There are more than 400 million users on Facebook and millions on Twitter and LinkedIn, just for starters. Some of them just might be in your target audience. You can engage with them on social media to heighten brand awareness, spread your message, drive traffic to your website, and boost search engine rankings, awareness and affinity. You can deepen the relationship with customers and their social connections on many levels and over time – at remarkably little cost.
“True, it does take more time to participate on social media than to hit people over the head with your e-mail blasts,” says social media guru Chris Brogan. “But if your e-mail open rate is about the average – in the single digits – social media will buy you a whole lot more.” Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs, and John Bastone, Global Product Marketing Manager for SAS Customer Intelligence Solutions, offer these best practices for using social media effectively:
- Find your audience. Look beyond Twitter and Facebook, says Bastone. There are also open discussion forums – formerly known as newsgroups – which have been around since the dawn of the Internet. “There are online services that specialize in aggregating, indexing and organizing the content found in those global conversations – a wealth of information that you can mine for insight. There are also entry-level listening platforms that provide an understanding of where conversations are happening around specific keywords. If you’re doing nothing related to social media monitoring, starting there is a pretty low risk opportunity.”
- Think beyond specific social media tools. Don’t get fixated on a certain channel; think more in terms of a user community, says Brogan. “One of the biggest questions you hear is, ‘Well, Twitter is big right now, but what’s next?’ Or, ‘FourSquare is hot; should we be investing heavily in it?’ And the answer is no, not exactly. People are nomadic. They don’t necessarily sit on just one platform. They’re on the move. If you have made serious investments in a specific social media platform, you’re not making investments in the people.”
- Build your social media strategy around three types of activity. Listen, connect and publish, says Brogan.
- Listen, using social media scanning tools to find out what people are saying. Listen for public relations opportunities, marketing opportunities and customer service needs. Track the sentiments in conversations. Align all of this to internal metrics. For example, how many customer service complaints are you finding via the Web?
- Connect by commenting on blogs and participating in conversations – and not just to hawk your product or service. Be visible, be where the community is, answer questions, reply to e-mails, offer help, funnel complaints into the customer service workflow, and build relationships with bloggers.This last aspect brings up a pet peeve for Brogan. “Public relations firms and departments are reaching out to bloggers to see if they’ll cover certain stories, but they are not building the right kinds of relationships first.” Instead of a cold call, read and comment on a blog long before you need that blogger’s influence.
- Publish useful, informational and responsive content via blogs, online newsletters, photos, slide decks and videos.
Get the full list of best practices from Brogan and Bastone in this white paper: Acting on customer intelligence from social media