We all know there are many things we could do to fix our social media marketing programs or make them better. But the reality is that no one can do it all at once. Unless your organization has a huge multi-member team, it's simply not possible to listen to every conversation, respond to every comment or post, moderate every conversation, create unending streams of entertaining and valuable content, and spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising that supports your social channel.
However, you can select a few key areas to either do better in or to start to be active in. So this column is just a few things you could choose from as part of your social media marketing New Year's resolution list.
So here goes:
I promise to ask myself, "Why would anyone want to be my friend?" I don't mean you personally, I mean your brand. Why would anyone want to connect with your company? Why would they want to fan you, follow you, listen to what you have to say, and share your stuff? If you are Harley-Davidson or Coca-Cola, this is an easy question to answer. People love those brands and they are part of consumers' lifestyles. They have built-in appeal and passion. But unfortunately for most of us, our brands are just not that likable. So you have to figure out what kind of value you can present to people as a social connection. Also, it can't just be a one-time value such as a contest, coupon, or offer. It's got to be ongoing value. People have to look at your content and say, "This is the kind of information I want in my newsfeed; this is stuff I would want to share!"
I promise to be more interesting. It's important to remember that if you're not interesting in social media, just like in life, people will stop listening to you. And if people stop listening to you in social media, it's the kiss of death, because they will unlike you on Facebook, then Facebook will block your content from its feed via EdgeRank, and people will stop paying attention to you. You have to post things that are interesting and that people can use and will want to share because it's entertaining, emotional, useful, or it makes them look smart. The reality is all this may not come from you, and it's alright to find interesting things that may or may not have anything to do with your products or services and share them with your audiences.
I promise to have more personality. Here's another thing that brands forget when they're socializing online. People are accessing social media for the most part to have fun (B2B sites like LinkedIn aside). They're there to catch up with friends, share things that are happening in their lives, and to be entertained. So you can't be strictly business - you can't just talk about your products and services. You have to present the human side of your company, and social media is the right place to present your human side. Let your fans and followers get to know your brand and the people behind your brand.
I promise not to be so uptight. Here I am more talking about compliance. You guys have got to lighten up. The reality is there's tons of stuff already being said about you and your brand in social media and nothing you do is going to stop that. Now I'm not saying give people license to be stupid and say things they shouldn't say, but compliance does not approve everything your people say in public, at speaking engagements, or in live interviews. Sanction a group of people to speak on behalf of the company in social media and trust what they say just like you do with media and public relations. I know this is more realistic for some companies than others, but there are a ton of things your social media people should be at will to tweet, post, and say without having to run it through approval. Figure out as many of those scenarios as possible and let the content flow.
I promise to be patient. If you're just dipping your toe into the social media pond you will never get wet. It takes time to build up your social media presence and to leave your content in the fabric of the web. For many of us the real benefits of social media will be realized via search. So give it some time and realize there is no better way to spread your thought leadership content, offers, and product accolades through the web and social media.
I promise to share. For many companies and brands social media is less about the fan or follower and much more about the share. So many companies will never have a million fans but that doesn't mean a million people will never see your content via social media. Socially enable all your content for sharing and make those share buttons big, noisy calls-to-action. The share is a super valuable action, so encourage it.
I promise to be more inclusive. We've all heard of the term crowdsourcing, but it means many different things. It can be simply asking your audience questions or actually developing authoritative, entertaining, and high-quality bodies of content from the people who really know what's interesting - your audience. Involve a large group of people in creating something great and watch them talk about it. Watch them share. Watch them embrace it. Want to see a cool example? Check out Harley's photo mosaic of owners.
I promise to be more attentive. So you convinced people to be your friend, right? So when they take the time to comment or post to your profile or retweet your tweet, respond! Answer their questions, like their posts, and of course say thank you. You built this audience, now pay attention to them.
I promise to be more generous. At this point let's just get rid of the notion that every bit of benefit you receive from social media will be "earned." I mean, c'mon. You pay the wire services to distribute press releases, you pay your PR firm, you pay for PR road show events - your social media program deserves a budget that is capable of moving the needle. Your Facebook program needs a budget for Sponsored Stories, your Twitter profile needs a budget for Promoted Accounts, and your promotions need talented and creative people to come up with interesting and entertaining content. Trust me - half the stuff you create can be used in other areas! A great infographic made by your social media team will act as a great incentive for your AdWords campaign!
I promise to encourage. If the only people contributing to social media in your organization are your marketers and social media managers, then you will never reveal the greatness, personality, and expertise of your company. Encourage social media content production throughout your whole company. Everyone has something to offer and the true experts who represent why people love your products or look to your company for their expertise most likely don't live in your marketing department. Incentivize your experts, celebrate your class clowns, and let people know this is a huge stage for them to celebrate what makes them great within your company. Let the whole company submit content for social media publishing consideration and let them know why it's good for them and their careers. Not everyone will participate, however, the content cream of your corporate milk bottle will rise to the top!
I figure 10 is enough - I mean, most of us are lucky if we stick to one New Year's resolution. However, if you have other great social media New Year's resolutions please post them in the comments and let everyone else benefit from your wisdom.
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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.
Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.
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.