My motivation to write this series was the hastily hidden look of dismissal I noticed one day after telling someone what I do for a living. I decided to gently prod a bit to learn the reasons for that reaction. As I suspected, he thought social media was a gimmick, all games and fluff, and based on the few examples he gave me, I could understand why he felt that way. He wasn’t using social media himself and only knew what others said about their personal use, mostly on Facebook. I did my best to tell him about some professional and business applications of social media and soon noted his more attentive look and lean. I thought perhaps he’d walk away with a different perspective. But then, I’m an optimist.

Last week I looked at some ways in which social media can help increase brand awareness and enhance and spread your company’s reputation. At the core of social media success are two intertwined things that lead to relationships – good content and conversation.

By providing valuable and interesting content on your blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn groups, YouTube channel, tweets or comments, you establish yourself as a reliable source for information. If you operate in social media with the attitude of giving (sharing and helping), not taking (self-promoting), you will earn a reputation for being a trusted expert as well as a good social media citizen. Your network and influence will expand as others share your content. But merely pushing out a series of links isn’t sufficient, you also need to talk to others. This is social media.

 

photo by flickr/maile

 

You can differentiate yourself from your competitors not only through your status as a trusted expert but also through your social media personality – commenting, replying back, asking questions, helping others, sharing the good work of others – being a good conversationalist, someone who will get invited back to the party.

Studies show that people are using social networks to talk about companies and products, and to seek and make recommendations. When you’re a trusted and respected member of someone’s network, it’s your brand that they’ll talk about and recommend if given the opportunity. This word of mouse marketing leads to customer referrals and acquisitions.

In social media you can have an ongoing dialogue and presence with customers whether they’re at work searching the web or at home checking Facebook. As you invest time in that conversation, they invest their interest and loyalty with you. I once heard someone (wish I remember whom) call this increasing customer ‘stickiness’. Customers become your brand ambassadors.

Consumer expectations are changing. We expect to see companies on social media platforms so we can learn more about them and reach out to them if necessary. We see social media as a customer service channel, using Twitter to complain to Comcast about reception issues or ask Southwest about lost baggage. Companies report saving hours (money) and retaining customers because they’re able to address issues on social media platforms, sometimes helping not only the one who originally contacted them but many others too. They are also demonstrating publicly that they’re responsive and care about their customers.

Next time I’ll look at using social media as an online real-time perpetual focus group.

Update: Part 3

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