You know you need social media to connect with customers. You are beginning to hear more success stories. But connecting the dots and defining how YOU can leverage social initiatives to win over customers has been elusive thus far. You are not alone – I hear this from so many. So let me help.
Almost one year ago, I wrote an article “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media.”. I wanted to give some real examples and direction of how you could use the A-Path to deliver social media results. I made some simple suggestions defining how to find the right keywords to use; tweeting; reinforcing your position; using RSS, Facebook, LinkedIn and enewsletters; and establishing key one-to-one relationships with influencers. While all these examples are still applicable, generating positive results with them is a little more difficult than a year ago when I suggested them. Why? – The social space is more crowded now with more noise. You’re focus and objective must be to rise above the noise. Thus, this is kind of a re-look and a revamp a year later.
The way to rise above the noise is to have a kick @$$ marketing campaign using social media. Now I know there are many comments that social media is not a campaign; that it needs to be a continuous way of life for corporations, and I totally agree. It’s just that it should START the way marketers define campaigns, but run perpetually by having on going elements that always focus on relationships with your audience and delivering them value. The initial campaign definition should address solutions for accomplishing the sequential elements of the A-Path. How will I get someone’s Attention? Attraction? Affinity? How will I get them to be part of my Audience? And then turn some audience members into Advocates? Recognize that once you have advocates, they refuel the A-Path. They do crowd sourcing for you and get attention and attraction to your brand. This is what Jeff Hazylett often refers to as having others doing your marketing work.
So let’s take a quick look at ways to execute on the A-Path. Certainly not an exhaustive execution plan, but hopefully enough guidance that should put you on your execution path specific to your brand and its position …
First recognize the difference between being a known brand versus a start up. If you are a known brand, your “attention” efforts should be focused on endeavors that are likely to provoke sharing. Use your existing audience to tell their friends and network about your value. Put incentives in place. This could be as simple as bartering mentions (blogroll and tweet mentions). If you have a Facebook fan page, your members’ likes and comments show on their friends’ news feed. Getting them to “Like” the post makes your post show up on their friends’ news feed. This is a form of sharing and getting attention.
If you are not an established brand, you need to do something to stick out. DO NOT think, oh we’ll create something that will go viral. As Jay Baer says, “It is not viral unless it is.” Many have set out to accomplish this and failed … far, far more than those that have succeeded. Restating what I wrote in an article a year ago … understand how your target might capture information. Understand the keywords they use. Compare related keywords using Google Trends. Tag these keywords to your content. Define a plan for your content distribution looking at all the possible channels. Where is the target audience already congregating? Go there for starters and engage. Join the conversation.
Consider use of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, and other niche platforms, communities, and forums specific to your industry focus.
Gaining attraction is really just a continuation of getting attention. You’re activities and channels and really pretty much the same. But, once you get someone’s attention, you need to add two things to move them forward to attraction. First, you need to continue providing valuable information to them and reinforce both your brand position and the reason why you got their attention in the first place. Second, you need to engage with them. Not just broadcast. Think about what customer service really means and how you feel when someone at a company gives you the time of day, stops to respond to you, or simply says, “Thank you.” Continue to use the same social channels you used getting attention and engage there.
You move to affinity from attraction by having a greater focus on relationships. This will be accomplished by continuous engagement. To quote Mike Lazerow of Buddy Media, “the only way to scale social is with people.” People want to do business with those that they feel comfortable with. It takes people to build relationships – not an automated process. Affinity means people are latching on to your brand. You want to increase the number of Twitter followers, RSS subscribers for your blog, followers on a Tumblr blog, Facebook fans, bookmarking of your content, etc. You need to set (continuous) campaigns to increase “opting-in” at these channels. There are three ways you increase these numbers: 1) define incentive promotions for signing up and friend-sharing, 2) continue to deliver valuable and/or entertaining content, and 3) cross promote your socials channels.
From an entertainment perspective, an audience is usual a group of people that have paid to see a movie, show, or concert. They are one step deeper than an affinity group because they have invested some equity. In social space, personal information is equity. It usually starts with a login name and password or could be as simple as an email address. Ultimately, you want customer information so you can segment them appropriately and interact with them. Recognize you don’t get this from your Facebook fans. I am not knocking Facebook – it is an awesome platform to engage with your audience, but I would argue that you can only go so far as gaining affinity with your target market on Facebook. If you really want to take this one step further and have a true social audience, you need to define where you bring together your audience and be able to collect information about them over time. Some examples include email newsletters and social networks platforms (OneSite, Ripple6, KickApps, Elgg, etc), (You should have an information collection strategy that aims at getting more data, slowly over time, as your participants get deeper into brand loyalty and usage. You do not want to turn them off by asking for too much early on. Normal relationship building principles apply similar to building your personal relationships.)
Once you have established an audience you will notice some power users. These are the people that are on the platform on a regular basis, peruse most sections, and often are the most vocal. This subset of your audience represents potential advocates. The way to persuade them from being power users to becoming advocates is to acknowledge them and give them things that are special and unique. Recognition might be the most valued attribute as discussed in “The Power of Generosity” by Josh Bernoff.
So just a couple more things here. I realize this is long, but my wife has been bugging me to put some more useful information in my blog.
1) When I address the brands I work with, I often say one slide shows our social strategy. Here it is …
What I want you to take away from this is what I covered about the various A-Path steps described above. You start the early stages of the A-Path offsite. Then there is a cross over to your site or your platforms. You have the strongest success of the A-Path steps offsite in the beginning and the greatest success of the A-Path steps in the later stages on your platforms.
2) Many people ask me which social platforms are best. I have said numerous times, there is more to social media than Facebook and Twitter and even wrote an article “In Social Media, Twitter is Just the Start.” When selecting the most appropriate you should consider Brain Solis’ Conversation Prism. It was introduced in 2008, and an update was provided in 2009.
While new platforms continue to be introduced and gain popularity, the categories of social channels have not really changed. You should look at the bullet list of types social outlets, understand your target market preferences and plan appropriate places to get attention and attraction, build affinity and audience, and acquire advocates. I do really like the mind map method Solis recommends in the Conversation Prism V2.0.
This is a game plan to drive success, but no game plan ensures success. Winners take some calculated risk – they are not followers. Are you ready to be a winner and willing to create something new and innovative?
Make It Happen!