This post is by Heidi Cohen, principal of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
From the outside, social media appears easy to implement, with only a Facebook-savvy intern. In reality, participating on various social media platforms requires full understanding of your business, mature insight into human interaction and strong written-communication skills.
Whether you’re starting out or expanding your social media efforts, here are 10 lessons based on a wide variety of social media engagement by the government, companies, entertainers and content producers that was presented at Digitas’ Internet Week: The NewFront 2011.
- Really listen to what’s being said on social media platforms. For companies and brands, this translates to going beyond brand monitoring to show your prospects, customers and the public that you’re hearing what they’re saying, not giving them lip service. While most social media interactions regarding your firm don’t require a response, it’s critical to find the 2% that do and engage those individuals in a timely fashion.
- Be authentic in your social media interactions. For brands, this means being true to your core values. Followers can detect in a heartbeat when you’re not genuine.
- Understand that social media create personal relationships. Despite never having met in real life, social media participants feel a connection with people they meet online. It’s critical that you take into consideration social media’s social responsibility because there are real people at the other end of your communications.
- Tell stories on social media. Ashton Kutcher told attendees that he can’t stand advertising; he wants to be entertained. Use stories, not advertising, to engage your audience and pull consumers in on social media platforms. Every company has a wide range of stories it can use to build a following.
- Promote information that empowers people. At its core, companies and the government must fuel social media with content that convinces your target audience.
- Know that your customers own your brand. While this concept was explored in Jack Trout and Al Ries’ “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” the reality is that consumers have always owned brands. The difference is that with social media and brand monitoring, marketers can see this in real time.
- Understand that transparency doesn’t mean tell all. Social media have raised the bar for companies to be more open in dealing with customers and the public. It translates to not lying or misrepresenting the truth. But transparency isn’t black and white; it has shades of gray.
- Take advantage of microtargeting on social media platforms. With a large number of social media participants, companies are able to find larger pockets of prospects and customers with similar interests who can be targeted. It can be useful to take advantage of these niches.
- Modify job descriptions and goals to meet your social media needs. When social media are integrated into the marketing mix, it’s important to assess where new or different skills are needed. For example, American Express found that its phone customer-service representatives aren’t as facile in text social media communications. Another important area to assess is whether your legal department can provide timely advice for social media interactions.
- Know that followers don’t translate directly to sales. ?uestlove from The Roots, who has slightly fewer than 1.6 million Twitter followers, made the point that social media followers or fans don’t necessarily translate to revenue directly. For businesses used to looking for an immediate social media return on investment, this concept can be difficult to swallow. The reality is that social media do influence purchases and provide post-purchase support, but tracking can be challenging in a multichannel world.
As social media continue to evolve, marketers must keep integrating them across communications and organizations. While this can be a learning process as it applies to your brands, employees and customers, examining what other firms have done can guide and shorten your process.
Do you have suggestions to add to the list?
Image credit: matspersson0 via iStockphoto