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Social Media

Social media networking. A new tool to reach your target.

Much is being written and talked about regarding the social networking tools now available through the Internet – among them Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, the blogisphere – remarkable in their user reach and impact. For many, social networking is just that – a way to be in touch with friends. However, the jury is still out not only on the best way to utilize social marketing for merchandising, but also on the actual return on investment, not only of money but of time.

What distinguishes social media from traditional media?

Reach and group power

Social networking tools can impact large numbers of people and drive opinion. Every member of a network has multiple opportunities to share with every other member easily and quickly.

If the message resonates with the group, it could go viral in a heartbeat. This can be great for merchandising – if the message is positive.

Issues:

Time

Unlike traditional advertising where messages are sent via one-way media, social marketing is a two-way street. Social marketing is about building relationships - sending messages, but also receiving responses, perhaps instantly, and setting up the expectation of a dialogue.

This makes time a primary issue. Dialoging with friends via text, email, Facebook and blogging is one thing. Corresponding with your customers and potential customers is another. Once you set the expectation of a dialogue, customers anticipate just that. A good way to think about using social media is to imagine that the person you are corresponding with via social media is a customer standing face-to-face with you at your service counter. Before you launch your social media marketing effort, consider whether you have the time to chat with these customers, as well as to provide them with information and offers that will keep them coming back.

Message Control

Remember that asking a group to share a goal results in an expectation by the group that their input is valuable and that they will be listened to. Once a goal is shared, it becomes a group goal, not your goal. The group then needs to be consulted, not told, about future actions.

Privacy

An emerging problem with social marketing is that of privacy. There are daily reports about stolen and faked identities associated with social networking. Assure your customers that their privacy is protected on your sites. Accuracy of information is also an issue. A huge plus of enabling anyone to comment is the ability to hear all voices. The minus is the difficulty of checking on the reliability or accuracy of what is being said. Be sure the information you provide is accurate and that your sources are credible.

Resources

Once you decide to embark upon a social media marketing effort, identify the person or persons who will be responsible for sending your messages via social media. This person is probably not the intern, but someone who is very familiar with your business, and who understands the value of positive customer relations. The personnel you select to engage in social media represent your company and should be able to effectively communicate company positions and policies and to respond professionally to both positive and negative input. As nearly all social media communication is written, your social media personnel need excellent writing skills.

Think about:

Who in your organization will send and answer messages? When will messages be sent (most people want an instant response with no more than 24-hour lag)?

Does time zone matter?

How much does your message sender know about your organization?

What written skills does this person possess in order to send clear messages?

Who will this person contact when he/she does not know the answer to a question?

How will you know whether the message you receive is from an actual customer or prospective customer?

How will your customers know the message is from your company?

How will you protect the privacy of your customers?

Every group has a leader, either a leader with a formal title, or an informal leader who may be the person with the most influence. It’s important to identify the influence leaders on your site so that you can use them as testimonials on your website, as Facebook and Twitter partners and signers on your emails. You recognize leaders by consistently monitoring your site, seeing who is posting comments, how often and most importantly, whether other visitors are influenced by that person’s comments and who respond to that person.

Set your social media goal

It is important to be very specific about what you want your social media to accomplish. Decide what your social media marketing goal will be. 

Examples:

  • Identifying existing and new customers
  • Establishing solid customer relationships and branding
  • Increasing foot traffic
  • Increasing website visits Increasing sales
  • Increasing Sales
  • Create your social marketing plan. (See Marketing Plan)

Identify your potential audience:

  • Who, exactly, will be interested?
  • Why will they be interested?
  • What can you offer specifically to keep them engaged?

Create criteria to evaluate your social marketing efforts:

Create your message
Walk the fine line

  • It’s important to find the fine line between merchandising and socializing.  Too much merchandising results in a turnoff for the user.  Again, think of the customer at your cash register, there for a little chat with you while you ring up the sale.
  • Post information that engages your customers, and that they will find useful. 
  • Offer them value, like new product information or a daily sale.
  • Try new things to give your customers a reason to interact.  Remember to give regular, respectful, professional feedback.
  • Write clear, brief messages.
  • Think carefully about how to respond to complaints – remember that others will read your posts and expect the same treatment.
  • Set response expectations for your customers.  Remember that what we really like is instant response
  • Think carefully about how to respond to complaints – remember that others will read your posts and expect the same treatment –  good or bad.

