You’ve reached the mythical 50,000 followers…. Now what? Gathering friends and followers is often the goal of year one social media initiatives; after all you can’t do anything in the social world if no one likes you. Once you hit this goal, and executives finish their brief digital pat on the back, it will only be a short full return until they begin asking what can they get from these friends, followers and fans.
They aren’t asking the questions they should be asking. In most cases they don’t know enough to ask the right questions. What they are really asking is how do we now integrate social media into the organization as they traditionally think of business?
Year two social initiatives (if you have an aggressive program) are all about answering this question. Year three might carry you into answering the right questions, but if nothing else, this keeps your personal chances of success fairly high (it’s a lot harder to answer and apply progressive social media approaches than intregrate it into existing businesses).
Here are four answers to their questions…
1. Create niche marketing messages
The year one effort probably consisted mostly of rebroadcasting standard marketing messages in a more personal manner. Use the numbers you’ve accumulated to show them how many more people they are now directly reaching – the typical social media multiplier math. This isn’t a truly new achievement but if they don’t know any better you might as well take credit for it… I year two, create niche marketing messages that appeal more deeply to key segments of customers, and, to gather more friends, begin discussing topics that are highly related to topics that your customers care about, but are more specifically targeted to get people who influence the sphere your products or services appeal to involved.
2. Reduce costs through customer service
Year one: people complained on your social site and you responded that someone would contact them or pointed them towards a solution. Year two: have true customer service via the site. That doesn’t mean the solution doesn’t happen off-line, but you can solve customer problems right in front of other people. This not only shows your sincere about helping your customers, but most customers have the same problems with your products (see item 4…) and for every one person vocal about a complaint there are sure to be a few more out there that don’t ask and aren’t the true advocates you want because they secret are slightly dissatisfied.
3. Improving your product
It’s nice to think your product is perfect but in reality it isn’t. In fact, the better the product the more imperfect it often is because people use it in more creative ways than it was originally intended. (Not every product is capable of this. Some are so tightly focused that they cannot be used this way – the iPod – whereas some are more versatile and more readily lead to customer creatively – the iPad.) In year two tie someone from your R&D department into you social media stream. They will ask questions and illicit further responses that you as a social media or marketing person simply wouldn’t think to ask.
4. Engineers get social?
It is a little known secret that even the most reclusive of artists are actually highly social. They all seek praise for their work. Even someone who never shows or sells their work still wants their friends to say how great it is when they open the coat closet to leave the house together. Engineers are no different; they create your product; they are invested in it. The majority of social interaction on the average company site is simple advocacy – people saying they like your product. This should give those recluses enough confidence to jump in. Integrate them into the social stream and you will find they push new uses, tips and tricks with your product out to your customer base that you never thought of in marketing. Just make sure you handle the complaints…
I’d like #4 to be giving your executives a more personal voice to discuss company performance, but that is still likely two years away – but I can’t wait for it!
Having success integrating any of these other areas of your business into your social media efforts?