Promoting Your Social Presence

If you’ve invested in social technology and you’re wondering how to get more customers (and non-customers!) to participate, read on.

A lot of marketers have connected the dots to customer care, and that’s great. Customer care and the many interactions that occur – questions, complaints, new ideas, upsells, and renewals – generate a lot of the conversations that circulate on the social Web. Those conversations, in turn, drive (or impede) conversion. Savvy marketers have therefore connected customer care to the more typical marketing efforts that they are directly responsible for, in part to manage these conversations.

All which leads to the question: If TV, radio, print, and digital can be used to drive awareness for products and services, what drives awareness for your social platform? You can build it, but how do you get them to come?

To start, there are the obvious choices: advertising on Facebook, for example, will generate visits to your Facebook presence. Of course, if you leave it at that…well, it’s a bit like renting. In fact, it’s a lot like renting: you never really control your destiny, and when Facebook changes, you adapt. Or die. Read about Eat24’s recent exit from Facebook to get a sense of what’s at stake. Most of the social channels offer some form of paid promotion that, to Facebook’s point in responding to Eat24, is predictable given a set spend. That’s good. But there’s more that you can do.

If you’ve invested in a support community, or in an ideation (innovation) site, you really want your customers (and potential customers) to know about this. Bill stuffers, email, and the like are useful, as are direct links from your website. All of these will, just as any form of promotion, generate traffic. But there is still more.

As you dig more deeply into the social technology itself, you’ll start to find linkages – applications that run on the social networks important to your brand, product, or service through which you can promote a support site, for example. A definite best-practice, provided that your social platform supports it, is to directly link channels like Twitter with your support forums. Twitter has become the de facto standard for customer care outside of branded and third-party support forums: it’s quite common for consumers to post directly to brands with service or sales questions, or ideas for product enhancements. By pulling these conversations onto your support site, or your sales site – Mass Relevance, FeedMagnet, and Lithium all offer this capability – you can take advantage of what is being said not just to help conversion efficiency but also to build activity around those sites. DISCLOSURE: I work for Lithium Technologies.

But the reverse also applies: When customers work together to solve each other’s problems, the content they create is quite valuable – it can be pushed out to the larger market and used to attract new visitors. Posting these articles on your Google+, Facebook, or Twitter pages can not only help people find relevant content while visiting those sites, but search performance itself also benefits. In fact, SEO is one the more measurable benefits of a well-designed customer community. And by publishing this content directly into well-trafficked social channels, you increase the visibility of the underlying community.

You can do one better, too: connect your engagement software to your community. When someone asks a question on Twitter, scan your support in real time and see if the answer already exists. If it does, introduce the person asking the question to the person or people that have created an accepted – meaning, vetted by the community – answer. Seeing this kind of content on a first visit means it’s quite likely that that person will then join the community. Do this at scale and you’ll build community membership, which as you’ll recall was the original challenge posed.

Finally, there is traditional media. We’ve all seen the TV spots that end with the come-on “to see more, go online…” Take that idea, and expand on it: advertise your community directly on TV. Fox Sports Australia is doing just that for its “Crowd” community with a series of spots entitled “What Is the Crowd.” The spots directly promote its community. The message is, “Love hanging out with friends while enjoying sports? Visit the Crowd!” DISCLOSURE: Fox Sports Australia is a Lithium customer.

The great thing about the Fox Sports Australia spots is that the campaign is built on traditional media and used to promote an online (community) experience. What a testament to the mainstream nature now of social media, and what a smart way to promote it.

Put the above together and you’ve got a set of tools, ranging from the simple and predictable – advertise on social to bring traffic to your social app – to the more powerful direct connection of customer with questions to customers with answers, regardless of the originating digital channel. And finally, go with what you know: promote your social presence using TV, radio, and print.

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