Barbecue is an unlikely candidate for social media success. Barbecue sauce is pretty tasty, but how interesting can you really make it? The folks at Stubbs barbecue set out to answer that question, proving that social media is a fantastic sales and branding tool for business. They announce their presence at local barbecues (they have a team that travels to competitions across the country to advertise their sauce) and they tweet recipe ideas for potential customers to try. The account is polite, often thanking customers quietly or just retweeting their compliments outright. That humble attitude and careful attention to outreach has lifted a relatively unknown brand to new heights.
With careful planning, you can do the same for your business.
Find Your Influencers
Dedicate a person to find influencers that you can reach out to who will broadcast your message. You could easily spend an entire day on Klout or Who Tweeted Me searching for new contacts. Your time is better spent elsewhere. For those social media professionals out there, what are you doing to find and connect with the influencers in your network?
Klout is a great tool to help you laser focus your marketing efforts on reaching specific bloggers to broadcast your message. Klout has grown beyond a simple measurement tool and now allows you to tweet and interact with others directly from the page. Try thanking your contacts for a recommendation, or looking for followers with high Klout scores and asking for recommendations from them.
Define Social Media Goals
Too often a social media staff is given the shaft when they don’t produce enough to remain viable. That’s a valid decision to make, if you properly defined measurable goals in the first place. Without you dictating a set of goals for things like sales, engagement or follower buildup, the social media department will just build your account. That’s good, but thousands of followers mean nothing if you can’t actually get them to do anything.
- What kinds of Twitter followers do you want?
- How can you get them to retweet you?
- Can you respond to them? Can you involve major influencers in your conversation?
Knowing what you want out of your follower base will help you advertise to them and better carry your message.
Tweet Things Customers Want to Hear
Reddit and Digg are two social bookmarking websites you can use to help gain insight on what your customers want to know. Search for broad concepts related to your niche, like “save money” or “exercise” and see what the sub communities on these sites are discussing. What content are they sharing? If possible, you should share that content with your followers and look for opinions. Be prepared to give your own and help fuel the discussion.
When something important comes up in conversation, retweet it to your followers. It helps show that you care about what you read, and you’re willing to give credit to the source. Both of these qualities are great for your reputation.
Search for Your Brand
The search tool for both Twitter and Facebook is more than adequate to find hashtags and keywords related to your brand. You can fall back on third party tools like Raven Tools, which will measure your influence and compare it to your competition, but you can learn a lot from a quick skim of the conversation.
One of the best things you can do is to set up a Google Alert that checks public posts on Facebook and Twitter for your brand name and related terms. The service will deliver emails containing links to the posts as they are made, so you can reach out to those users and resolve those situations before they become a problem.
Instagram and Facebook have merged, making photo content more important than ever before. New services like Vine even let you create short films. Look for ways to show your products in action, or give short glimpses into company culture. The Imgur team famously tweeted a staff photo of themselves walking away from a Photoshopped explosion in a fun little show of personality. It gave their audience deeper access into the company culture, and it was great for a laugh.
Host a Competition
Hosting a competition through social media involves some careful planning. You should create a method for your users to contact you and enter the contest, but it should be separate from your other social media efforts so you don’t confuse the results of your campaigns. For a proper competition to take place, you’ll need:
- A website with a blog: somewhere you can host the contest rules and possibly entries
- A social media page that you can use to broadcast the contest
- A contest that has an element of social sharing built in (for example, sign up to vote, tweet the contest to your list and receive a second vote under your name)
Your contest also should not rely on user generated content. Instead, distill the rules to the lowest possible bar for entry, then use a system where the winner is chosen at random.
Find a Way to Acknowledge Customers
The simplest way to acknowledge your customers is with a “Thank you” or a retweet. If you receive a compliment, be sure to retweet it to your audience. When you get complaints, reply to the customer directly and resolve the situation as best as you can. When you’re using Facebook, there is no shame in asking the customer to stand by as support attempts contact. Be proactive. Reach out to the customer, don’t rely on an email coming to you.
Social media is just as much monitoring as it is reacting. Setting up a good system to gather intelligence will help you respond better to customer concerns, and reach new customers online.