When used correctly, social Media can be an extremely powerful way to form relationships with your audience and spread possitive word of mouth. When used incorrectly, it can really piss people off. We've all heard about failures like the Wal-Marting Across America fiasco, not to mention Target's faux pas, Rounders, oops!
So is there a secret formula for success in social media marketing? We know some things that don't work: lack of or false transparency, "invasion" of social networks, SPAM, rushing into SNs without understanding them and thereby breaking etiquette. When launching a social media campaign, there are different combinations of tactics and strategies that will work best for each combination of brand and audience.
1. Participate, don't invade. If you look at the evolution of the web, we went from browse, to search, to interact. We are now in a place where the web is all about interaction. People learn about news, products and brands from their peers. They consider this space very personal, it's where they hang out online. It's like walking into a bar where you've never been and don't know anyone. You want to make friends. If you're too pushy, or worse, a total creep, you'll get rejected right off the bat. But if you take your time, observe how people are interacting with each other, like maybe they all like to play quarters, now you can ask to play, maybe buy a couple of rounds and before you know it you're all best buddies. Same thing with SNs. You have to first participate, get to know the place, learn how people interact and then with grace and tact, ask permission to participate with them. If you're relevant and interesting, they will not only participate with you, but encourage their friends to as well.
Which brings me to my next point...
2. Be relevant and choose the right context. If you are relevant, your audience will come to you. Or better, they will pass you around to their peers. There are innumerable social media environments, including social networks, media sharing sites, blogs, micro-blogs, and virtual worlds. Choosing the right environment for your brand and your message to reach your audience is crucial. And then once you've chosen your environment, it's important to stay relevant to the audience. Social media campaigns should be consumer-focused, think audience-in rather than brand-out.
3. Niche is Nice It's been my experience that social media campaigns are most effective when they are targeted at niche audiences. Why? Allow me to posit a theory: niche audiences are passionate and they are hungry for content. So, if you take points 1 and 2 into consideration: participate, don't invade, and be relevant, a niche audience is the most likely audience to be receptive to you.
4. Don't go in blind Social media campaigns often fail when they are run by people who themselves do not participate in the social networks they use for marketing. Before running any campaign, you should know the ins and outs of each environment you participate in. Each site has a different set of etiquette, ethics, manners and morays. There are nuances to these sites and environments that only experience users are aware of. To use an analogy, you would expect to find a different set of behaviors and manners in your local fast food chain restaurant than you would in a five star French restaurant. Not that one is right or wrong, but they are both right for the context they appear in.
5. Make friends with influencers Now, don't misinterpret me here, I don't mean just figure out who the influencers are in your audience and click "add to friends," I mean, really, make friends with them. Engage them, ask them for feedback, allow them to participate in your brand, and show them that you are listening. These people are savvy, intelligent, vocal and opinionated. The worst thing you can do is approach them in a way the is disingenuous. Then not only have you alienated them, you have run the risk that they will spread negative word of mouth about you. Web 2.0 and social environments are all about two-way communication. If all you do as a brand is broadcast, if you ignore this crucial piece of the puzzle, you will be instantly dismissed or rejected. So, once you determine who your key influencers, start conversations with them.
Let's consider this a "part 1" I'm sure I'll have more to talk about on this subject in the upcoming weeks.