by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter
Your team has likely worked to get more "likes" and "followers" in social media, but not all followers are created equal. Some use the Internet as a passing fancy, while others consider blogs and social networks a way of life.
As you may have guessed, these plugged-in followers are far more valuable. Brian Solis, Principal, Future Works, and author of Engage!
calls them "social consumers." These digital mavens exist both in consumer-marketing and B2B audiences and they're extremely influential.
"They are in many was as influential, and in some cases more influential, than any of the traditional ways we've used to get our [marketing messages] out there," Solis says.
Traditional consumers often research and learn about products through traditional media and well-known friends. Social consumers are completely different. These hyper-connected insiders get their information through online networks they've built.
"The rise of the social consumer requires a presence that is dedicated to them, because they're not doing any of the things that a traditional consumer is doing," Solis says. "Without embracing what they're doing, and why and how they're doing it, we miss those opportunities."
Below are four tactics Solis suggests to woo the social consumers in your market so they will like and promote your brand. Tactic #1. Find out who they are and what they want
Social consumers have a high number of valuable online contacts. Their blog posts, comments and feed updates make them more like mini-publications than individual people. These traits, coupled with industry expertise, put them in a position to help sway market sentiment.
The first step to engaging this audience is research, Solis says, to find the social consumers in your market and identify their needs. Your team needs to thoroughly understand:
o Where online discussions relevant to your business often occur
o Who is at the center of these discussions
o What are the needs, interests and motivations expressed
o What topics and types of content fuel these discussions
Here are three relevant metrics social media marketers measure and the percentage of them doing so, as reported in the MarketingSherpa 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report
o 56% Quantity of commentary about their brands or products
o 50% Sentiment of commentary about their brands or products
o 38% Engagement with influential bloggers, journalists, tweeters, etc.
Your team can use social media monitoring tools, both paid and free, to keep track of mentions of your brand and keywords. Free tools include Google Alerts and Addictomatic. These should help you find your audience's relevant conversations, networks and websites.
In addition, you can manually search for popular blogs and websites and regularly dig through comment pages and forums to help find answers to the above questions.Tactic #2. Humanize the brand and bring it to life
Social consumers have to like your company and its products. Your team needs to look inward at how to become a more personable brand instead of a stuffy business.
"It's a really human, emotional conversation to have, but that's what the social Web is about," Solis says.
Solis suggests digging down into your brand's roots and asking:
o What is our story?
o Why are we in this business?
o Why do customers choose us?
o How can we communicate this in personable terms?
o If our brand was a person what would it sound like?
o What would this person's values, persona and mission be?
The answers to these questions will help your team find the tone to use when interacting online and the types of content to make available.
- Talk like a human
Companies' mission statements can be great examples of the approach and language to avoid when trying to reach social consumers, Solis says.
"[They're] likely written in a way that demonstrates how companies talk to people. It's not at all how people talk and listen to one another."
Companies need to take the ideas expressed in their mission statements -- their core brand values -- and turn them into personas that can communicate with online audiences in personal, human ways. Tactic #3. Use what you've learned to enter the market
Once your team understands its social consumers and how to engage with them on a personal level, it's time to design a plan to connect.
You should only enter social networks and the blogosphere with clear goals and a plan for achieving them. Take the audience's needs you identified through research and select the best tactics to address them. Analyze the types of content that are driving their conversations and plan to provide even more value.
Here are the top three social media marketing tactics and the percentage of social marketers who use them, as reported in the MarketingSherpa 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report
o 78% Have company-branded or -managed social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
o 63% Have company-branded or -managed microblogs (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.)
o 63% Share content on multimedia sites (YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, etc.)
"One thing I have learned is that while the steps may be consistent -- go listen, go research, engage, have conversations -- how you get there is different every single time," Solis says. "What you say is different every single time. What you create is different."
- Example: Relevant, valuable blogging
The social shopping community Giantnerd has a blog dedicated to bringing the company's core values to life, which helps humanize its brand, Solis says.
The site also has many social features and operates as part e-commerce site, part social network. The team offers customers discounts and giveaways to share their insights, experiences and product recommendations with the community. This helps build the community and encourages engagements that Giantnerd has recognized as powerful, Solis says.
"They've basically attracted that hyper-social user there and motivated them to become a representative of the company," Solis says. "But they did their research. They understood first what it took to be a meaningful brand, what people were looking for, and then intentionally took the steps to bring the brand to life."Tactic #4. Make your website socially relevant
Reaching social consumers often requires spending time on third-party networks and websites -- but your brand's website can play an important role.
Your blog, for instance, can be hosted on your domain. And you can host landing pages to receive traffic from social sites. Executed effectively, these tactics can improve your website's natural search rankings, increase inbound traffic and improve conversion rates.
Keep in mind, however, that social consumers have unique needs. Incorporating your website into this strategy only makes sense if you've created a relevant environment for them.
"Your website is only as important as your overall strategy is relevant," Solis says. "In fact, if you were to engage with someone on the social Web and expect that they would come to your website to finish a transaction or to get more information, I can assure you that they'll most likely fall off within the first second or two."
- Example: Levi's on Facebook
Solis points to an example of a social media campaign run by Levi's last year. The denim jeans brand added "like" buttons to its website's product pages, and also created product pages in Facebook where consumers could click to "like" them.
"The more they 'liked' things, the more it went out to their social graph, the more it attracted people," says Solis
Levi's featured the top "liked" products on its website, and also created a "friend store" in Facebook where logged-in members could see a list of their friends' "liked" products and shop for jeans directly on the social network. Social consumers did not have to leave their preferred environment to discover and purchase products -- whether that was on Facebook or the Levi's site.Useful links related to this articleInbound Marketing: How to pull in customers without pushing ads Social Media Marketing: Interview with Kodak's Chief Listening OfficerMarketingSherpa 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark ReportGoogle AlertsAddictomaticGiant Nerd BlogLevi's Launches Social Media Shopping Tool on FacebookBrian Solis: EngageFuture Works