This is a guest post by Jennifer Mattern.
Is your company’s social media strategy really working? Could it stand for some improvement? Whether you feel that you’ve maxed out the potential of your current social media efforts or you feel like nothing you do is really helping, it’s time to step up your game.
Now is the perfect time to make changes for the New Year. So why not spice up your social media strategy and make it work even harder for you? Here are five ways you can do just that.
Having a company presence in social media is all well and good but it isn’t enough. Your company doesn’t have a personality. You do. Your staff members do. Your customers certainly do. If you really want your customers or other target audience to get (and stay) involved with your business through social media, get real. Show them that there are real people, and real personalities, behind the corporate façade.
Most people don’t just want to talk to a brand image. They want to feel like they’re talking to real people. More importantly, they want to know real people are listening. If you can’t be the public face of your business personally, find someone who can. You might find your audience more willing to pay attention and get involved.
Sell Through Social Media
Do you use social media to solicit or research customer feedback about your products or services? There’s something to be said for social media’s role in market research and more direct connections between consumers and producers. But if you want to ultimately increase sales through your social media efforts, get more aggressive about actually selling.
Is conversation and relationship-building important? Absolutely. But you still have to think about your bottom line. And you don’t have to invade your market’s personal networking space to do it either. Use tools designed for it, and you don’t risk your company’s image too much in the process. After all, most people aren’t on social media services solely to be pitched by you.
Here are a few sites and services that can help you directly sell through social media.
- Groupon.com — Make local offers.
- Foursquare.com — Use Foursquare specials for repeat visitors.
- Twitter.com — Post exclusive coupon codes or deals for followers (just keep offers and actual conversations balanced).
- Facebook.com — Create a social media storefront on your company’s Facebook page using tools like Storefront Social or the Payvment E-commerce Storefront app.
Move from Conversations to More Direct Involvement
Talking to and listening to your customers through social media is a great step. But you can do more. Get your audience more involved by encouraging more direct interactions. That might mean getting them to make a purchase like we mentioned before.
You can get your audience involved in anything from campaign creation to charitable causes. Solicit direct donations or petition signatures. Have customers submit their own online videos or commercials for your products as a part of a contest, directly involving them in creating your next ad campaign. Make people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than some back-and-forth chit-chat on their favorite social network.
Forget About the Sale
I know. I just suggested that you emphasize sales more in your social media plan. Now forget what I said. And forget about the sale. It’s also possible to put too much emphasis on direct sales, missing out on all of the other things social media has to offer.
For example, you might have launched a Twitter account hoping it would drive tons of customers to your e-commerce site quickly. But that’s not how the tool works, especially early on. You need to build a willing audience. You build relationships. You build value in other ways. “Value” doesn’t always have to be directly financial. Many companies neglect the PR side of the social media equation. Don’t be one of them.
Here are a few PR benefits that make it worth sticking to or expanding your social media efforts even if you don’t see early direct sales.
- Social media lets you share news with your audience without going through a middleman.
- Social media helps you build visibility which can lead to later media coverage, expert interview requests for staff, or direct sales down the line.
- Social media tools help you turn one-time customers into repeat customers even if direct sales don’t come from the social media outlets. It might happen after solving a customer’s problem because of a social network complaint, for example.
- Social media increases word-of-mouth when you do something innovative or simply “right.”
- Social media can also mean the opposite — bad reviews spread quickly too. But that makes it even more important to maintain a strong social media presence of your own so you can stay on top of feedback and keep your own news and updates flowing from one user to the next.
- Social media can be an effective tool for crisis response, when handled responsibly. It gives your company a chance to be heard directly rather than having your problems and solutions aired first by someone else.
All of these things have value to a company — some more than others for you. Some might ultimately lead to higher sales, and others won’t. But not every business lends itself well to social selling. Your social media plan will be unique to your business, and just because you’re not seeing direct sales it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It just means you might need to look at things from a different angle before giving up. Or perhaps you’ve never thought about some of these other benefits of social media tools. In that case, it might be time to incorporate new goals into your social media plan.
When we hear the phrase “social media” we tend to think of the Web and sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Digg. But here’s a chance to set your company apart. Take your social media efforts offline. There’s no reason offline efforts can’t also be social, and sometimes offline efforts even tie to better online sharing and promotion. Here are a few ways you can maintain social relationships in your marketing and PR efforts even off the Web.
- Sponsor a Twitter meet-up or similar event for customers in your local area.
- Reward customers who “check-in” via geolocation services when they visit your offline store.
- Write op-eds or letters to the editor in local or trade publications about industry issues they cover. Be the one giving feedback instead of only receiving it. Yes. Even traditional media has a social aspect. And sometimes these are republished on the Web later where further conversations take place. But it starts with the print publication.
- Offer a discount in-store if a customer mentions they found you via Twitter, Facebook, or another social media service you use.
- Do things offline that encourage people to share your story online. For example, if you run a pizzeria you might get customers together to help you try to break the world record of creating the world’s largest pizza.
No one should try to do everything when it comes to social media. That’s a recipe for disaster because you spread yourself too thin. But you also can’t keep doing the same old thing if your social media strategy isn’t helping you reach your goals. Use these tips to take your social media efforts to the next level, or to at least try something new.
Do you have any ideas for how businesses can spice up their social media strategies? Leave a comment below with tips, tools, and tactics that can help people get more out of social media.
Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and former PR and social media consultant. She is a regular contributor to DirJournal.com and SocialImplications.com, and she runs a blog for freelance writers at AllFreelanceWriting.com.
Get 30% off any directory entry listed at Directory Journal with coupon code LINK2010. This offer expires on December 20th.
All photos except the SXSW 2008 picture by Shutterstock.