There is nothing mystical about using social media to rally evangelists for your brand. About four months ago, I wrote an article “Using the Social Media ‘A-path’ to Capture Ultimate Customers” that highlighted how you go about it. (Thanks for some great responses to the article.)
Talk is cheap, how about some actionable execution (no charge). Today, I’ll take it one step further and give you a game plan for one possible execution scenario. (Typically, I tailor plans to specific objectives, but this is just a simple example.)
First a quick review …
The “A-path” is about moving potential customers from interest to promoter step by step:
1) Get their ATTENTION
2) ATTRACT them
3) Gain AFFINITY for you
4) Have regular engagements with you and keep them as your AUDIENCE
5) Get them to be your ADVOCATES – the greatest level to reach.
So let’s see how to move a prospect from ATTENTION > ATTRACTION > AFFINITY > your AUDIENCE > your ADVOCATES. Since I hear executives constantly say, “We need to be on Twitter,” I’ll start there. (Twitter is a very good social media tool, but it must be integrated with other social media outlets to be most effective. Twitter, alone, will not likely produce winning social media results.)
To get your potential customers’ attention, you must understand how they might capture information they desire. This means understanding the keywords and tags they may look up which happen to intersect with the content you deliver. I recommend you first come up with a list of potential keywords, and then look at the popularity of each side-by-side with the easy to use Google Trends. This gives you a feel for the vernacular commonly used for the topics you cover. Once you decide on your keyword/tag, create or use a Twitter hashtag. (See “HOW TO: Use Twitter Hashtags for Business”.) You are now set to get attention, but that is not enough … attention and attraction go hand and hand in this example.
The way you attract in business is you deliver something of value. What is it your customers value in the form of information, recommendations, subject matter expert tips, etc. – This is what you should tweet about to attract your target market. If you can do so within 140 characters (include your hashtag), go ahead, but if not, tweet a catchy headline and redirect the crowd to the full article or video/presentation/etc. Remember, insert the hashtag to make it easy for people to find you (get their attention). A good way to measure the Attraction-Factor is the number of responses provoked by your tweet. (Using the bit.ly URL shorten tool provides a count for you.)
You gain affinity by continuing to deliver value. That is, continue tweeting valuable information. Concentrate on what your potential audience wants and needs, not what you want to sell. Continue to position your brand by delivering subject matter expertise. Here is the start of a relationship. The relationship is the most important part of social media. People want to do business with those that they feel comfortable with. Use social media to establish this comfort level and relationship. A good way to measure whether you are getting Affinity-Traction is the increase in the number of “good” (not spam) followers you are getting on Twitter, and the hits to your specified URL.
If you have managed to capture a group that has affinity for you or your brand, you should now look to convert them to your audience. Examples of becoming your audience (there are many more than this) are RSS or bookmarking your site/blog, becoming a Facebook fan, connecting at LinkedIn, subscribe to your eLetter, etc. This is really systematically accomplished two ways: 1) continue to deliver value and thus your affinity group takes one “stickier” step to make sure they capture what you put out, or 2) to incentivise individuals to join. The incentivication is really a sub-program. Some have used surveys and games on Facebook (i.e. Southwest on Facebook ), some use giveaways, whitepapers, promotions, discounts, etc. Measuring your audience is fairly straight forward – but you should measure so you can see a cause-effect relationship of your activities … know what works well and what does not.
Some advocates will emerge from your audience because they genuinely like you or your brand and what you deliver and they are, well, social on social platforms. When this happens you are now extending to the reach beyond your audience – to your audience’s audience – one positive degree of separation from you. This new extended group automatically feeds into the A-Path – you already got their attraction and you have a good chance of traversing them to Affinity > Audience > new Advocate. An advocate may also simply mention your brand to friends or colleagues. I see these two scenarios as residual effects of good social media playing, but you really need a stronger, calculated strategy to capture advocates. That’s simple. Establish one-to-one relationships with the most social and vocal individuals in your audience. Zero in on their needs. Deliver to their needs. Build and increase trust. This will lead to ADVOCATES.
You should always listen to what people are saying about you or your brand in a social media context. This is true for advocates and nay-sayers. There is no shortage of tools to do this from a simple Google search to a host of other solutions. The best aggregation of monitoring tools I have seen is “A Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions.”
Just a few more pointers and then you can go off to conquer the world …
1) Validate – make sure that you are using keywords in “Headline” tweets and/or hashtags that are commonly used by your potential audience. Do not assume what you call your trinket or service is the same thing the potential audience would use to find you and your competition.
2) Respond – search for retweets of your tweets, replies to your tweets and mentions of your username. Make sure to follow up with either a thank you or appropriate response. (Note A: TweetDeck can capture “replies” and “mentions”, but only if the “@” character is present prior to your username. Thus it is useful to use Twitter search as well.)
3) Personalize – I emphasized the importance of one-to-one relationships to strengthen advocates. Therefore, do not correspond one-to-one in a generic fashion. Try to make communication specific to the individual to yield a stronger relationship.
Remember, one size does not fit all and this is just one scenario. A successful social media endeavor must be tailored to specific objectives and competitive environment. Now go kick some @$$.