For many smaller businesses who have no real online reach or visibility, social media is a blessing that can establish the business rather easily once you connect with the right people. For other businesses, their brand is already so well known that they may feel that they don’t have to step into social media at all.
I’ve been working lately with several brands who already are mainstays in our households, brands you’d be surprised would want to advertise at all since their products and services might already speak for themselves with their national or even international reach. (You may ask, “Why advertise at all?”) But every business realizes that to continue their growth, there’s much more to be done. Here’s what you can do to grow that brand even farther — and to make people feel great about you:
Engage Your Followers
A well known news outlet contacted me a few weeks ago asking for advice on building visibility to her articles that were submitted to a social news site where I help moderate. The site’s articles were good — they’re not a well known news brand for no reason — but she fell into the trap of submitting and forgetting. Social media is social, and this requires a regular commitment to engage with the people who are or are not your constituents.
For all brands, even if you own a hockey arena or can afford a 4 minute spot on the Super Bowl, there’s much to be said about doing more beyond the basic broadcast. There’s more to be done, such as listening to your community and actually speaking amongst them (and not just at them). Building these strong relationships gives users a renewed faith in your company and causes them to help be your vocal advocates. If you empower your customers, they can be your unofficial brand ambassadors. And that’s just one of the great benefits of social media marketing thanks to the cheap technologies that make it all possible.
In fact, a little self-promotion doesn’t hurt; your customers are likely following you because they know you — they love you — and they’re looking for more. Give them more! The best way to make them feel great about you is to give them some visibility too. Show them you’re listening by responding and giving them what they ask for where and when you can.
“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t quite hold true in the social media space. They will come to big brands — but they can come with greater momentum and enthusiasm if you give them reason to.
Run a Creative Campaign
Social media is an ongoing task, but those occasional visibility campaigns can help people spread the word about your products. When Windows 7 was launched, Microsoft encouraged fans to create their own launch parties (and free product was given as well). Chase Bank ran its Chase Community Giving project which brought awareness to its brand while also encouraging you to vote for your favorite charity who would receive up to $1 million in funding. Coca-Cola Village in Israel created a social experience by giving visitors an RFID bracelet and having them visit certain parts of this resort to “Like” them. These actions were posted to the wearers’ Facebook walls. Visitors who were photographed at the resort actually had their photos pre-tagged on Facebook as well.
When smaller brands do this, they must be mindful that they don’t have a leg up in visibility compared to larger brands, so regular involvement and being social on a frequent basis is still really important. With bigger brands, it’s a little easier for them to get away with these one-off social engagements. For larger brands, it’s a constant reminder that the brand is present and working for you.
Customer service is the new marketing. Social media brings customer service to a higher level, and in fact, it also reduces costs. It’s no wonder that we’re now trying to award people for the best social media customer service; some companies are doing a wonderful job by taking concerns seriously and showing that they genuinely want to help. Are you representing a magazine and hear a tweet where a customer complained that her magazine didn’t arrive last month? Take initiative to set things right. If someone is offering advice about the software product you created, thank him for his feedback, and if practical, escalate it to the teams who can make it happen. With big brands, there may be a better process — perhaps you can offer a URL for the customer to send product feedback. Either way, don’t let these opportunities pass you by.
Humanize the Brand
Big brands are, well, big. Their presence might permeate your household — you might have some products in the cupboard and in your fridge, you might be flying on their airline in a few weeks and then again in three months, you might have some clothes in your closet and in your hamper. With social media, you might want to associate with them, and you definitely think of them just a little bit when interacting with their product or using their service, right? But most people who use the products or service probably also think nothing else of the brand. “It’s cool,” “I like it,” “I love their hospitality,” “I always buy from them!” Those are probably the thoughts you have running in your head. With social media, though, there’s a huge opportunity to get to know the people behind the brand, the people who make the brand tick and thrive every day.
Brands can now make themselves super approachable, and businesses can leverage that to show that they are just like us: they are human. Southwest Airlines has its famous Nuts about Southwest blog which is a blog promoting an airline and a whole lot more. In this blog, employees of the airline share personal stories mixed in with company news and announcements. It gives customers and readers the opportunity to meet the people behind the Southwest Airlines name and lets them know that they are dealing with people just like them. At the end of the day, that’s what most of us want anyway.
Big companies definitely have an edge due to their visibility which was probably a lot harder to achieve in those pre-social media days! Still, though, despite their massive pervasiveness, brands still have an opportunity to become much more social, and they should! Speaking as an social media enthusiast, I welcome all brands who realize that there are so many ways to connect with customers using various forms of media and networks. As more and more companies are starting to see the value in social media, even if they were hesitant once before, it becomes clear that this is serious business, and companies of all sizes need to take part in this (r)evolution.
Photos by Shutterstock.