How the brands can tap the social Web to connect with customers and prospects.
So your client or company has set up its social profiles and channels. The big question now is how to build up large communities of friends, fans, and followers. I did a little survey in our office and got a lot of great suggestions -- here are 25 of them. Of course there are more, but this checklist is a good start.
Place a personal ad. Use online media (display banners, Flash ads, widget/gadget ads, etc.) to drive traffic to your social media channels. Facebook pages can make great landing pages. They also let you present very high-value brand interactions that spark viral distribution through existing social technologies.
Start with people who know your company. Add Facebook or Twitter addresses to the bottom of your company's e-mail signature.
Pepper your site. Add calls to action to your site inviting people to become your company's friend, fan, or follower. Put the icons and links on the bottom of every page and in your "contact us" section.
Create a social hub. Make sure your site has a social hub page in the "about us" section that includes calls to action to friend, fan, or follow you and links to your profiles and channels.
Weave your social Web. Make sure your company's Facebook page has links to your Twitter page. Also, periodically tweet the benefits of becoming a fan of your Facebook page.
Give them a reason to join. Tell people what they get by being your company's friend, fan, or follower. Timely industry news, cool content or great offers? What is in it for them?
Shout about it. Drop a press release about the launch of your Facebook page, Twitter micro-blog, or SlideShare channel.
Wrap your product. If you sell packaged goods, make sure your packaging promotes your profiles. If people like you enough to buy your product, give them the chance to connect with you in the places where they want to connect.
Make yourself visible. Join other social networks to establish a well-rounded presence. If you are already on Facebook and Twitter, do you have a Flickr page, SlideShare account, and YouTube channel for your visual content?
Use tools built into social networks. Instead of just listing an event on your Web site, make it Facebook event as well. These tools allow users to interact with your event through RVSP features, photos, and a Wall option. It's more likely someone notices an event in this way than a static calendar on your site.
Be inquisitive. Everyone is fighting for the spotlight on the social Web and no one likes a know-it-all. Ask questions through Twitter and status updates to not only engage your current followers and fans, but help encourage experts to speak up.
Let go of your secrets. Sharing your knowledge with other people breaks down barriers of engagement. Don't sell a success package for $19.99; instead start a blog. (For example...this article!)
Don't give a hard sell. Both Twitter and Facebook are about having a casual conversation with your customers; think Starbucks, not a boardroom. Your corporate brand message in 140 characters will not gain any new fans or followers for most. Instead give information that folks can use day to day that represents your service offering in some manner.
Check the chatter. Use free tools like monitter.com and search for keywords related to your business that Twitter users have used. If they are writing about what you do, start a conversation. Be sure not to use any canned replies. Remember, on Twitter, everything is public.
Daypart. While it may seem odd to some, it's vital to think about when your target clientele is on Facebook or Twitter and what messaging works at a particular part of the day. Do you target the early morning, lunch, or after hours crowd, and with what message?
Remember: location, location, location. Really think about how someone uses your site. It's easy to include chiclets, but if they are not in the right location they can easily be lost in a site's clutter. This can be especially true for sites with heavy advertising such as news sites.
Reach out to key people. There are very influential people on social networks. If you reach out to them in the right way, you can have a great networking experience and prove your worth to others. Find people with a large fan base and see if you can join into their conversation.
Follow trends and join in. Every day on Twitter there are "hot" topics happening. Find out what #hashtags and keywords are being used, and state your opinion. Chances are, hundreds of people are following those conversations and you will instantly be noticed.
Take it offline. Is your Twitter name on your business card? Your Facebook page at the bottom of all letters? How about your print ads and direct mail?
Create a conversation. Don't let your followers and friends feel like you're talking at them instead of with them. When their friends see them interacting with you, they could become a friend or follower as well.
Follow back. If you don't follow people back, you look like someone who only wants to be heard and doesn't care to listen. That's not a good way to build relationships.
Have a consistent stream of content. If you start to go dry, people will forget about you. Having an ongoing flow of content and information allows you to stay at the top of your followers' minds and helps you get noticed. So create a publishing schedule.
Sponsor a contest. People love to win (or the chance to win), and hosting or sponsoring a contest will spur an increase in the number of fans and followers.
Don't spam. Keeping existing friends, fans, and followers is as important as gaining new ones, so do not generate animosity by being one of those annoying social media spammers.
Do not waste friends. This is the big one! Campaign-specific Facebook fan page are a waste. When you are done with the campaign Facebook page, re-skin the page for the next campaign. Do not just abandon the fans you have made. Campaign-specific Facebook pages that end after the campaign are so 2008!
Got more suggestions? Please add them in the comments.
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As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.
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Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.
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