Using Social Media in Marketing : Part 3

So What Does This Mean To My Marketing Strategy?

So this new web-born freedom is great and all, but how does it apply to business? Why should my business use these tools, or more importantly, HOW? At first glance it may seem there is no place amongst the Facebook Werewolves and YouTube haters for any serious business to venture. What could I possibly gain from sharing web-space or associating with that crowd? Actually, there is a huge gain to be had in joining the Social Network masses. These people are your audience, your customers. Never before have you had an opportunity to communicate so directly with them. Creating relationships with potential or existing customers has never been easy. Opening the doors of your social network to your audience allows a greater level of transparency and interaction. If done well, it can put a human voice or face to an otherwise anonymous corporate entity.

A dialog can be opened between the people you have been producing print ads for, who’s mailbox you have been dumping direct mail into, who you have been writing newsletters for all this time. Not only do you now have a channel to canvas ideas and feedback, your customers now have a door to poke their heads around and offer you suggestions, complaints, praise. You may have paid handsomely for this market research in the past. Of course you have to be committed to offering the best product or service you possibly can. Opening the social network doors will only lead to a barrage of angry followers if your offerings are less than advertised. If what drives you is the desire to be the best in your field, and your attempts to garner input are sincere then this feedback should be nothing short of gold.

A quick side story. I had the misfortune to work with a client once who, in an attempt to shore up the bottom line, made a conscious decision to abandon any attempt at producing a quality product and simply ship in the quickest, cheapest manner they could. The client in question was a big name brand in music recording and sound products. We were in mid re-branding and rebuilding their website when the plug was pulled on the campaign. They decided not to market to a long-standing and loyal user base who had come to expect and demand top-quality products from this company. They opted for quantity over quality. This was very disappointing, for all the obvious reasons at the time, but for me I had some great plans for building a social network around a large, loyal user-base of musicians. A perfect opportunity to leverage user generated content and social media to make their website the place to go for musicians to share and connect with like-minded enthusiasts. And of course the marketing and promotion possibilities of such a site would have been boundless. No matter how I tried I could not get the decision makers to share my vision. A big opportunity missed.

But not all businesses are so short-sighted. There are already many consumer businesses that have a Social Networking presence. Zappos the online shoe megastore, for instance, is well known for publishing promotional offers on Twitter. The Twitter account is not the self-serving marketing spiel of a faceless bot, it is the real-time thoughts of the Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Zappos also publish several blogs linked from the main ecommerce site, which have employees writing and posting videos about the Zappos lifestyle and other associated news. Again, this makes the company look like it is owned, run and managed by humans, real-people. Comcast has for a long time been using Twitter as an additional customer service channel. A real human being, using their real name, Bill Gerth, and a photo of themselves for the avatar, responds with very human and caring words to Comcast customers with questions and complaints about the service. This must make Comcast’s Twitter followers feel like someone is on their side helping to resolve the issues.

Again, not to belabor the point, having an open channel of communication between the publisher and the follower serves to strengthen the bond between them and put a real human face where there often is none.

Tomorrow I’ll look at ways to get you started using social tools. Check back then, or better yet subscribe with your RSS reader and have the series delivered to your inbox.

If you have any questions regarding this article, or would like to discuss setting up a social media platform for your organization, leave a comment below or contact me through the Contact Me page.

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