A few days ago I was at work crafting a high level social strategy that will go beyond the Flightster blog and really enable us to take advantage of social media in a way that really allows us to understand our customers. I’ve come up with literally hundreds of ideas over the course of the last year, some of which have been implemented and others which have been put on hold.
Over the last week I’ve been able to condense my work into 3 core ideas for an effective social media strategy, both on a personal level and a corporate level.
Phase 1: Build
Let’s consider the social media presence of an individual or company as a blank canvas which we intend to turn into a masterpiece. Before any social media efforts will have an impact it’s essential to build your personal or company assets. Assets can be built across multiple social media platforms.
Blogs can often serve as a starting point for social media. The key to a good blog is telling a good story. A blog is an opportunity for you or your company to showcase the fact that there is a human being behind the brand. I’ve always said that we read blogs because of the human connection they create. A blog should not be treated as a glorified marketing brochure. If you focus on the creation of value, you’ll reap the true rewards from your blog. One of the questions I’ve seen asked from some marketers is “Is a blog right for my company?” When people conclude that a blog is not for their company, I’m convinced that they just don’t know what it takes to create a compelling blog. Blogs give you an opportunity to act as an artist rather than a marketer and as a human rather than a machine.
After conducting over 130 interviews on BlogcastFM the #1 mistake that every single blogger/internet marketer says they made was not starting an email list soon enough. I consider that a mistake too and as per my latest quarterly marketing plan at my blog, I’m making a strong push to create a much more solid email newsletter. One of the things that email enables is direct communication with your customers or readers. Almost every blogger cites their email list as the major source of their revenue. In my interview with Dave Navarro he even mentions that the number of RSS subscribers you have is more or less meaningless.
While I’ve syndicated my blog to Facebook through my personal Facebook account, there’s actually quite a bit of power in creating a Facebook Page for your brand or blog. Considering the sheer volume of active users on Facebook, not having a fan page is like turning down free exposure. In my interview with Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha, she talked about why you need a separate fan page for your brand.
Personally I think that individuals get twitter and many companies don’t. That’s a bold statement, but I’ve spent insane amounts of time interacting with various groups on Twitter and individuals seem to understand what it takes to get value out of twitter. I’ve even said that you could accomplish every goal in your life using twitter and the blogosphere. Twitter is an ongoing 24-7 conversation between millions of people on just about every subject you could imagine. When you use it is a broadcasting tool rather than a communication and connection tool, the value diminishes. When you embrace it as a community, it turns into a goldmine. On an individual level I still strongly believe that 150 followers is all you need and on a corporate level I think you could easily leverage a powerful tribe to grow your twitter presence.
One thing that is worth mentioning is incentives. In order to build any of your assets you’re going to need an incentive. Bloggers giveaway free ebooks interviews or special content. Companies should have no issues parting with samples of their product as part of the building phase. One interesting observation my co worker made was that the value of the incentive didn’t really alter behavior in previous campaigns he’d worked on. You should be willing to spend some time in the build phase without an immediate ROI. If you try to skip the build phase, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you are scrambling to achieve measurements and metrics and you’ll lose the greatest thing that social media gives you: the power to engage and connect
Phase 2: Connect
Networking and Relationships are the lifeblood of the social web. Relationships make your traffic grow. Relationships cause content to spread. Relationships result in new business. Without an ongoing effort to form a relationship, you’re just another person trying to sell somebody something. So let’s take a look at a cross platform approach to effective relationships
As I said above, your blog is not a glorified marketing brochure. It’s a conversational tool and a storytelling tool. I come across many company blogs where the comments are never replied to and the blog seems like a digital graveyard. On the flip side an individual can command an audience the size of a football stadium, which begs the question “what are they doing differently”. Your blog should create something of value for your reader or customer, while telling your story at the same time. Even though there’s really no formula for a good blog, I’d say it comes down to having a passion (what your product does), a story about that passion(how the product came about, etc, etc) and the creation of value for other people (how will your product help me). When somebody comments on your blog a lifeline is formed. When you don’t respond you cut off the lifeline.
You’ll probably notice a pattern in what I’m describing. Effective use of social media is about a multi-platform approach. Your email newsletter is really a chance to get to know your customers and readers. In order to connect with them you have to ask them what they want from you. It sounds so simple, yet most of us make so many assumptions about our customers and then scratch our heads wondering why our efforts are not paying off. A really good email newsletter involves the reader. There are 3 examples in the blogosphere that really do this well: The Art of non-Conformity, Advanced Riskology, David Risley. The sign that your email newsletter has really been effective is when you start getting people replying to you about it.
