…don’t exist. One thing that works brilliantly for one will fail miserably for another in the same industry. Even if they have essentially the same customer base, people have different expectations because every business has a unique culture. To find out what works best for your community:
- Think about your relationship with your customers. Is it fun and playful like the New Pig Corporation? Or, do your customers expect your communication to be serious and strictly business? Social media allows you to be more personal, but a large shift away from customer expectations will make people uncomfortable.
- Where are your customers most likely to be found? If you don’t know, plan to participate in the top three – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media participation is increasing. As it continues to grow, the demographics will change. A platform that doesn’t work today may become your most successful one in a few months.
- The best community is the one that begins with your customers. A handful of people who are interested in your company and offerings is better than thousands of non-chanlent followers. If you want them to participate, ask them to join and give them a reason to do so. If discounts motivate them, offer special promotions in social media activity. If being the first to know about new products or services is a primary motivator, release the information on your social platforms.
- Be inclusive. When people (not bots) reach out to you by following or friending, reciprocate. If you don’t, you are limiting your community members’ ability to contact you and risk alienating your customers and prospects. When the occasional spammer slips through, you can unfollow.
- Establish benchmarks if you don’t already have them so you can see the effect of your social efforts. It is hard to track results, but not impossible. Having benchmarks allows before and after comparisons. Track them on a regular basis. Monthly is a good start, but don’t expect to see much change for the first few months.
- Be patient and don’t judge your results by other companies’ standards. It takes time to build an interactive community. How your members engage may be very different from what you see happening with other businesses. For example, one community may prefer emailing the company while another will tweet or comment. Engagement happens when people respond by communicating or purchasing.
- Test everything. Don’t let others decide how you should participate. Look at what they are doing or saying and then test it for yourself. Each test will bring you closer to the magic combination of communication and promotion that works best for your company and community.
- Look at all of the benefits of social media participation before deciding to discontinue activity. Search engines are indexing the platforms and may become a significant traffic driver for your website. You have to include links to optimize the return. Think about what you are posting to insure the maximum return.
The only way to know whether social media will deliver ROI for your business is to jump in with a good testing strategy. If you haven’t ventured in, now is a good time. If you are already participating and wondering if it’s worth the effort, have you tested everything and compared results? Social media may not be a viable channel for your company but you won’t know if you haven’t tested it as part of an integrated marketing strategy.