Social media has walked the fiery coals of skepticism and performed brilliantly as a marketing, customer service and relationship building tool that exceeds all expectations.
Every size business has taken the polar bear plunge into what surely felt like an alien way of communicating with customers. When those businesses began using Facebook pages, forums, blogging, Twitter and YouTube, they realized that being less like a brand and more human creates real, long-lasting relationships - with customers.
A few things the first social media explorers taught us:
Social Media Isn't Free: It costs time - lots of time. If you have someone customer focused, who understands how to write and reaches out to the right audience, then grab hold and don't let them go! You are starting out right.
Be Creative: Social media isn't "promotional" media. Be social don't "do" social. Have fun engaging with your audience. Congratulate them on their successes. Comment on their blogs and pages. Attending online events with them.
Have a Team: This isn't a one-man band. Just as with all customer service, everyone needs to be trained and have at least a basic understanding of how to help potential customers.
Start with Your Staff: The people who know how to talk about your product, service, company and culture are your employees. Treat them like family; acknowledge and support them. Make them feel as though they are an important part of your business - because they are! Employees are the first to share with their own networks about their experiences with your company or brand. Think about that.
Listen First: Enough with the megaphone shouting out your message. Start spending some time just listening to the people who know your company. Reach out and connect with them as people, and as customers, employees and fans. Tell them that they are the center of the conversation.
Fans and Customers Turn into Advocates: Anyone who feels appreciated becomes loyal, and excited to help. That's what you want on the social networks - people who are eager to be your brand evangelists - at no charge.
Consistency Matters: Have your webmaster create a custom landing page or Twitter background that matches your website. Get a Facebook logo that fits your printed materiasl. These are little things that a designer can do that enrich your presence and make all the difference.
Connect Online and in the Real World: Find ways to connect offline; host an event and share your experience with your social networks.
Seek Guidance: Look for someone who understands the tools and language, who has experience and a passion for working in social media. Get help with a written content strategy and you'll ensure that you find an audience.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Thomas at: ETC, llc, A Social Media Consultancy, 270-809-5441.