By Scott Voigt, Vice President of Marketing, Silverpop.
For marketers, few things are as cool as having customers talk to one another about how great your company or product is, while it’s often daunting when they complain to others about a poor experience.
For better or worse, those conversations are occurring with more regularity as people increasingly turn to social communities, networks and blogs to voice their opinions—good and bad—about various brands and businesses. How can companies thrive in this marketplace gone social? Follow the three “E’s”:
1. Engage the marketplace
Every marketer dreams of seeing his or her carefully crafted messages go viral, increasing reach exponentially. But success doesn’t happen overnight. You have do your homework, monitoring key communities, competitors and influencers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.
This will increase your understanding of what people are talking about, better enabling you to join conversations where they already exist.
When you’re ready to jump in to the discussion, build a base by seeding social networks and communities with content that educates, informs and starts dialogue. Post in a style that generates reaction and conversation around a topic that is consistent with your company’s offerings, but isn’t directly self-promotional.
A winery, for example, might share articles on food pairing, tasting tips, cellaring advice, etc. This helps position your company as an authority, and often the conversation will lead to consumers discussing your offerings for you.
Make sure to keep it fun, too. For the majority of users, social media is about being social. Company employees involved in your social media efforts need to love it as much as users. A lack of enthusiasm and prevalence of corporate-speak will hurt your efforts.
2. Enable influencers and fans
Social media works best when it’s customer to customer, not company to customer. Harnessing the real power of the medium means having your customers, fans and influencers talk about you more than you do.
To make that happen, you’ll first need to keep tabs on buzz in the blogosphere, on Twitter, etc. to find key influencers in your industry. Identify who’s sharing your offers to their social networks and could be potential brand ambassadors.
Once you’ve found a cadre of brand ambassadors, start building goodwill among them by engaging them regularly and providing them with special benefits. These persuaders can have a huge impact, so make them feel important. You’ll cultivate increased loyalty and give them further incentive to share even more.
Don’t forget the people who may not be high-value customers but still may influence others about purchasing decisions—fanatics, industry analysts, Mommy bloggers, reporters, etc.
For example, people who grew up in Chicago may be huge fans of a specific pizza restaurant, even though they have relocated to California and only get to visit once a year, making it smart for that pizzeria to reach out to them. Engaging these influencers and joining their conversations where appropriate can strengthen your position in the marketplace.
3. Evaluate your efforts
Measuring social activity can help you quantify the performance of your initiatives, improve your understanding of customers and prospects, and tighten up the efficiency of your programs. For example, monitoring the blogosphere and social forums for company mentions enables you to analyze your marketing promotions, communications, etc. in a new way.
Instead of just evaluating a promotion by whether recipients opened and clicked-through on an offer, now you can gauge your success by whether customers and prospects are sharing your offer and talking about it.
Use the data to adjust and optimize future initiatives. For example, if you discover that a new product campaign resulted in a strong uptick in Tweets and blogs, you might design a special Twitter-only campaign offering a channel-exclusive discount, or seed a special promotion on key blogs offering a product discount.
And every quarter, ask yourself a series of key questions regarding your social media efforts: Where have we made mistakes, and what’s worked? How do we take this to the next level? Learn from previous hits and misses.
As you execute your social media plan, remember to think of it as part of your core business and overall marketing objectives. Social works hand-in-hand with your other multichannel efforts, providing another great outlet for sharing educational content that makes customers see you providing value beyond the sale.
By following the 3 “E’s” above, you’ll have an excellent chance of making social pay off in the form of higher retention rates and new customers.
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