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How brands should best engage with social networks

How brands should best engage with social networks

By Sam Reid founder of creative cloud agency, Guided Collective

Social networks are now a major part of everyday life. A quarter of our time online is spent on social networks and blogs, and these are overtaking search engines as our preferred method of seeking out information.

But how do you implement an effective campaign on social networks? Firstly, understand what it is you are trying to achieve. Do you want to connect to new audiences, do you want 10,000 people to download your app, or power a positive boost to existing consumers via a good CRM initiative?

To make a real impact on social networks you have to embrace the idea of making your campaign shareable. The word-of-mouth effect of social networks is fast, impactful and most significantly, measurable.

It is important for brands to understand that most of us are using more than just one social network; Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter are obviously the big players, but most regular users are not limited to these.

Video sharing, blogs and location-based social networks mean there are a multitude of ways for brands to reach their target audiences, and this proliferation of channels will only increase in frequency. You don’t have to do everything, but make sure what you do is relevant to the challenge.

Elements to consider when you embark on the social network landscape are:

1.    Get to know your audience
2.    Use technology that works for your campaign
3.    Think outside the browser!
4.    Make it shareable
5.    Make it personal
6.    Reach out to influencers
7.    Keep it going
8.    Measure

1. Get to know your audience

Get a good understanding of who your target audience is, who the key influencers are, what they’re talking about and where.

There are a multitude of ways you can do this. Paid for monitoring tools such as Sysomos or Sentimentmetrics allow you to get a detailed picture of what people are saying about your brand, your products and your competitors across all of the major social networks.

You can also use free tools, such as Social Mention, which although not as powerful as the subscription-based services, can still deliver valuable insight into online conversations. And don’t forget to apply these insights to your offline campaigns too.

2.  Invest in technologies that work for your campaign

Be aware of emerging technology trends both in terms of new devices, such as the iPad, and new online platforms such as Foursquare and Gowalla.

Apple’s tag line “There’s an App for that” can be applied to nearly every social network, from Twitter, blogs, Facebook, iPhone and more. There are many applications being developed by agencies for brands all with varying success.

So before you blow your budget on the flashy iPhone application think about what meaningful impact it will have. Is it interactive? Does it have longevity/is it upgradable? Can it accommodate multiples users? If you can tick these boxes your ‘thing’ is in a good place.

3.  Think outside the browser!

We all use social networks and consume our media in different ways, so integrate your social network marketing into your campaign planning from day one. Think about how social media in general can add value to your campaign. Retro-fitting a social media strategy around an existing campaign is neither cost effective nor the best way to provide clear communication.

Think outside the browser and be creative! You don’t need to limit your campaign to social networks. Perhaps add in a call-to-action in your outdoor advertising – make your Facebook profile the mechanic for entering competitions, utilise mobile technologies to give a new dimension to your events. There is a ‘real world’ out there, so bring it into to the mix too.

4. Make it shareable

People love to share anything funny, cool or interesting. Just don’t stick the TV ad up on YouTube and expect to get results. Make it worthwhile for audiences to give you their attention and they’ll share your stuff therefore use quality creative thinking from a wide range of perspectives, not just a traditional ad agency team.

5. Make it personal

Is there a way you can allow a participant to feel at the centre of your efforts? People forget clever messages, but they don’t forget brilliant experiences.

6. Reach out to influencers

There are influencers in every sector, so identify and establish mutually beneficial relationships with them. Real endorsement from a well known blog or face of YouTube is much more valuable than any advertorial in the back of a magazine.

7. Keep it going

How can you continue to develop your campaign (and do you even need to)?  If you set up a Facebook page keep it up to date, if you have promised bloggers things be sure to deliver them.  Hopefully you will have built up a following by the end of a campaign and these followers can become valuable in terms of positive word-of-mouth and even product development. Keep them up to date on things and if you don’t intend to develop your campaign further, let them know. And don’t forget it’s always important to say Thank You.

8. Measure

Social media is probably the easiest media channel to measure accurately. Be realistic when setting your targets, think about the sentiment of conversation. Is it positive, negative, neutral? Has something increased the level of interaction, like a PR story or current affairs? Remember to keep the size of your potential audience in mind when measuring.

In conclusion: a lot of this is common sense. The idea of ‘social’ simply means being a human instead of a corporation. So, get to know your audience, provide them with engaging and relevant stuff that they will want to share, integrate social media into your campaign strategy from the start and identify the right platforms with realistic targets in mind.

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