About the Author: Jason Small is a digital marketer with 10+ years of digital experience working with 20+ brands via various agency roles. Small's expertise includes broad digital strategy, social media strategy, SEO, website design and development and he has led teams to produce results for brands online such as Peoples Choice Awards, ChapStick, Centrum, Dial, Honeywell, Renuzit, Castrol, Sears, Hertz, CoverGirl, John Deere, Advil, ThermaCare and more. As Director of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development for a fifty-person startup, Small led initiatives uniting value propositions and technology across 10+ companies while generating press in trades like TechCrunch and the Wall Street Journal.
1. Consider cause-related initiatives.
Cause related initiatives build momentum as users pass along information in order to support the core cause. Brand affinity, as a measured component of the program, is secondary to the audience and therefore becomes more ‘acceptable’ as shared content. This opens the gate for users to share freely among friends in their social network, expanding the reach and effectiveness of the campaign. In short, the ‘cause’ makes the association with the ‘brand’ acceptable to participants. They don’t mind a Hewlit Packard logo if it means classrooms will be getting much needed books and materials, as in this excellent social media campaign by HP.
2. Always listen.
Listen to what your fans and users are talking about. You may not always like what you are hearing, but this is the evolution of the connection between brands/businesses and consumers. Think of it as having access to a focus group of generally positive consumers. If they aren’t positive, find out why and explore how to address it. If you aren’t sure how to address it – ask.
Okay, some legal department staff members are reading this and laughing, “Ya, we are a worldwide brand with 2 million fans on Facebook and you want us to ask them how to fix something?” Yes. Who better to tell you? Look at the difference in consumer response when you compare companies that address issues, and those that deny they even exist. AT&T is finally making some efforts to address consumer complaints about service failures, after months (and longer) of making excuses. One way they are addressing such a large problem is by releasing an app called “Mark the Spot” allowing users to mark the location where service problems occur.
Listen to your consumers. It is an opportunity.
3. Encourage the conversation.
Show your listeners you can be a part of the conversation without getting in the way. Ask relevant questions to things they care about – even if it may sometimes by out of your industry. Michelin publishes guides that review restaurants – while tires cannot be perpetually relevant, these guides often generate a growing amount of press, and now that is translating into Michelin’s social media.
4. When possible, let your fans respond to negative comments.
A consumer defending your product is much more powerful and acceptable, than a direct communication from a company to a consumer. This immediately activates a ‘David and Goliath’ perspective in the minds of some media-watchers, and even if you are right – it won’t matter because you are the 800-pound gorilla.
Change is the innovator of progress – even if all you are able to do is creatively ‘refresh’ your social media presence with new graphics treatments – do so. It keeps away the ‘stale’ appearance of a static brand. Coca-Cola’s Facebook Fan Page does a great job of refresh their Facebook Fan Page Custom Landing Tab on a regular basis.
6. Admit mistakes.
When you make a mistake, even as a brand, use it as an opportunity to respond and leverage the attention to demonstrate your willingness to do better for your consumers and make things right. It won’t make everyone happy – you can’t. But it will help a great deal, and can actually produce more loyal-consumers. Jet Blue’s social media customer service and responses to past PR emergencies are great examples.
7. Help influencers discover themselves.
Why not ask your community for brand-loyal people to step forward and offer their influence? Find a tactful way to audit their influence – perhaps by their geographic location, or personal network. But be very careful with this activity, as you may receive interest from a few that wouldn’t convert into worthwhile ambassadors – but you still have to treat them all like the valuable assets they are. Otherwise, you could turn a positive ambassador into a sour consumer. Also consider ‘intensity’ of your advocates. Having one intense ambassador is much better than two half-hearted ambassadors.
8. Consolidate your fan base.
Look for loosely organized or pre-existing groups that may have already been created, if you have a large brand. It is perfectly possible (we have done it for some of our clients) to launch a community (i.e. Facebook Fan Page) with thousands or even tens-of-thousands of fans from day one. We recommend sending the organizers of those groups a gift, and requesting the migration of the entire group into your official brand community.
9. Recognize that this is not interruption marketing.
For the few people who haven’t heard the message yet: don’t speak to your audience like they are watching TV and you have 30 seconds to sell them. Social media communication is a conversation. Try to remember how you feel when a salesman knocks on your door – these users have let your brand or business into their personal network, and therefore opened the potential for you to communicate with their friends. This means you went from no direct relationship with the consumer, to an opt-in channel of communication – they are giving you a chance to show why they should keep in touch. Don’t give them a reason to disconnect, give them more reasons to engage with others in your group or social community.
10. Derive insights.
Many frustrated marketers complain that there are no social media ROI measurement tools and that social media is not nearly as powerful as all the hype surrounding it. Social media is largely derivative – in other words, if you don’t ask or engage – no one will talk. It’s like having the phone number of a great business contact and never dialing because you are too afraid to call. Call. Sometimes the answer will be ‘no,’ and sometimes it will be ‘maybe.’ Sometimes it will even be ‘yes’ – but it is common sense that it is networking that builds businesses and sales. Try throwing your phone away and not communicating. Then try to land a job after 6 months. You become irrelevant if you don’t engage. You now have the opportunity to stop listening to what a marketing team ‘thinks’ your consumers want – and can instead ask the consumers directly. Social media is largely derivative, and if you aren’t intelligently deriving insights through engagement and conversation, than you are missing the golden opportunity at your fingertips.
What other great strategies and best practices can you contribute?
Social Media and the Big W
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