Social Media for beginners
Social Media Marketing involves finding out where your customers are online and engaging with them on their terms.
Social media is a broad term that covers all kinds of sites where most of the content is generated and controlled by users. The most well-known examples include Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter and blogs and forums of all kinds. However, this is one of the most dynamic areas of the internet and new models and ways of interacting are developing all the time.
The cornerstones of an effective Social Media strategy are targeting, regular consumer interaction and an understanding of the rules of the game. To begin with, try and think about who your core audience is. Is your product likely to have enthusiasts? If so, where do they congregate online? If enthusiasts is too strong a word, what about advocates? If you can find them and they are currently silent, give them something to shout about. If they’re already vocal, amplify it. Alternatively, you might be running a start-up, in which case your advocates are waiting to be made.
The Rules of the Game
The rules of the game dictate that if you are interacting in a particular social network and you have a commercial interest in said interaction, you need to be pretty sure you’ll be adding value to the community. Otherwise, prepare to be ‘flamed’ or branded as a ‘troll’. You can avoid this by asking for permission from community moderators and being honest about who you are.
Having tracked down your current or potential advocates, make them feel special by giving them a discount, or let them know about new product launches first, always speaking to them on a personal level. One way of reaching out to potential customers/advocates in social media would be to, with permission, post on a relevant forum inviting the users to ask questions and borrow your expertise and knowledge. While doing this you are engendering positive sentiment, building your brand and no doubt opening the door to specific sales enquiries.
Interacting with major networks
When moving on from niche forums to major networks, it’s important to remember that Facebook is still king. It was the third most visited website in the UK over the Christmas period (source: Hitwise) and is currently registering over 2 million UK-based unique visitors per day, according to Google. Again, the key to successful interaction on Facebook is adding value and more specifically, taking advantage of the competitive and somewhat egotistical nature of human beings.
Within sites like Twitter there are likely to be key influencers relevant to your business. Use Twitter Search to identify those who are regular posters around your target theme. You can ‘follow’ these users and begin to interact with them on a personal level by replying to their posts and making your own. Remember to ensure that your posts are of value to the community and that you use benefit led headlines when attempting to drive traffic through to your website.
Fully Embracing Social Media
If you want to embrace Social Media more significantly then make your website a platform for the conversation. Allow customers to talk about your product or service on the site itself. Initially this might simply be through the use of a blog and later by a full-blown customer service forum (as embraced by Vodafone, Google, Dell et al). When you respond to comments on the blog or forum it shows that you are listening to your customers, when you resolve problems it shows that you are proactive and professional.
Measuring Success in Social Media
Sales growth and customer retention are usually the primary objectives but there are also other key indicators. Google Alerts are very useful and can be set up to automatically email you with new posts on a given key word or phrase. The aforementioned Twitter Search is a great application for finding relevant posts within Twitter. In terms of paid tools, Radian6 is a useful buzz and reputation monitoring tool which crawls blogs, forums, Twitter and the wider web for buzz about your company or