Like most savvy online marketers, you probably already use a combination of outreach channels to get your message into the hands -- or, more accurately, the eyes and ears -- of your potential customers. That's great. But you can do more. Here, I'll dive into a handful of easy social techniques and tools that you can use to not only get your party started but keep it lively and make it popular as well.
You've started with the basics, such as online media, keyword buys, and e-mail aimed at your opt-in customers. These always have and still do make sense. Regardless of age or technology-use profile, nearly everyone online now makes use of at least one of these channels.
Now you're wondering, "What else can I do?" For starters, change that question and instead ask, "What can my customers do for me?" If you've got your interruptive outreach channels covered -- meaning, you're potentially visible and simply waiting for notice in all the right places -- then being more interruptive probably isn't going to get you very far. At a certain point, saturation, the point at which additional spend in outreach channels results in a near-zero or negative change in positive awareness, takes over. More likely, and at a somewhat lower spend level (in other words, occurring earlier than standard saturation models would suggest), interrupting your audience at all is a turnoff. The consumer backlash against interruptive media and advertising documented in 2004 by Jim Nail (then at Forrester Research), Pete Blackshaw (then at Intelliseek), and others is real, and it can hurt you.
Given the widespread use of the social Web by a growing segment of mainstream consumers, instead of adding to the clutter, ask how you can enable your customers to do your work for you.
The big assumption here -- and we all know the old saw about assuming -- is that if you hand your customers a microphone they will say something nice about you. If they won't, stop reading here. Until you can change this, interruptive media that denies your customers a voice is probably your best bet. Of course, sticking your head in the sand won't build your brand, at least over the long term. The effective use of any social channel begins with a delightful customer experience. If you aren't providing one now, then print this column, grab your COO, and take her to lunch. Work out a plan to improve your customer experience.
For those who provide a solid customer experience, turning message control over to your audience isn't nearly as daunting as it seems. Following are the elements I recommend starting with:
Taken together, these techniques will boost any online presence. Of course, two big caveats apply. First, align any social efforts with your business objectives. Without this essential grounding, you're flapping in the wind. Second, check your customers' capabilities. If they aren't able or likely to create content, don't build a social strategy that counts on user-generated contributions. Focus instead on giving them alternatives to interruptive media that will simultaneously engage them and introduce them to the idea of creating their own content. Social media gurus Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li provide a simple, easy-to-use tool that will help you begin to understand what you customers are likely to accept.
None of this is technically challenging, but it is different. You may need to provide some tools ("Click here to make your own video post"), some motivation (a contest or sweepstakes), and some help ("Check out our Member Forum for tips"). But again, all of this is pretty easy and well within the reach of most budgets. For the actual implementation, technology partners are ready to help you. Grab your business plan and your current marketing outline. Look at both, along with your audience, and give some thought to adding a social element to your company's online presence.
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Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.
Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.
Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.
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