Rule One: Use It
There are thousands of quotes about “no time like the present” and “carpe diem”, but there’s simply no time to have you glaze over on me now. The truth of the matter is you have jump with both feet, arms spread wide, and get to the bottom of the social media deep end.
That’s the biggest barrier I’ve seen the last seven months. Everyone has heard about it, everyone is talking about it, and no one is using it. Apparently, there is a “no escape” clause built-in to social platforms. Or least you would think so. And, if your business is already using social (I use this term loosely), step back, take a deep breath, and start using it all over again.
Wanting a Ten-Speed Before You Have Training Wheels
You might find yourself reading something like this. All in preparation for that time when you might, eventually, create a profile for your company. Why bother learning the finer points of social communication w/ niche communities if you’re afraid putting your fingers down on the keypad? Or worse yet, not even using social media.
Tip and Guideline Posts are for People Using Social Media
All the “tips” and “guidelines” posts are for people who’ve discovered there might be a better way to get in touch with their communities. Tips and guidelines are primarily for social media marketers that have some level of familiarity, and some unsuccessful social marketing attempts, and are trying to figure out how the “social rock stars” do it.
What Tips and Guide Posts are Really Teaching
These posts really teach you how to play it safe. Both personally and as business on these platforms. Tips like, “*be firm, but not too firm. *Be yourself, unless yourself sucks. *Speak your mind, but don’t be too honest.” How do you expect to differentiate yourself if you’re all acting the same way? Would any real communication be achieved?
Clearly it’s a business tool, and clearly there are “rules” to engagement, but it’s not something you’ll pick up from a post. Take the SEOs and SEMs using social. It’s a unique niche where pretty much anything goes (unless you trash SEO. Then you’re just in a world of trouble). There is no post, tip sheet, or guide that would prepare you to swim fluidly in those streams. It’s a jungle; it’s bizarro world.
And, that thin-slice can be transfered to any vertical, marketplace, or community you want to be a part of: each one has its own way of doing things. Its own unique way everyone communicates. All these tips and guides are really for social media marketers; the people who use it for a living and are looking to gain an advantage over their “community”, not interact with it.
The Human Element
Now that we’ve cleared some of that up, it’s time to talk about how you are / how would be using social. Again, the majority of the people I run across, use social like they would use television: push marketing. You don’t talk, you don’t get involved, you just drop links to product pages, event pages, without so much as peaking any interest in your “community”. Social isn’t push marketing no matter how much you think it is or could be.
Social media is about getting people to care about what you have to say. In any way, shape, or form. Whether you pander to their greed, their charitable side, emotional side, or even the little kid in all of us. Give someone a reason to invest in you, and they will.
If you don’t listen, how do you expect to communicate? How can you provide something meaningful to the conversation if you never heard what was asked for? If you’re continually pushing a message, a link, an anything, without listening, don’t expect people to listen to you.
Use these platforms to better understand what your customer needs. It’s the ultimate CRM tool. If you’re listening, you find out what it is your customer likes about a certain product, doesn’t like about a certain product, whether they got bad customer service, or great customer service. You can react quickly and resolve or champion a situation.
The Bottom Line
You need to use social media in order to understand it and use it for business. Social is not a “magic portal” where people simply follow your direction, convert, and bring you profit. No amount reading “tips” posts or “the ultimate guide to using Twitter” posts will make you understand it any better.
There’s a theoretical side and applied-practice side to everything in life. Once you have enough practice you can start applying theory and making the platform your own.
While I think that social media is “the last item up for bid” in terms of a company’s battle plan in search marketing, this doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of an overall strategy. I’ve said it before, an SEO has to be fluent in every discipline. Social media is a the perfect way to:
1) Get links from a variety of outbound sources, at a variety of IP address (though the anchor text is an if’y proposition)
2) A great way to get brand recognition through several communities, marketplaces, and verticals quickly
3) And, if you can pull it off through nice landing pages, a great way to boost conversions
The strategy with any social media marketing effort is, simply put, to hold a conversation with a community, while manipulating them to perform the desired action. It sounds cold and calculating, but to say it is anything else from a search marketing viewpoint, would be a lie.
In order to create a successful campaign, not only for your own branding efforts and promotion opportunities, but to for your clients’ as well, there is a need to coordinate efforts between all of locations to reach the widest audience possible.
A Cooperative Blitzkrieg
It’s very rare you see the word blitzkrieg in anything other than World War II references to German attack methods. But, in this instance, we’re talking about your internal strategy to push your social message out into the wilderness (see the diagram below). The aim of this strategy, which I’ve found to work well, is to create “waves” of pushes throughout these communities.
The 1st Wave
The Parent Entity in the diagram above is a social media asset (i.e. company blog, parent Twitter account, parent Facebook Fan Page, or LinkedIn Company Page, etc.) When the parent entity publishes on the aforementioned platforms, it will have it’s own natural push into the community(ies) at large. Without an internal strategy in place, this is where the meme dies: in an isolated space left to generate it’s own buzz and movement.
To combat this, every company should/needs to encourage it’s employees to become satellite proselytizers of the brand and the meme. It will take time for the individuals to create and manage a trustworthy reputation within their given communities; therefore, this is a strategy that is intended for the long haul and relies heavily on the 2nd wave.
The 2nd Wave
This, perhaps, is the integral piece of the strategy. Not only does it rely on the “individual” off-shoot from the parent to have a good reputation within their respective community and following, it also relies on them to time their re-issuing of the meme so as not to seem “disingenuous” or “spammy”. Which is why Parents should allow their employees to enter communities unattached to the Parent.
Let’s be honest. We all know we’ve done the internal eye-roll when we see an employee spread the parent message. Especially when the meme is re-blasted within seconds of the Parent. If the meme is spread by people unattached to the Parent, then it’s going to have a much higher trust factor and that the information is valuable.
The second wave can last a couple a days, if need be. This is where the coordination comes into play. Depending on how many individuals you have, you can set up “mini-waves” at the 2nd Wave. The objective at the second wave level is to penetrate as deeply as possible into the 3rd Wave (The Communities-At-Large)
The 3rd Wave
If the 1st and 2nd wave really possessed the cooperative blitzkrieg element, and the meme was actually “valuable” to the community, then deep penetration in the the 3rd wave should be all but guaranteed. Controlling the meme at the 3rd wave is close to impossible, which is why it is imperative in the first two waves that message be engineered but not feel contrived. It’s walking a fine line of control and art.
While this may seem cold and calculated, it has to be done. Real spontaneity and viral memes are like Halley’s Comet: it don’t happen often enough to really count on as a staple element. The more strategy you can apply to social media efforts to ensure visibility, branding, and interaction to elicit the desired reaction in a community/communities that have the attention span of ferret on a triple espresso, the better.