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Over the course of two days at last week’s Social Media Strategies Summit, New York, I had the opportunity to listen to presentations from top brands across various industries about what they’ve learned in their experiences integrating social media into their marketing strategy.  Overall, the summit was a good reminder of how incredibly innovative companies have been in social media over the span of just the past few years; not to mention inspiring. Here are a few of my top takeaways:

 1. It Really is All About the Consumer

Social media has thrown the customer-brand relationship for a complete loop. Not only do customers now balk at any attempt at hard sales pitches from brands, but they expect to be entertained and for companies to be there to provide informative and helpful content on a consistent basis. This is a pretty awesome opportunity for companies to build a very different type of relationship with their potential customers, albeit a challenging one.  This makes it essential to plan, strategize and execute plans with this in mind: make the consumer the center of your campaigns.

 2. Moving Beyond the Like & Follow: Building Relationships

It’s no longer about getting more Facebook Likes and Twitter followers. There were several presentations reiterating the importance of learning more about your consumers: how they interact with your content, how often, and how brands can use this type of data to their advantage to maximize and amplify future social campaigns, as well as interact with different customers in a meaningful way through the appropriate channels.

Keynote speaker Richard Jones of EngageSciences made an important point that not all fans are equal - there are different levels of value within your fan base. Which fans are engaging the most and on a consistent basis? Which fans are driving the most referrals? Which fans are dormant? Having access to this data will allow you to create more narrowly focused and relevant campaigns - for example, paid advertising geared towards only those fans who have become dormant.

 3. Content is King (and Will Continue to be)

No one deserves the right to an audience, said Peter Shankman during his keynote. Everyone, however, has the right to create great content. Ditch the sales pitch, create quality content, and the audience will come. This ties in pretty well with building relationships with your consumers - if you understand your target audience, you will learn what types of content they find informative, educational and helpful.

Michael Brenner of SAP pointed out that we’ve trained the younger generation to be better at filtering through all the junk that companies are sending out. This makes it necessary to do a lot of listening first, and what you hear will help you find your brand’s voice and be helpful. Being entertaining is also key!

Maya Grinberg of Wildfire also discussed the importance of user-generated content and how it can help add authenticity to your campaigns. Consumers are now most interested to hear about what other consumers are saying and how they are experiencing your product, so creating a hub for republishing the best of your user-generated content is an excellent way to drive traffic. More importantly, it’s a way to empower your consumers and show that you are listening and value their voice.

4. Do What Makes Sense For Your Brand

Several speakers reiterated the importance of choosing platforms that make sense for your brand.  It’s important to treat each channel in a unique way and make sure you are producing content for each channel that is appropriate for both the platform and the users that are engaged with it. It’s okay not to be everywhere at the same time; if you are using a platform, make sure you have a reason to be there.

 5. Building a Social Business: Get Your Employees Involved

Just as important as empowering consumers is empowering your employees. Marcus Nelson, CEO of Addvocate gave a great presentation on strategies to get your employees involved as brand advocates. When interacting with a brand, consumers want to feel that they are talking to people like themselves, not faceless corporations.  Solution: let your employees be the face of your brand that your consumers can relate to. Marcus asserted that the future of social business is determined by how you identify, amplify, measure and optimize the social voices of your company.  Brands looking to become social businesses must make an effort to build meaningful internal social media guidelines and create a collaboration infrastructure that encourages employees to participate and feel validated for doing so.  More importantly, brands need to make it fun: make it a positive and worthwhile experience for your employees and you will see the difference.


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