So you’re on social media sites. You’ve got your accounts lined up and ready to fire content into the far corners of the web. You may even have a few nifty tools like HootSuite to help you along the way.
But can you say that your marketing & communications strategy is truly social? Perhaps not…
You see, social media can’t be treated as a ‘bit on the side’. It’s neither a fleeting fancy nor a secondary strategy, ancillary to the main marketing push. Either your communications are social… and by that i mean all of them… or your strategy is not!
So in Summary: What is ‘Social’?
Let’s step right back to the foundation stuff for a moment – What does it mean to be ‘social’?
In a nutshell, if people can follow you as a publisher of content, connect and network with other users on the same or different platforms and/or re-publish (aka ‘share’) or comment on content, then you are on ‘social media’. By definition, any medium which allows for social interaction is a social medium.
Get it? Good.
In fact, to understand best practice in social media marketing you only need to slightly redefine what marketers have for a very long time dubbed ‘The Marketing Mix’, which usually consists of Product, Price, Promotion and Placement. In the world of social media that would roughly translate as:
Product: Perceived value within published content (how do the audience benefit?)
Price: Ease of access & usability (what must your audience do to attain that value?)
Promotion: Strength of call-to-action & level of direct social interaction
Placement: Choice of social networks to utilise & the level of wider integration
With exception to the final underlined point, we’ve covered all that in the first 4 installments of this series. Now it’s time to address that last bit.. The bit that everybody seems to get wrong: How to integrate social media into a wider marketing estate.
Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of social media integration, and why you should do it:
1. The Facebook ‘Like’ Button (& others)
You’ve probably seen these. In fact you’ve probably clicked one. If not, you’re in the minority of Facebook users. (Yes, I am assuming that you’ve got a Facebook account. It is 2012 after all!)
These ‘Like’ buttons can be built into any web page or piece of content, anywhere on the web. If a visitor likes the content they see, they can choose to share it across their Facebook network by hitting the ‘Like’ button: All their ‘friends’ will see your content appear on their activity feed, with what is essentially a trusted endorsement. If any of them then share it, the reach grows exponentially; and so on.
If you build this functionality into your communications, you can very easily assess the effectiveness of each communication individually. If nobody hits ‘Like’, then you’re not pushing it hard enough or the content just isn’t competitive enough!
Furthermore, adding ‘Like’ buttons means that every piece of content you release becomes ‘social’, no matter where it is published; and with social capacity built in, any good content can go viral.
Most social networks have similar buttons available; ‘+1‘ for Google Plus, ‘Pin‘ for Pinterest, ‘Tweet‘ for Twitter etc. The source code is readily available and very easy to use. Most of these buttons also have the option of a publicly visible ‘counter’ so that each visitor can see exactly how many times that content has already been shared.
2. Activity Feeds & RSS
Rather than offering viewers a way to share the content they are viewing on their social networks, these features allow viewers to see a window into your social networks.
An RSS or activity feed displays a list of activity from a given source (or sources) such as, for example, social networks. They can be placed anywhere on the web or they can run as an app for mobile devices or desktops.
This gives subscribers the opportunity to catch up on your recent activity without having to actually visit social media profiles. When people see more of your Facebook or Twitter activity, for example, they are more likely to see something relevant to them.
Some feeds can be restrictive in terms of design but there are a huge number of options available out there; including bespoke solutions should you want one. An interesting halfway house is a Twitter feed which displays only your most recent Tweet. Though it only shows one Tweet at a time, it still advertises your Twitter account (it links through) and allows viewers to see your latest thoughts. It keeps the site dynamic and the content relevant and fresh.
3. QR Codes
Chances are you either know exactly what these barcode-esque squares are or you’ve never even heard of them. For the benefit of the latter, here’s a quick explanation. QR stands for Quick Response. Basically, if you shine a smart-phone camera at any QR code (with a ‘QR Code Reader’ app installed) then the phone will query a database and return pre-specified information. If it’s a URL, the relevant web page will open. If it’s contact details, they will be sent by SMS or downloaded. If it’s a voucher, it will save to your phone or be sent to you by email.
Clever stuff, right? But the real clincher is the fact that these little black-and-white squares (they only need be about 1 square cm) allow you to link to social media platforms too. Therefore any offline content can be integrated into your online social media strategy simply by sticking one of these on it somewhere!
Just Google ‘QR Code Generator’ and you’ll find tons of free resources to use as well as more advanced paid services.
[If you're feeling particularly next-gen, you could look into 'Augmented Reality': A newer version of QR tech that recognises actual physical objects themselves rather than affixed codes. Don't expect any free 'AR' generators online just yet though!]
4. Short Links
I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say you can shorten any URL links using free services provided by short-link sites, such as bit.ly and ow.ly. These short-links can then be tracked with some fairly advanced analytics, telling you when, where and how they were clicked. Furthermore, the short-link sites are, themselves, social: You create a profile where your short-links can be listed, organised and shared.
There are a million and one applications for this. Play around with them and see what works best for you. Again, a quick Google search for short-links will yield a huge number of free and paid resources to use.
5. Taking a Proactive Stance on Socialising!
Don’t tell me you’re ‘going social’ unless you’re going to engage me. Don’t ask me to congratulate you for opening a Twitter account and then not using it except to shout about yourself on it. Don’t ask me to be your friend, ignore what I have to say, and then try to sell me stuff all the time! Instead, interact with me in a meaningful two-way dialogue!
It’s no use having these accounts if you are not going to immerse yourself in them. Yes, that means talking to people, sharing other people’s content (for example, actually hitting the Like buttons on sites you find valuable), holding conversations and making sure you are neither bullish, timid, impersonal nor ‘distant’.
But it also means a little more than that. It means changing your outlook to a more ‘social’ philosophy. It means changing the way you think about your adverts, commercials, press releases, seminars, networking events, referral schemes and indeed all marketing and communications activity right down to the final sales function. If you want to get the most out of social networking, a commitment to social interaction must not only be built in to your core activities but also echoed through your tone-of-voice and outward branding.
You’ll be amazed at how much valuable information you’ll glean, how many people will fall over themselves to help you out and, above all else, just how much fun it can be! But only on one condition… You don’t pretend… You join in, heart and soul!