This is a synopsis of the advice I give all of my clients during our initial meeting and some of what I talk about when giving my painful lectures/presentations. It is the slow, patient, credible, organic and day-to-day way of maximising your results from social media and I have found these principles to be pretty solid over the four years I have been involved in this industry.
This is deliberately vague and will require patience to see results. It is not an (A + B) x C = Retirement/fire-the-ad-agency in six months kind of plan.
- Social media is social. Think about what kind of social event your company would host. The same rules of engagement and conversation apply. My personal style of social event would be a barbecue. I would let people swear a bit (ok, a lot), but not be (overly) offensive to other guests. I would occasionally talk about the fun things I had done lately at work, or interesting things in the industry. I would not hand out business cards or openly solicit new business. Think about what social event you would have with your clients/providers/friends etc. Dinner party? Golf day? High tea? Whatever suits your brand's personality. Think about what kind of conversations you would have at this event. Replicate this same style of engagement on your social media platforms.
- Build a vocabulary of words to use more frequently in your social media/blog posts. Make these words representative of the way you want your company to be perceived. They will give your brand a controlled personality that will show you in a desired light and help potential customers (and future employees) align themselves with your brand. This is my personal brand on Twitter as a tweet cloud. The bigger the word, the more frequently I use it.
- Be consistent with the timing and content. If you use your Twitter account to tell jokes, do not suddenly change to a marketing push and vice versa. And by timing I mean do not forget about twitter for three weeks then suddenly send 20 tweets in a day (or FB updates, or blog posts etc). A content plan can help with this. When I ran social media for the military I had three to six months of content planned in advance, but I was always flexible with that and would talk about other content as it became topical.
- Social media is two way. Do not think about what message you want to shout, think about what conversation you want to have, and who you want to talk with. Social media, and in particular Twitter, should be viewed more as a customer service channel, NOT a marketing channel. If you publicly treat your audience well with these channels, they will do your marketing for you in a word of mouth way that is more powerful than any message you could push out yourself.
- Facebook tabs can do anything these days. ANYTHING. Here is one I built recently that broadcasts live TV while also displaying a Twitter feed of related comments and allowing people to discuss what is happening via Facebook comments. You can build a tab that does anything you want and use these to give your audience a reason to stick around, and a reason to talk about you.
- Use your Facebook insights page to learn about your main audience segments. Use other statistical information and sites like www.klout.com to identify the mass influencers within your audience and target ads (above the line, plus social media ad campaigns like Facebook ads or Twitter promotions) directly to this group to get the best bang for your buck.
Anyhoo, these are some pretty solid techniques which, if followed, will eventually help you to organically build a credible following/fanbase of engaged people, all of whom will run to the shops and buy whatever self-diagnosis DNA testing kit you are selling. If patience is not your virtue, there is always the option of running a big flashy promotion. Just make sure you follow the rules.
- Anthony Gardiner ran social media for the New Zealand Army for over a year before moving to Skinny Marketing where he works as a consultant. Anthony dislikes talking about himself in the third person and made it through to round three of the Charlie Sheen intern quest.