In one corner, the 500 lbs Gorilla that is the traditional media scene. Around for decades and still dominating advertising budgets all over the world. Television (Pow!) Radio (Wallop!) Outdoor (Kerpow!) Press (Crunch!) In the other, the weedy, stripling new kids on the block, up and comers scene that is Social Media. Facebook (Slam!) Twitter (Thump!) LinkedIn (Crash!) with fantastic head spinning numbers like Facebook’s 901 million users per month.
Except it’s not like that. At all.
I’ve been amazed this week. I have spoken to three separate business people who are still debating whether they should be ‘on’ social media sites. But then I thought about that a bit. It’s the same with when you have a favourite TV show or book, you think everyone will love it! And maybe even expect everyone to have seen it or read it. It’s the same with Social Media, I love it. I am immersed in it, use it every day, so I assume everyone else is as ‘into’ it as I am.
Lets get this straight. I love Commercial Radio, that’s my job, I’ve ‘done it’ for almost 20 years, and enjoyed every second. And I am really good at it. Its one of the most powerful mediums available to you as a business. Its great at branding or direct response, instantly communicating with your customers, and if you’re a bit sharp about it, its extraordinarily cost-effective. In fact I would go so far as to say cheap!
But social media offers you an opportunity like no other. It’s ability to connect with your customers, your suppliers, your prospects, your employees, in fact any stakeholder in your business, is unparalleled. And bar the cost of electric and broadband and computers and so forth, things you will most certainly have around anyway, it’s completely free of charge. Sure, it requires the investment of time from you or some other person you can trust. And you need to trust them. This is after all, your brand we are talking about.
But it’s not a choice, it’s a ‘must do’ in my opinion. You must get your head round this stuff. Consider the following.
As we’ve discussed, the people who work for you, the people who shop with you, the people who sell to you. The people who are talking about you, thinking about using you, researching you and your products (on-line and off-line). The people who have bought from you, and come back and buy from you again and again. They are your tribe. And they need you to lead them! At least in the matters of your brand. The way you talk to these people is through the social platforms that they themselves are using. And what you say is simply put; all about you, and all about them. What they need from you and want from you. Just like it’s always been.
Reach out and touch someone
The first stage of your plan to make your business more social, is to decide who you need to be connecting with, and where they hang out. In an ideal world, you’ll be sharing everything with everyone we’ve talked about. But lets take this in baby steps for now. And lets just pick a couple of the most popular social sites for an example. Lets say Facebook if you are a B2C brand and LinkedIn if you are a B2B brand. All underpinned by Twitter, the micro blogging site.
Set yourself up a profile, and away you go! Really. Lots of people talk about your social media strategy, and how you absolutely must have one. But there’s plenty of time for that. Just have fun! It’s not more complicated than that. It certainly gets more complicated, but the best way to learn this stuff is to immerse yourself in it. You’ll learn fast from everyone around you. From what your favourite brands are doing, to the brilliant bloggers that abound with great advice. You’ll learn most directly from what your customers have to say – and obviously, that’s the best, most important part.
Just jump in and enjoy. But you will need a couple of concepts to get you going.
Build a community of targeted followers
There are tons of ways to do this, but it boils down to asking people for connections. On Twitter, its dead easy, just ‘follow’ people. Find your customers or otherwise interesting people who you’d like to learn more about, or connect with or are just curious about, click the ‘follow’ button and typically they will follow you right back.
LinkedIn is very similar, the platform allows you to send connection requests to pretty much anyone. And the great thing is lots of people are already there and looking forward to nothing more than connecting with you, and people like you. This is the key. Just like at a football match, where you’ll tend to find people who like football, on Twitter and LinkedIn and all the other social platforms, everyone is there to connect, and to chat and to find ways of creating mutually beneficial relationships.
For your Facebook page, you’ll more likely rely on your existing audience to drive your community. Asking for people you know to share your content is a good place to start. Running competitions to encourage people to ‘like’ your page is another well used idea. Or you can even rely on the good old-fashioned traditional media. Maybe you’ve already got a great website, Facebook page, Pinterest account or whatever, but you’ve no traffic. Thats where advertising comes in. Broadcasting your message, and the place people can interact with you, connect with you, is still the fastest (and in some ways) most efficient way to build an audience.
But you don’t have to use paid for media. You can build this stuff person by person, reader by reader, follower by follower. One ‘like’ at a time.
Just like it’s always been, Content is king
Thats right, advertising types have always told you it’s about the copy, marketing that it’s what you say and the way you say it. And social media is no different. And actually, content is the real killer concept. If you can produce killer content, it will spread, building your connections as it goes.
You’ll have heard the term viral content, or liquid content? This is the stuff that’s shared all over the world, it catches fire and everyone seems to be talking about it. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get that lucky (but good luck!) but you should certainly consider that your tribe will share your stuff. Regularly and with vigour! And as they share it, you will attract new followers, maybe not on the scale of some of the internet memes you’ll have read about, but build it, and if its good enough, they will come.
Each of the platforms we’ve mentioned has its own ‘favourite’ types of content too. Twitter is all about links, short form internet addresses that take you from the Twitter website or app and into the contents host site. Facebook is big into pictures (hence the Instagram purchase) music and video, rich content, content that people love to share between themselves. LinkedIn tends to be similar to Facebook and Twitter but is aimed squarely at business users. But its also great for posting articles and videos and so forth.
LinkedIn’s killer point of difference though, is it’s ‘groups’. A quick search of the ‘groups’ section and you’ll find dozens of like minded businesses all over the world available to connect to you, to help you, and maybe even to buy from you. You’ll find groups in your category, groups of your customers, groups of your suppliers. And unlike some of the ‘flavour of the month’ stuff you read about, LinkedIn is huge here in the UK too.
You’re reading one now, and blogs are probably to easiest way to go from zero to sixty in social media terms ‘over night’. If you don’t have a website, I recommend WordPress, it’s really good. You can be set up and publishing your content in minutes. Then use your Twitter account or Facebook page or LinkedIn profile to share your content around your targeted followers.
Don’t give up
It can feel a very lonely place a blog. Especially when you start. You’ll no doubt pour your heart into your first one, and watch the analytics (that all blogging platforms provide) for evidence of readers. You’ll be desperate to illicit comments, so much so, you’ll check every 5 minutes to see if anyone has left one! (At least that’s what I did)
But don’t give up. Keep plugging away. One thing your readers will love and one thing the search engines love too, is regularly updated content. Whether its monthly or weekly or even daily (!) post as often as you can, as regularly as you can. Keep and eye on quality too, don’t fall into the trap of writing for search engines, or some other trick you’ve read about. Just write for your audience, be yourself.
And share. Share your content everywhere. Don’t bombard people, or drop in uninvited on conversations, but don’t be afraid to get your content out there. As I said, there are lots and lots of tips and hints out there on-line, so I won’t go into too much detail, but just do it, have fun!
I appreciate that this article really just scratches the surface of this stuff, and its difficult to know how much detail to go into and still keep the post readable. So I’ll make you a deal OK? As is the spirit of the CFSA blog, ask me whatever you need, anything you want. On line or off-line, Find me on Twitter, on LinkedIn or even in the comments section below, or directly by email if you like firstname.lastname@example.org
And I’ll do my damndest to help you get yourself up and running. You never know, you may even buy some radio advertising to help you at some point in the future, so we’ll all win! 😉