Angela Saunders is a millennial and online community expert, and was a social media strategist at R/GA for brands like L’Oreal Paris, Royal Caribbean, Capital One, and more. She currently freelances for small to midsize organizations, and heads up the Delta Digital Team, an initiative of Delta Associates, Inc. an Austin-based management consulting company. You can find her website at www.CacheoftheDay.com.
Social media is the next big thing that will grow your business, and once you get a Facebook page it will increase profits, gain new customers and you’ll even lose five pounds. Sound familiar? While it isn’t the miracle it’s sometimes made out to be, social media is not just important, but vital for businesses today.
Maybe you have a Facebook page that you remember to update every 3 months, maybe you haven’t set one up yet because you don’t see the need, or maybe you’ve handed it off to the summer intern to take care of.
With all the hype, it’s easy to forget exactly what social media is, does, and how it should be used for your business.
What is social media?
Social Media is exactly what it says on the tin – social. media. It’s media that people either create or find, and then share.
The power of social media is that it’s democratic – it’s what people decide to talk about, not news organizations. It highlights content that everyday people find interesting or important, and builds relationships and networks.
Social media offers the opportunity to speak with your customers, provide depth to campaigns, strengthen your brand voice and positioning, and build relationships with industry influencers or members of the press.
Why social media?
The fact is that social media is simply another avenue for reaching your customers and prospective new ones. What makes it different is interaction – instead of speaking at people, you’re speaking with them.
Especially Millenials view traditional advertising skeptically. They – and most customers today – need to feel heard. Taking advantage of this very simple need can be very powerful – #AskHairGenius, an active listening and response campaign for L’Oreal Paris, drove awareness equal to that of TV advertising for a fraction of the cost.
You know the adage about 80% of sales coming from 20% of your customers – who do you think follows your social media pages? Social media is an unparalleled opportunity to have a real, one-on-one conversation with your most loyal customers.
How is it important?
After Google, the most-used search engine in the world is YouTube. People use social media to start their search, especially at the top of the funnel, when they are in the research phase. By shifting focus from tech enthusiasts to hobbyist parents, we were able to grow MakerBot’s social audience by 40% and create new leads in a fresh market.
There’s an immense difference between having a social media page as a person (even if you’re relatively popular) and running a page as a brand. There are business goals and objectives, customer service, PR, funnel conversions, lifecycle, and more to take into consideration.
Everything you say represents the brand, the stakeholders, and the company. Is it any wonder why brands become timid and voiceless on social, especially when considering how harmful a poorly-done post can become? Are you sure you trust the summer intern to handle it?
Once you have clearly defined voice and a good idea of who your audience is – how they speak, what they care about, and why they follow you versus your competitors – you’ll be able to leverage that into a true benefit for your business, instead of just an annoying chore.
What works on social?
While social media content by a brand is a message designed to sell something, what a successful social media strategy actually does is create brand rapport and relationships.
The multitude of different social media platforms isn’t just for variety’s sake – they each have a very specific purpose. What platform is right for one business or message, may not be right for another.
Building a community
The engine of social media is fueled by community.
Engaged fans will answer customer service questions, grow your pages and spread your message for you. Once you build a solid network, you can also rely on it for answers. Don’t have the budget for market research and surveys? Thankfully you have 3,000 Twitter followers you can ask about your pricing structure.
Is it better to have 30,000 disengaged fans or 3,000 involved advocates? Just like in your personal/professional life, you network with people who are relevant, important, or interesting to you, versus trying to know the largest number of people (unless you’re running for office). A brand page should focus on people who are excited about the brand.
With Royal Caribbean, we built up the community to be self-sufficient enough that we could cut moderation time in half. People just starting their vacation research quickly received trustworthy answers from actual satisfied customers. And by focusing our posts to align with seasonal or destination initiatives, bookings were filled more quickly and with less advertising support.
Neglecting your community can create an untameable beast. There are many pages where every time they post, they are at best ignored, or at worst, belittled or besieged with complaints. Their soil for building a community has been salted and it would take many months to undo that damage.
Understanding why you’re using social media, what you’re saying, where you’re saying it, and to whom is all wrapped up into your social media strategy. A solid social media strategy will lay the foundation and serve as the guidebook for building a truly valuable community.
For in-depth, practical tips on using Facebook, see Angela’s other posts at: http://www.cacheoftheday.com/thoughts/