This post is for my current and future clients who think they won’t deal with social media because their customers don’t “use” it. This thinking is the first cousin to the “we’re different” thinking that every vendor encounters when they try to bring proven solutions to new prospects. Both limit easily achievable possibilities.
What does that mean, “use social media”? Is Twitter or Facebook the image you carry? OK, but ask yourself these questions: do your customers conduct online research, do they use Google? Then, you need to deal with social media.
Social media, in part because of the buzz word nature and related hype, is intimidating. I suggest you replace the words social media, with online channels. There are two primary ways to think of using social media: to listen and to promote.
Start By Listening
Social media is a terrific, low cost (time and effort only) way to listen to what is happening in your target markets, and even target customers. This gives you great insights that can fuel your business strategy, drive marketing and sales tactics, create messaging that resonates, and produce content.
If you are not actively listening now, you simply must. Think of this as regular market research and customer/competitive intelligence gathering. It is also the best way to become familiar with common practices, techniques and protocols of certain social media channels.
I suggest you set up a Netvibes listening post. This simplifies listening to many different bloggers by aggregating their RSS links into a single reader. You can even organize them into groups. Here is an example of one I use for the topic content marketing. Notice that these can be private or public. This means you can even publish your favorite Netvibe groups in ways that can help your customers.
In a similar manner, set up a Twitter account. Then set up Hootsuite as a Twitter dashboard and listening post. Track bloggers, influencers, journalists and others in your industry, along with any individuals you come across in customer accounts. You will gradually network your way to a significant group of contacts.
But without a Twitter account and Hootsuite listening post, you’ll never do it. You will also find that many of the people you follow will follow you back. This means when you are ready to promote using Twitter, you will have built an initial community to hear and share your communications.
Part of listening is to identify your customer’s information sources. Have your sales people make this a regular part of their conversations with customers. Ask not only about information sources they use, but the kinds of questions or issues they are asking about.
These insights will inform and improve your content for use with social media.
Use Channels to Promote
By publishing your existing content on social media channels, your links will be picked up and distributed by Google, bots and other search technologies. This means your content will be found by your prospects. They don’t have to “do” anything — except the searches they regularly do.
To start, keep it simple. You, or at least your employees, undoubtedly have a LinkedIn account. Set up a corporate LinkedIn account.
If you haven’t yet, you must set up a blog account. There are so many options here, including the possibility your website software has this capability. Typepad and Hubspot are two of hundreds of options to consider. If you have — hey, you are already on social media. This takes regular work to pay off, but it can instill critical disciplines and help you work out your thinking into source content in a safe manner. This is the single most important step you can take. It can be the foundation of your entire marketing program, especially future social media efforts.
Do you have PowerPoint shows or other documents you would like to share and promote? Well, clean them up (put a fresh, professional public facing look on them), and post them to your Slideshare channel.
What about video? Set up a YouTube account and upload your videos.
Link Slideshare and YouTube assets into your corporate as well as employee LinkedIn pages. Embed videos in your website (both sides provide the embed code you will need), blogs and email campaign landing pages. The principle here is to leverage every channel you can. Each outlet raises the possibility others will view and share your content. In this way you will begin to amplify your voice, if your messages and content resonate with your audiences.
With these “assets” — blog posts, Slideshare presentations, YouTube videos — you can now add your content to third party blogs as “comments” to other’s blog posts. This is an excellent way to promote your ideas in an appropriate context. This will help other users “find you” through those third party posts.
These links can also be incorporated into your more traditional marketing materials — articles, press releases, website pages, webinar pages and even live events.
Please don’t let the hype and a lack of investigation intimidate you from leveraging powerful and low cost tools that can help your business immediately. Oh yeah, that Twitter account you set up — with your blogs, presentations and videos just a link away, you can even start promoting on Twitter.
Watch out, you may be using social media sooner than you think. What other techniques have you tried that are a good starting point?