In the past few weeks I've experienced a decent amount of spam from social networking sites ranging from people marketing their books, selling "make money online" information, to promoting their personal brand. It's indicative of the fact that individuals and businesses are viewing the space seriously as it takes on the mainstream spotlight.
There are many ways to utilize social media to boost your brand. The key is to have a strategy around building your social proof.
Let The Truth Be Told
People naturally look for social proof in any given situation. Social proof is a weapon of influence by which we replicate what we see others do. We tend to make assumptions in our head when we're unable to determine the appropriate action to take. So we turn to surrounding authorities that we assume possess more knowledge about the situation than us.
For example, if you see a bunch of people lining up outside of a restaurant you tend to think the food is good or better yet, it MUST be good.
Social proof is especially powerful in social media because of the available information from Twitter followers to LinkedIn connections. People get influenced real-time on their PCs or their mobile devices. This creates little barrier to entry for people to be perceived as preeminent experts. Combine that with the limitless reach of social network; people will often evaluate others based on how "connected" they are.
The truth is - social media is a platform for engagement and building communities. It has evolved to be part of a marketer's arsenal and it's on the path to be the next coming of email spam. If you don't want to be perceived as a spammer or someone just looking to gain free social proof, you need a solid strategy for your brand.
Aligning Your Brand And Business Strategy
There are lots of high profile people and companies using social media today but not all of them are getting the result they want. Many brands are doing a fairly good job utilizing the right social media strategy while others clearly have no clue.
Here are 7 keys to create your social media strategy:
1. Define your outcome - This is perhaps the most important aspect of your social media strategy. What are you trying to achieve? What is your ideal outcome? Sales? Lead generation? Promotions? Branding? Buzz? Corporate brands generally use social media as part of their larger strategic initiatives for reputation management, product launches, and customer engagement tools. Those methods apply to personal branding as well because social media is a cost-effective marketing and PR vehicle in comparison to the traditional media marketing.
2. Focus on your audience's needs - If you want to sell a product such as a book across social media, you must focus on your audience's pain point, solve their problems, and add value to them little by little. Provide free advice that's of high value, NOT something anyone can just copy and paste from a source like a blog. For example, instead of relaying mainstream news, focus on syndicating news gear towards a specific niche area so you become the go-to source for it. Better yet, compile the content and provide your own insight so you act as a filter for your audience.
3. Implement measurable ROI - This is actually difficult to do because social media is still a relatively new medium and remains largely unproven. The best solution is to gauge the time spent versus the result you are able to measure such as inbound traffic, clickthroughs, impressions, comments, fans, followers, subscribers, and ask how prospects find you. Track your data and chart them over time to find relevant cause and effects. You may be surprise to find what people are saying about your brand or how effective your marketing triggers are after reviewing your statistics.
4. Actively participate in discussion groups - If you have something valuable to offer, people should know. Join discussions and participate in forums will bring you opportunities to brand yourself and create awareness in the form of constructive promotion. Further more by providing your audience with insights, educational content, or value support systems will help you gain social proof. Knowledge transfer in social media is very powerful especially given as freebies. As a result it creates reciprocation from the recipient who will want to return the favor in the form of purchasing your product or endorsing your brand.
5. Get in front of the right people - High profile people are great leverage to give you that boost of traffic especially key opinion leaders in your niche area. Get in touch with them and do something for them first. Contribute to their cause and the reciprocation factor will work on them as well. Instead of asking for endorsements, participate in their discussion groups, leave comments on their blog, send them useful information, and interact with their channel are all ways to gain visibility. Build the right relationship will also drive The Long-Tail affect in which your brand impression will be distributed amongst high profile people's fans in significant numbers.
6. Blend online and offline social networking - This is one of the overlooked areas for social networking. Offline networking can add more fuel to the fire especially when people aren't able to hide behind their user name, emails or avatars. There is nothing quite like a face-to-face conversation to get a nice dialogue started. Not only can you hear the voice of the other person but the body language, eye contact, and physical interaction in the same space makes you more "real" and believable. Although it can be time consuming, offline networking is more powerful than 140 words in a tweet or a two liner comment in Facebook. It also encourages word-of-mouth marketing which is by far the most effective marketing tool today. I highly recommend you to attend conferences, go to tradeshows, take a training course, or get with other social networkers locally. Start a MeetUp group or a monthly seminar.
7. Nurture relationships, build momentum - When implanting social media strategies, you may wan to run tests to get feedback from your network. You should stay true to yourself but also know what worked and what doesn't. Ideally you want to keep doing what works and find new ways to strengthen your relationship with your audience. Start your own discussion group, do an online survey, create joint ventures, exchange opportunities, and continue to provide free information are all ways to foster your social media relationships. Nothing will happen when nothing is provided and you must be patient before you get results. Whether you're already on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or is blogging on a regular basis, my best advice is to just let go and keep on giving!
Has social media already helped your business? Or your personal brand? If so, share your story.
If not leave your comment and I will personally give you my feedback.
- What is Social Media and Why Should I use it
- Social Media 101: Choosing the Right Tools
- From Social Networking to Profile Building: 5 Easy Steps
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