If you build it, they will come
Everyone’s telling you that you should be on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare … the list is growing. But understanding how those tools can help your business can feel like a stratospheric leap if all you’re seeing is public navel-gazing.
I recently traveled to Montreal to talk with one of Canada’s largest retail buying groups about social media. Half my audience didn’t even have a Facebook account. When I started talking about my networks in social media, the shuddering started and their eyes glazed over.
But they were curious. That’s a big network you have there, Julia, but how do you use it for business?
The truth about social media strategy
When I joined a Canadian mattress manufacturer as Communications Director, it’s obvious traditional PR efforts were falling short. The company had 3 PR firms but very few inbound links to their website. Keywords bringing traffic to the site were derivations of the company name – not the products they sold.
My overarching online strategy involved a serious SEO upgrade and a complete website redesign. During that time I also took the company onto the social media playground with a tactic that proved effective and sustainable.
- Make friends
- Contribute to their conversations
- Keep doing it…
Simple, right? It is simple if you remember that Twitter and Facebook users don’t want to be marketed to – they want to make friends.
The first thing I did on Twitter was label myself the Duchess of Sunshine. I gathered a positive posse and we met for coffee every morning. I tweeted about my life, my love of running, red wine and old cheese – not to mention strappy 4” sandals in January, travel… I invited my new friends into my life.
Soon, my network began to grow and people wanted to know more about the mattress company. I was happy to tell them (using keywords I wanted to rank for of course), but I kept the marketing spiel to a minimum.
And at the end of the day, there has to be a measurable gain for the company. That’s where my new friends helped out. They retweeted my non-mattress related stuff as much as they retweeted my marketing stuff.
What happened next was nothing short of Field of Dreams amazing. Organic traffic grew, as well pages visited, time on page and even sales. Our onsite SEO strategy was completely aligned to our social media endeavors and the two dovetailed beautifully.
Shocking! Soft marketing not only brought the curious, it helped prequalify potential customers. And it all started by making friends.
Contribute to conversations
By contributing to my Twitter and Facebook friend’s lives in meaningful ways (pointing them to a restaurant or steering them safely away) they were happy to share what was important to me.
That’s what friends do, right?
But let’s get back to that overarching social media strategy. Included in my group of friends is some pretty terrific bloggers. I approached some of them with a business proposition – becoming a brand ambassador for the company. Remember, we knew a lot about each other’s lives, and our relationship was built on trust. When I asked if they’d like to write about our products, the conversation was a natural evolution of our relationship.
And when problems cropped up, we were able to talk about them. Not every blogger I worked with was willing to write about our products and I couldn’t work with some who approached me. But we’re grownups and we’re friends – which made the difficult conversations easier.
Rinse and repeat
Social networking isn’t a one-time deal. You can’t be absent from your stream for days or weeks and expect anyone to remember (or care) about you. You have to be present and contributing – no exceptions.
There are lots of businesses using social media – some of them do it better than others. I’ve recently started following Foiled Cupcakes on Twitter and a mutual friend pointed out a blog post about their social media strategy. What struck me as amazing (yes, Field of Dreams amazing) is the similarity of our strategies.
The AimClear Blog did a great job of dissecting their trajectory in a recent post: Gain Loyal Brand Ambassadors. Read. Learn. Bookmark this blog!
So to my friends in Montreal (and everyone else trying to figure social media out), narrow the gap by thinking of social media as a way to make friends. The strategy is important – which is why you hire someone to help you with it – but the relationship is still priority number one.
The best advice I ever received in business was before a cocktail party with a group of potential clients. While I fiddled with my hair and stammered over my role, my boss took me by the shoulder and said, go out there and make friends – the rest will come. Smartest woman I ever met.
Are you still trying to wrap your head around the value of Twitter or Facebook? Got a success to share? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook – I’m always on.