone to do it. That same company can help you make a plan to address the gaps that exist.
There is a lot of data out there to support that the majority of conversations go unanswered by the very companies that started them. If you have a Facebook page, look at your wall and go as far back as you have to and connect with those people. Search for your brand on Twitter and spend some time looking for messages that you can respond to. The messages may not be directly to you but you can still jump in and say something. Even if the post and tweet was not negative, start with an authentic apology like you would if someone was on hold for six days because that may be how they felt. People are very forgiving. And if you do it right, they will likely tell someone and say something like, “wow, they must be making some great changes over there. If you find feedback on Yelp or Yahoo, register, claim your profile, and start talking. You will learn some great stuff about blindspots you may have in your offering and you may even win back some customers. As you make changes, build a plan to overcome the bad reviews with good ones. Once you are through this initial wave of activity, find people in your organization that you trust and delegate the maintenance of those conversations. If they make mistakes, and they likely will, use the mistake as a training opportunity. There will be a price to pay initially but it will get better over time.
Avoid posting infomercials on Facebook and Twitter. No one likes a commercial unless it is really funny and you probably cannot compete with the budget of P&G. Discover what you can offer for free that will be valued by your clients. It may be a great article or a whitepaper. You might ask an interesting survey question that can communicate that you are trying to make your offering better. This may require adding a budget line item for these giveways but it should be worth it in the long run if you stay committed. Even if the effort is a total loss, you will learn a lot and will have the information needed to build a better plan next year, or next quarter! Things are moving fast.
There is so much more to talk about but if you start here, you can only win if you value the journey and the honest conversations. As you head down this path, new information will open doors that you didn’t even know existed.