If I asked you: “What are the three most important things businesses need to know about social media?” What would you say? If one of the answers you gave was something like: “constantly and solely promoting one’s product”, then you probably have the wrong idea about how to use social media effectively.
In this blog post I’m going to break down what the three keys to social media are:
Let’s start with the most important key first…
Part of being social is communicating and engaging with people.
If your objective on social media is just to promote your product and avoid any communication, you’ll probably have a difficult time achieving that goal. Consumers are on Facebook and Twitter to interact with people and brands. If you’re brand isn’t engaging with them, you might ask well eliminate your hopes for selling more product through these channels.
Why engagement is key to social media success:
People are using more than just email and phone calls to communicate with brands; many are now tweeting or posting on Facebook pages. If a brand doesn’t respond to any inquires on Facebook or Twitter, then it’s equivalent to not answering emails and not picking up the phone.
Engagement does not mean that you have to give technical support over social media. Many people will ask a company what the best way to contact them is. Here’s an example from Crocodoc:
Outside of just responding to tweets, you also need to be proactive and find out what people are saying about your brand. To do this, you can use a tool like Twitter search. You should keep a consistent eye on your brand activity.
Check out this example from Taco Bell. No one tweeted their account or even their company name. Instead, they mentioned one of their products:
Taco Bell was able to respond to this because they are keeping an eye out for mentions of their company name or any product names. Is your brand missing out by not using Twitter search?
Companies also ask questions as an invitation to engage.
Here is Trada asking followers a question:
It’s okay if you don’t get a lot of responses. What’s important is that you’re engaging with people and opening the door to engagement.
Here’s an example of Allegro Coffee interacting with a fan and answering questions:
Drs. Foster and Smith does an excellent job engaging with and adding to the conversation in this Facebook post:
These are perfect examples of engagement. Allegro is answering questions to a customer inquiry. Drs. Foster and Smith is adding their voice, building the conversation with other pet lovers, and making themselves the go to place to chat about pets or ask questions. They’re not acting like a company who just wants to sell pet products. They’ve become a company to chat with about pets and to advise them on their choices. They’re adding a human voice and talking to their customers like another person.
Let’s look at examples of companies who use social media to engage:
NatureBox – NatureBox replies to every question and every comment on their page. They also invite comments by asking questions.
New York Jets – There aren’t many pages on Facebook that interact with their fans as well as the New York Jets do. If you check out a few of their posts, you’ll see that they don’t just post a story or link and then abandon it; they actually interact with the fans and listen to what they have to say.
Organic Valley – With over $700 million in annual revenue, Organic Valley is a big company. Needless to say, that revenue number likely means they have a lot of customers, which means a lot of Facebook activity. With over 200,000 fans Organic Valley does a good job of keeping up.
Everlane – Clothing company Everlane uses Twitter to build loyalty with their customers, according to CEO Michael Preysman. Preysman says that because they don’t have a physical store where customers can get advice, they use Twitter as their physical store. “[Twitter is] where we can have a conversation with anyone and actually build loyalty…it’s how you build loyalty on a one-to-one basis on the web and Twitter I think is the best place to do that.”
Netflix Helps: Netflix’s customer support channel responds to any trouble their customers are having. Many companies have a dedicated Twitter account used for support. If you choose to do this, be sure you respond to inquiries in a timely manner and follow up to ensure problems are resolved.
Taco Bell: Taco Bell is probably one of the best Twitter accounts. They’re clever, they respond to a lot of mentions (not all), and use Twitter as a vehicle to enhance their brand image (by being “cool”).
Let’s look at another key to social media…
Providing value to users can increase your retweets and shares. The KISSmetrics twitter account has over 93,000 followers primarily because the tweets provide valuable links that stay within a niche.
Fans are following you because they either like your brand or like what you’ve been tweeting / posting. The worst thing you can do is to take a 180 degree turn and start posting off topic subjects. Whatever your industry is, it’s important to tweet and post things within “your” topic.
