What do a publishing giant, a women's lingerie retailer, a kid-centric commerce subscription service and a nonprofit organization for the 50+ set have in common? They are all social businesses.
These organizations came together at OMMA Social during SXSW to discuss how the power of social advocacy means more than tweets, pins, and likes. The panel revealed key trends in fostering brand advocacy through social media engagement and left each attendee with five essential strategies they can immediately put into action.
1. Getting started: find a green light zone
Although it has been the better part of a decade since Twitter took off at SXSWi in 2007, there are still brands that are just getting started in social media. When asked how to take step one toward building a social program, AARP's Tammy Gordon advised panel attendees to find a “Green Light Zone” -- something safe to start conversations without raising the blood pressure of the legal team. Beginning social activity around non-controversial topics such as volunteerism within the community or education around existing issue-based programs has paved a pathway for AARP to engage in a subsequent, broader spectrum of conversations. As with AARP, this grassroots approach ultimately opens the doors for large-scale social engagement.
2. Make it sharable
In a social world, it’s no longer enough to make your content consumable: it’s imperative to make it sharable. While many of Hearst Media’s publications and
journalists count as “influencers” in their relative fields, the company's Executive Director of Social Media Brian Madden drove home the point that reducing barriers to sharing helps
brand advocates spread the word. Adding social sharing capabilities to Web sites, developing a digital presence, and creating calls to action all came up during the panel discussion as participants
honed in on the keen necessity for interesting content that demands the attention of community members, enticing them to easily share with friends, followers and connections.
3. Social media metrics aren't the ends - they are the means to drive real business goals
For brands looking to measure the impact of social engagement, define business goals first and then consider what success looks like to connect the dots of social activity to business results. Moderator Dan Clifford, vice president of marketing and social at Victoria's Secret, reminded panel attendees that an obsession with capturing and mining social data has the power to inform or obscure the power of social advocacy, with Gordon later reinforcing the point by saying that “Likes” in and of themselves are not the goal of the organization’s social programs -- its goals were gaining more members and petition signatures. AARP helps members become active on social because they know that a mass of individuals can influence influencers, such as members of Congress, media, and policymakers.
4. There are (at least) two ways to scale conversations
Since the panel was comprised of a broad spectrum of early-stage startups to enterprise brands, participants addressed how to scale conversations as your fan base grows.
I call this the “more, more, more” dilemma -- having more conversations with more people across more channels -- and it’s a good problem to have. Many leaders are expanding social
programs beyond the marketing department to include sales, customer support teams, and subject matter experts who create value for the brand’s social networks. Mauria Finley from Citrus Lane
shared an additional method to help scale conversations: creating advocates so passionate about your product or service that they build a customer-to-customer network where happy and informed
customers answer questions and continue the conversations with others.
5. Don’t obsess over specific channels or tactics - obsess over meeting customer expectations.
When asked whether brands should be obsessed with creating mobile experiences, Lora Schaeffer from Resource reminded the audience that the only thing to be obsessed with
is meeting customer expectations and doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal. This means knowing what is valued by your audience, acknowledging and helping them early and often, and
increasingly personalizing and targeting social activity to ensure it resonates with your community.
2013 is shaping up to be the year of engagement for social brands. And the brands that ace social engagement will grow a community of active advocates -- building awareness, creating word of mouth and ultimately impacting the bottom line.