By Lance Concannon, Social Media and Methodology Practice Lead, Text 100 UK.
Social media has clearly demonstrated its value for helping brands with customer retention and repeat business, because it’s a powerful tool for building a relationship with customers. But it’s not always quite so obvious how it can be used to generate new business.
A good first step is to identify where the online conversations that are relevant to your business are taking place: which blogs, discussion forums and social network groups are your potential customers likely to be reading?
There are lots of tools to help you with this research, but a couple of good free ones to get started with are:
You can use these tools simply by searching for your brand names or key topics related to your industry. And don’t forget that Google Search offers plenty of useful options for focusing on social media results; the left hand menu on the search results page is full of helpful tools that will let you drill down into forums, blogs, microblogs and so on.
Advertising on relevant blogs and discussion forums is the most obvious way to reach these audiences – you can usually contact the site administrator directly to discuss a deal. However ads aren’t really the most effective use of social media channels.
A better option is to find ways of providing these online communities with content that is relevant to their interests, such as articles (most blogs will accept guest posts), white papers, Q&As, infographics and so on.
It’s important to think about what kind of content the audience will really welcome, and what you’re in a position to provide that nobody else can. Use google.com/adplanner to get some insight into the traffic and audience demographics of sites you’re interested in working with.
Facebook and Twitter
Building a Facebook fanpage and Twitter profile for your business will help it to be more accessible to potential customers who like to use these channels, and make it easier for them to get information when researching purchasing decisions. They are also great channels for running promotions to generate new business, such as discount codes.
The real power of Facebook and Twitter is that when you build up a network of fans/followers who, by definition, are your brand advocates. They will very often forward on your promotions to their own networks. This means that a simple “Use this code to get 10% off your next order” type tweet or update can end up being shared with a network that extends much further than your own fans and followers.
Setting up a corporate blog that is regularly updated with relevant information about your market is a good way to get the attention of potential customers. Avoid the temptation to post lots of marketing copy about your own brand and products – this simply won’t interest anybody.
A blog which features engaging and entertaining content about broader issues than just your own business will help people to see your own brand as an authoritative voice in the market.
Putting a regularly updated blog on your company website is also a great for search engine optimisation (SEO). Having lots of fresh content that is relevant to your business will increase your site’s chances of appearing at the top of the search engine results when people are looking for the products or services that you provide.
In 2006 a company called Blendtec began posting online videos of its founder, Tom Dickson, attempting to blend various objects, such as golf-balls and mobile phones, in one of the company’s blender products to demonstrate its power.
The videos were titled “Will it blend?” and soon became a huge internet phenomenon, propelling Dickson to celebrity status and gave the Blendtec brand the kind of global visibility that usually requires millions of dollars of marketing investment.
There are varying reports on how much it cost Blendtec to produce the first series of viral videos, ranging from $50 to close to $10,000. Whatever the truth, that’s a tiny investment when you consider the value it generated for the brand.
Obviously Blendtec got incredibly lucky and came up with a simple idea that struck a chord with the public. The point is that the company took a (relatively small) risk and was rewarded by the content they produced going viral, and then capitalised on that early success.
Not every attempt will be as successful, but it’s only by taking a few risks and experimenting with different ideas that brands can find what works for them.
Things like a corporate blog and Twitter/Facebook profiles should be considered basic house-keeping activities. They don’t require a particularly large investment to set up or maintain, but if managed properly they can make a great ongoing contribution to winning new business because they significantly increase the online visibility of your brand.
You can also build relationships with bloggers and online communities in your market, by offering them interesting content, sponsorship or finding other ways to partner with them. This can also be a cost effective way of reaching your target audience.
Finally, dipping your toes into viral video content can pay huge dividends, but you need to be willing to experiment and accept that you will most likely fail more than you will succeed, so it’s important to keep costs under control.
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