Buffer is a company that services social media space. Most of their followers are likely people who want to learn more about internet marketing, running a business and such. Here are some examples of their tweets:
Mint is another company in the consumer web space. On their Facebook page, they post links related to financial topics. Here’s a few of their most recent posts:
If you’ve read our post on the Facebook News Feed, you know why Mint is wise to attach an image to every post.
Companies who use social media to provide value:
Buffer – When they’re not engaging with users, Buffer is tweeting useful links. By posting these useful links and getting retweets from followers, the Buffer Twitter account and the Buffer brand has spread to reach new followers and customers.
Harvard Business Review – If you go to the HBR Twitter page, you’ll likely find a tweet that intrigues you. There are personal productivity posts, research posts, and management tips posted every day. Their tweets all lead back to the HBR.org website.
World Wildlife Fund – The WWF has one mission- “saving our one and only planet”. They know their followers want to stay up to date on that mission. That’s why the WWF tweets updates on the mission and retweets about any current issue that the WWF is involved in. They are about getting information to their followers, whether or not it comes from them.
MegaFood – MegaFood is a nutritional supplement company. Instead of solely promoting their own products, they promote a healthy lifestyle and how their products can fit into that lifestyle. The posts are composed of green food pictures and tips on living a healthy lifestyle.
Norton – Security software company Norton provides fans with tips on keeping their computer and identity secure. Occasionally they remind fans of the quality of their product. They also hold contests where winners get cash prizes. Because people get updates from them, they are more knowledgeable about security issues than if they didn’t. Norton is helping people who follow them, even if they aren’t their customers.
Susan Cain – The former lawyer turned best-selling author wrote the book on introversion. On her page, she discusses the topic of personality and various tips for succeeding as an introvert. She avoids self-promotion, instead opting to engage with her fans.
Let’s look at the final key to social media…
Social media is not an advertising platform. However, it can and should be used as a place to occasionally promote your latest offerings and sale.
It is important to find the right balance between your usual tweets and the promotional tweets. You do want to promote your brand; you just don’t want to do it too often. You’ll want anywhere from 5-10% of your tweets to be promotional.
As an analogy, think of social media like television. If all a network did was broadcast their programming, they wouldn’t make any money. But if all they did was broadcast commercials, they wouldn’t have any viewers. They need to strike the right balance, and many of them have done that. For most networks, about 30% of their broadcast is advertisements; the other 70% is programming.
Here’s an example of a promotional tweet:
Here’s an example of a non-promotional tweet:
The promotional tweet is an effort for the company to get money. The non-promotional tweet is an effort to get visitors to the website, get retweets and provide value.
Examples of companies that market effectively on social media:
Hubspot – Hubspot posts links to their latest blog posts, webinars and conferences. The majority of their posts are from their blog, but they also include links to their conferences and business announcements.
Inc. Magazine – Inc. has a good balance of posts. Some are promotional, others are not. If they had too many non-promotional posts, they may not get any sales from social media. Similarly, if they used Facebook as an advertising platform they may not have any fans and wouldn’t be able to build relationships.
Trane – Trane posts tips about saving on energy costs. They also post about their specialty – air conditioners and furnaces. They also tweet about some of the latest accolades their brand has received and contests they are holding.
LA Fitness – LA Fitness shares health tips and occasionally tweets some of their newest openings and latest offerings. By combining the two, they are branding the company as a resource and as an active (pun intended) company.
LifeLock – LifeLock gives followers tips to keep them secure and tweets special offers. Is your company giving tips to followers like LifeLock is? If you want to appear as an expert and thought leader, you’ll need to start doing this.
Waste Management – Waste Management doesn’t want to be looked at as a trash company, but rather as an “environmental solutions” company. They are using Twitter to help push that message. They tweet whitepapers, tips for green living, and promote their green message.
When approaching social media the right way, you can build relationships with current and prospective customers, update fans on your business activity, build loyalty and possibly make a sale. The key is to have a balance.
What social media tactics have worked for you? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author: Zach Bulygo is a blogger for KISSmetrics, you can find him on Twitter here.