At last year’s Dreamforce, Addvocate Founder and CEO Marcus Nelson joined Andrew Hogg, Marketing Operations Senior Analyst at salesforce.com, to discuss the importance of a strong social media strategy for responding to the needs of today's social customer.
“Social customers control the conversation with brands, not the other way around,” notes Hogg. “They’re more informed than ever and demand immediate relevance from your sales and service teams, they want to be understood and not sold to.”
Indeed, brands must be ready to meet the new breed of customer: the ever-connected, always-on, highly opinionated, on-the-move, super sophisticated customer.
Nelson offered the following list of 10 best practices for growing your business and connecting with customers through social media.
1. Own your social brand presence
Brand managers should pay attention to emerging social channels in order to stay on top of owning the brand name. “We’d had people sitting on our brand channels like Instagram and Pinterest. I think there was even a Facebook page we had to fight for too.” notes Nelson.
Reserve your name on popular social sites as soon as possible. You never know when you'll decide to start using those platforms. Don’t allow someone else to squat on your brand name. (Nelson recommends both KnowEm and NameChk, services that check the availability of, and reserve your brand name across social channels.)
2. Have an email and SEO strategy first
“You’ve already spent time, energy, and money into building these resources (email and websites) — tools that you control. Social media, you don’t control. You can’t make people go and like your stuff.” says Nelson. You can, however, send people emails and encourage them to visit your website through effective calls-to-action.
Nelson advises putting email strategy first, search engine optimization (SEO) second, and social third. Social networks may rise and fall, but your company website and blog are your channels, you own them, and you control their content.
House content on your own space, like your blog. “What that does is create exchanges and authority on your page, and that’s what Google looks at when they’re crawling pages. Because of that, they’ll drive a page rank based on amount of traffic and links to your blog or 'authority.'" Nelson notes that if “content is king,” then "your blog is the castle."
3. Convert social to email
Again, you don’t own social channels. “So get fans into a system you do control, like email." As an example, Nelson notes slide-hosting platform Slideshare. “The thing about Slideshare is they give you the ability to put lead capture forms inside the deck. So, five, ten slides in, as somebody’s going through your deck, you put a lead capture form and say, “If you want to see the rest, fill out the form.”
The goal here is to show a little value and thought leadership upfront, but if prospects want more, they give up some information, including email. This turns social content into a lead generation machine.
4. Make your corporate site social
Add social sharing to your websites and emails, using share buttons, tweet widgets, Facebook "like" buttons, etc. Make it as easy as possible for people to share your content across their respective social networks.
Social sharing buttons on salesforce.com
5. Become a curator of content
If you don't have budget to create content every day from scratch, Nelson reminds us that through social networks, newsletters, and RSS feeds, plenty of great content is still available. Set up a system to curate the best content for your industry, and share it with your followers.
Nelson mentions his own take on the "80/20 rule." Eighty percent of your curated content should include tips, tricks, and thought leadership. The remaining 20% can involve discussing your own products/services. The key is to be entertaining and helpful, not to sell.
6. Don’t advertise; editorialize
When creating or curating content, Nelson says think like an editor; not an advertiser. And include visuals whenever possible. Infographics, for example, are a great way to visually explain data or trends within your industry. Keep in mind how popular visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are becoming. People love images.
7. Engage your biggest fans
Use social media to engage with your advocates and influencers. Start with your most avid customers, and look for ways to reward them or give them props. "Do a hat tip. Retweet them; engage them; say thank you. Anything you can do to validate their efforts; it’s going to go a long way.”
8. Empower your employees to engage
Have a policy in place for employees' social media use. Nelson strongly recommends focusing on things you want employees to do, not what you don’t want them doing. The latter approach may scare them into not doing anything at all.
9. Automate and personalize your responses
Avoid the need to hover over social channels 24/7 through the use of scheduling tools to schedule posts when you can’t be online, and then check in via mobile devices to moderate comments. “It’s easy to queue a content schedule, get it out there, and then every couple of hours, come back; see what the comments and responses are; retweet, and engage with those. Then you can return to whatever else you need to focus on.”
10. Feature your customers and content
“People love to be recognized. When they’re recognized, what’s the first thing they’re going to do? They’re going to share it. “Hey, look at me over here!” Use this tendency to your advantage.