Once you’ve built an audience around your Facebook fan page, the next key is connecting with them. If you start trying to sell them without connecting with them, people will drop your page like a bad habit. Good facebook fan pages engage the asset they’ve built. Your facebook page is not about you or your product. It’s about your readers and customers. When you’‘ve reached a point where you can narrow down a group of customers who interacts with you at every opportunity, that’s how you know you’ve built a tribe. That’s when the tipping points will start to happen.
When people see twitter for the first time, it either seems like gibberish or completely pointless. For the person who doesn’t know a thing about twitter, their primary concern is the number of followers (which by the way is one of the most meaningless statistics in all of this). If there are two things I could tell you about twitter, these would be it:
- Make friends instead of followers: I’ve connected with a wide variety of people on twitter including bloggers, artists, surfers and photographers. My concern is not what people can do for me, but what can I learn from them and what can I teach them. As a result twitter is a goldmine that I’m convinced can help you accomplish every goal in your life. If you’re a company, take this approach and you’ll blown away. If you go look at the twitter account for Hipmunk you’ll notice raving fans and an ongoing conversation with the raving fans. When I look at a twitter account of a company I see nothing but links, I can’t help but think “this is a company that doesn’t get it”
- 150 followers is all you need: This is something I said in my original post on Twitip, so I’ll only summarize it here. If you set an initial goal to create 150 followers who really are engaged with you, something remarkable will happen. Your brand, blog, or product will spread. To add to that, you’ll find that the number of followers you have will start to take care of itself.
Phase 3: Promote
Assuming you built and audience and connected with that audience, it’s much more likely that your social media efforts will actually pay off financially. One of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard from somebody at a large company was “we just want to make a video for this campaign and have it go viral.” The foundation of almost any successful social media campaign is building and connecting with the audience. Once again we return to the three major platforms and take a cross-promotional approach.
At this point your blog can be leveraged as an effective marketing tool. You could for example give away something to encourage comments. You could also run a promotion that is available only on the blog. If you’re selling widgets you could for example say “leave a comment on the blog and we’ll send you a 50% off coupon for your widget purchase.” The key at this point is to have a healthy balance between building, connecting, and promoting.
The email list is still one place where I see many bloggers/internet marketers offer certain discounts and promotions with the highest conversion rate. In this post on the email newsletter cycle Darren goes into detail about a sequence that not only allows you to create value for your audience, but also involves promotional efforts without annoying the reader.
One of the things that amazes me is how often people fail to realize how you can leverage someone else’s audience to grow your business. If you can find another business who complements what you do or vice versa, there’s a tremendous opportunity there. A while back I was responsible for maintaining and growing the Facebook fan page for a company that made ionic hair straighteners. I always thought that they would be smart to leverage the audience of a cosmetics brand with a very big social media presence. Another common practice is to offer something that is exclusive only to your Facebook fans.
A promotional effort on Twitter can result in a dramatic success. A while back Brian Solis wrote about a company called Moonfruit that ended up on the front page of google (ranking for some very competitive keywords) with a very simple promotional idea. Orbitz runs a weekly contest where they give away a round trip ticket and all the require is that you follow them and tweet the message which links to the contest page (which kills a few birds with one stone). In your purchasing process you can provide people an an incentive to follow you on twitter. The promotion below by Hawaiian airlines is one of the smartest I’ve ever seen because it does three things
1. It helps them to build an audience (BUILD)
2. It gives them opportunity to connect with the audience. (CONNNECT)
3. It encourages purchases (PROMOTE)
Cross Platform Promotion
This is something that I think can be be really powerful if done effectively.
- You could use your Facebook page to encourage people to follow you on twitter or sign up for your email list.
- You Could Use Twitter to promote your Facebook Page or Email List
- You Could Use Your Email List to Encourage People to Follow on you Twitter or Become a Fan on Facebook
The best example of this I’ve seen on a Facebook page is by Chris Gullibeau on the AONC Facebook Page. You’ll notice on the landing page that you can become a fan on Facebook, Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on twitter. In one location he kills all the birds with one stone. With a bit of patience and some strategy social media can become one of the most powerful tools in anyone’s arsenal.
This is a guest post by Srini Rao – Srini blogs at The Skool Of Life and is the Co-Founder of BlogcastFM, one of today’s most recognized Blogging podcasts where he interviews some of the biggest names in the blogosphere. If he’s not surfing you can find him hanging out on Twitter and Facebook.