Remember:

  • We scan messages. We don’t read them.  If you don’t believe this, test yourself.
  • Don’t make the user spend time trying to figure out what you are saying.
  • Practice writing in headlines.  Twitter is good practice because you are limited to 135 characters.
  • Never cover more than one subject per message.
  • Use bullet points if your message has more than one part.
  • Understand the value of time for your customers – don’t post tweets or posts that are a waste of time.

Messaging Tips:

  • Know your audience.
  • Know your goal.
  • Responses should always reflect the values of your company
  • Listen to everybody.
  • Monitor your sites consistently.
  • Give prompt feedback.
  • Thank people for their input.
  • Respond to positive and negative comments within 24 hours or less.
  • Always be courteous and respectful with your comments.
  • Removal of info can backfire – let people know why you have deleted their post.
  • Engage your customers with good information. Provide value – good offers and deals like daily markdowns, incentives to visit your store or website.
  • Keep your customers “ in the know” with information about products and services
  • Provide information “from the experts”
  • Make it easy to link to your website.
  • Be sure all of your links work properly – double check your links.
  • Have your happy employees post on your wall why they love working for your company.
  • Make sure your comments are professional, up -o-date, grammatically correct
  • Provide good, interesting information
  • Try new things – contests and ways to deliver value and engage your customers like answer a question and win a prize.
  • Look at what the big companies are doing.  Check out their Facebook sites, tweets and Youtube posts and see what you can adapt to your site.
  • Use Bit.ly to compress links on Twitter.
  • Provide a direct link to your website on Twitter.
  • Share links you think your customers would like.
  • Tweet consistently and very frequently.  Don’t use pre-programmed Tweets.
  • If you have a product or service that can benefit from video – like knitting where you can show how to do the different stitches, put demonstrations up on Youtube.

Note:

Appeals that work exceptionally well on social networks are those based on values likely to be enjoyed and passed on. Example: cause marketing with appeals to connect with and help others as with the Haiti disaster. People shared a goal based on a value of helping others. People wanted to be a part of the relief effort, felt good about what they were doing, and passed on information to others.  The result - $16 million donated via mobile text in denominations of $10.

Create Message Guidelines:

When you create and send a message via traditional media, you control the message.
When you send your message and invite recipients to post comments -- and pass to other sites -- you lose control.  It’s like the old game of gossip.  Each person on the chain interprets the message a little differently, with the effect of morphing your original message into something that may entirely different than you intended.  This could be a good thing, or not.

Remember: posted comments are permanent, printable, written documents.
When we have positive experiences, we tell one to three people.  When we have negative experiences we are likely to tell up to 10 people.
 
Before you start, establish your message guidelines and publish them on your site.

Examples:

XYZ company does not tolerate offensive photographs or language on our site.  We will delete your message if this occurs.
We will respond to your posts within normal business hours.

Here’s what the New York Daily News posts at nydailynews.com:

We want to give you the chance to be heard and make your point. We ask that you follow these guidelines.

  1. Be nice. Think about others. People often say things on boards that they would be ashamed to say to someone face to face. Please treat other users with respect.
  2. If we feel that comments are abusive, threatening, objectionable, obscene, defamatory or racist, they will be removed. There is no need to be offensive and not much point in writing posts that end up being removed. Any posts that are in breach of our guidelines are liable to be removed. People who repeatedly break the rules may be banned from the site.
  3. Help keep the site on track. If you see posts that are anti-social, please use the 'report abuse' link to alert us.
  4. Keep to the point. Posts that go off-topic or turn into personal conversations are liable to be deleted.
  5. Anything that seeks to exchange or solicit personal information is in breach of our guidelines. We encourage open, honest debate but we also reserve the right to remove any post and to take appropriate action against those responsible if necessary.

Your opinions are very welcome but content that isn't your copyright is not, so please don't use other people's content to make your point.

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