Perhaps you realized the value in using social media as a marketing tool from my previous post on the subject. Or perhaps you already knew about the benefits of social media but didn’t really know how to proceed from there. In any case, here are some tips to get you building that killer integrated marketing campaign.
It’s called “social” media for a reason. Have a conversation.
Companies are beginning to realize that telling people what to think and buy is no longer the most effective means of doing business. Begin by participating in communities that are targeted at the types of people you want to reach. In my case, this means making sure I’ve got Google alerts related to all of my company’s major keywords and making sure various employees comment on related blog posts and news articles with useful insight and commentary. This gets your message to the masses in a non-promotional way, fueling conversation and allowing your message to spread more than it would with more traditional marketing methods. Plus, it enhances your reputation as a knowledgeable source of information.
Provide valuable, useful content that is going to attract a targeted market.
Your web site is already its own advertisement; you don’t have to glorify your company in every piece of content you produce (“Go, [company name], rah rah rah!”). Plus, while you may consider yourself to be the most important person in the world and therefore everyone cares about what you have to say, I’m pretty positive that’s not the case. Robert Treat, an open source technology consultant, made a good point in his comment on my previous post by saying, “As more companies turn to social media as an advertising strategy, we’re bound to see some type of backlash amongst consumers when they start to notice that a blog site is nothing more than a marketing stream for a given product/company.” This cannot be limited to blogs, however, and do in fact apply to all methods of social media marketing. It is essential that you offer your audience information and things they can actually use. If these visitors see that you’re offering them value free of charge, they’re more inclined to stick around and listen to what you have to say. For example – and I’m using my current industry as an example – instead of hosting a webcast that covers why your database is better than all the others, which will only attract a limited amount of people, delivering an online event that details the pros and cons of open source versus proprietary offerings, you’re going to nab a far broader selection of your targeted audience. Instead of posting an interview with a key executive in your company that delves into your company’s product offerings and mission statement, post the same interview with that executive as he discusses current trends in the marketplace, what analysts are saying, and recent headlines. Give ’em stuff they can use or which causes conversation, and you’ve got yourself some winning marketing efforts.
Remember what your parents told you about the importance of sharing.
It’s the same situation: you’re at happy hour with your buddies, and you say, “Oh, man, did you hear about [insert interesting/shocking/funny subject here]?” That’s the in-person method of sharing; now transfer that to the internet, and you’ll find Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, and many other forms of “sharing” content. YouTube has a very simple mechanism for sharing videos via email, web sites, or blogs, just as iTunes makes it easy to share podcasts. Syndicate your content via RSS feeds; allow the “forward to a friend” function on your e-newsletter. Don’t let your content stay static. People want to hear what their friends have to say, and if you make it easy for them to get that information to other people, they’ll be more inclined to share it.
Scratch their backs, and they’ll scratch yours.
Going back to the point about participating on other sites, the worst possible thing you can do is post comments that say, “Hey, your site is great! Link back to mine.” I probably get four or five comments like that every day, and what’s my reaction? Delete. It’s a waste of your time as much as it is a waste of mine, and nobody is going to build a solid, positive reputation with that kind of action. In an effort to get valuable links back to your site, thereby effectively performing one of the major “to do’s” of any good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, don’t be hesitant about doing the other guys favors. If someone posts something that is interesting, informative, and related to your industry, by all means give a shout-out to him and his content on your blog, web page, or elsewhere. If you’re offering valuable content as well, he’s more likely to return the favor. Maki over at Dosh Dosh refers to this as “borrowed trust,” and forms the basis of the most valuable traffic you can get. As he puts it, “Links from other websites bring visitors who are very likely to be interested in your content. These citation links demonstrate recognition of your site in the eyes of others. It builds your brand.”
Honesty is the best policy, and, no, they don’t all like you.
The Internet is a pretty unforgiving place. I should know: my first week on the job at my present company, I neglected to notice Eloqua‘s “text-only” option for email campaigns and ended up effectively emailing a list of five thousand people with emails that began with, literally, “Dear First Name.” Thankfully I wasn’t fired for this, but I did get a rather vulgar phone call from one recipient, a blasting in a community forum, and the glorious honor of forever having my name tied to the incident thanks to the fact that nothing posted on the Internet ever really disappears. (And for the record, I learned my lesson really quick and didn’t allow it to happen again.) Keeping in mind that the Internet ‘never forgets,’ it is exceptionally important that you maintain a policy of honesty, transparency, and authenticity. These are the core values of social media marketing. Remember, involving yourself in social media marketing means you no longer have a tight grip on your message or on your brand, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not everyone is going to say something flattering about you, but allowing such discussion and remaining honest and true in your content makes you look like the ‘bigger man.” I got shot down when I suggested, for a recent e-newsletter, to link to a high-level study that, as it was explained to me, “didn’t make us look good.” But this is the kind of stuff that can help you build a trustworthy following: yes, somebody didn’t say something particularly helpful to your cause, but you used that to your advantage, perhaps by mentioning it in a blog or forum and then responding to it with well-though-out arguments to the contrary. If you’re okay with taking a few punches once in awhile, and responding to them in a way that’s professional and honest, you’re bound to collect more followers than you would if you just censored the information or comments outright.
Set the metrics to gauge your success.
You wouldn’t spend $15k on a webcast campaign without anticipating the number of leads you’ll receive from such efforts. Before launching your social media marketing campaign, you must know what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to severely boost traffic to your web site? Are you expecting a high conversion rate on your so-called “premium content” – the stuff that requires registration prior to download? Is a low bounce rate – one major sign of a successfully executed web site – your main priority? Are you looking at generating x leads in a certain time period? Or do you just want to increase your share of voice levels in and around the marketplace? Much of this is immediately trackable internally – web traffic, downloads, and so forth – but a lot is not. Considering your objectives, it might be prudent to hire an outside firm to measure consumer-generated content as it applies to you and your company. Dave Evans of the ClickZ Network offers this advice: “The data is there. And just like taking the time to build a solid strategy aligned with your business objectives and audience behaviors, digging in and measuring — rather than chalking the whole thing up to experimenting — will actually take you a long way down the road to reliable measures and a whole lot of experience that will prove useful later.”
For those who are thinking of beginning a social media marketing campaign, the final point to all of this is that it is not for those who demand immediate gratification. It takes time to build rapport and a solid following. You’re not going to get a pre-determined amount of leads from day one; this type of marketing must become as much a part of your day-to-day professional efforts as any other, and requires patience, perseverance, diligence, and keeping the best interests of your potential customers at the forefront of your mind.