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5 Tips For Stepping Into Social Media

Back when I worked in marketing, the closest I ever got to customers were focus groups.  From the safety of a darkened, M&M-stocked backroom with a one-way mirror, I was able to listen to what they said about my brand and whatever new line extension or ad campaign we were testing. I never had to actually talk to them.

These days, social media offers marketers the opportunity to get much more up close and personal with their customers. Although that prospect should be attractive, marketers seem to be having a lot of trouble adapting. A quick scan of Twitter and Facebook shows the many ways in which marketers don’t get it. There are the abandoned accounts where marketers have just given up and there are others where marketers are plowing on even though they are doing more harm than good.

I offer up five social media tips that may help:

1. Be human

When you’re using social media, you are stepping into the room with your customers and you need to engage with them on a personal level.  If you want them to stick around, you need to behave appropriately. That means you need to be empathetic, generous, interesting and interested and capable of having a conversation about your brand without bragging, spamming or talking like you are a press release. In any social media interaction, you should be asking yourself: What would a human do? And do that.

2. Don’t overreach

Difficult as it may be to accept, it’s likely that your consumers don’t like you all that much. Some of the brands that are recognized social media stars—Starbucks, Coke, Zappos—do have passionate fans and have used social media to build even deeper and stronger relationships with them. But most brands aren’t so lucky and won’t be able to copy what they do and hope for the same success. If you have a relatively weak relationship, your customers are going to quickly tire of you if you are all Chatty Cathy with them.  A study by ExactTarget showed that the #1 reason for people to unlike brands on Facebook was that they posted too frequently.

3. Add value

Rather than try and force conversations that your customers don’t want to have, think about how to add some value. Even brands in the most mundane of categories with the weakest of relationships can find ways to add value. For example, they can provide useful information about their products and about their product category. Or take up an important cause. If all else fails, a sure-fire way of adding value is to give out coupons (which is what most consumers want anyway).

4. Listen and respond

Here’s an astonishing stat. According to a study by Socialbakers, brands don’t respond to 95% of questions posted on their Facebook walls. 95%! If you’ve gone to all the trouble of setting up a page, it seems almost perverse not to bother responding to customer questions. This is a two-way medium. You get to talk but you also need to listen and respond.

5. Use the f*ing tools yourself

Here’s another astonishing stat. A recent IBM study of 1,700 CMOs found that 82% planned to increase their use of social media. However, only 26% of them are actually tracking blogs and less than half are tracking consumer reviews to help shape their marketing plans. Not good enough! Start using the tools and learn by participation. It’s really not that difficult.

Anything else to add to the list?

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1 comment about "5 Tips For Stepping Into Social Media".
  1. Jill Richards from Gray Wolf Partners , November 11, 2011 at 3:07 p.m.
    These are great suggestions Martin! I love the first suggestion to "Be Human". People buy from people and brands that treat them like people. A company should pay particular attention to being human in a social environment where the medium is based on personal interaction. I think the overarching message here is to be thoughtful and strategic about engaging via social media. Perhaps because many people start using social tools for casual or personal purposes, when at their marketing jobs, they somehow forget to treat social as any other marketing channel. You have to evaluate how and when and why to use social channels just as you do any other medium. I'm going to add this post as further reading to my post on getting started with social: Set a Strategy Before Going Social (http://wp.me/p1GoCF-4Y). Your readers may also be interested in some of the suggestions provided there. Thanks for the post - great stuff!