Friday, May 11, 2012

Social Media Marketing | How to Build Your Community

The social media explosion of the past few years has changed the way that brands are marketed.  The old school tactics of billboard and tv commercial blasts are dying out.  Brand building is now about engaging with fans, making them feel like they are a part of a community around the brand.  Marketers have to be aware of this in order to succeed.  They need to be able to build the brand's community within social networks.

Social Media and Building Community (GF201)

I recently watched a very educational tutorial by respected blogger/Marketer, Chris Brogan, about
building social media communities for busienss growth.  Below are my takeaways from the lesson.

1.  It's all about them

Remember that your success depends on your fans and followers.  Regardless of your business, your focus should be to make them happy, not the other way around.  The onus is on you to make that happen.

2.  Community is a gift

We are so lucky to be working in a time where global communities are easy to build.  Social networks are making it easier and easier, technically speaking, to do.

3.  Be humble, always

This point resonates with me, for sure.  It doesn't matter how big or important your business gets.  No one likes a bragger, one-upper, or a snob.  Be humble, and be real.  People will appreciate, and relate to you more easily.

4.  Listen, acknowledge 

Brogan made an interesting point here.  First, you must be able to listen to your customers.  As the business grows, and the number of customers grows, it becomes more difficult to listen on an individual basis.  Robin Dunbar's theory, which makes perfect sense, states that we're only able to maintain meaningful relationships with 150 friends.  So, when you have 150,000 twitter followers, you'll be hard-pressed to truly cultivate those individual relationships.  Use filters, segment groups, and task your entire company with community building.  You must find a way to master this concept.

5.  Focus on the community, not the platform

There are so many choices for building a community.  Many people, myself included, get caught up where the best place to do this is.  We end up spinning our wheels at trying too many things.  The best advice is to just pick something that is comfortable, and get really involved in it.  The tools, eventually, come and go.  The community, hopefully, won't.  I like to believe that if you care enough about it, you'll make whatever you choose great.

6.  Equip your fans, instead of selling them

Every salesman knows that there is a fine line between educating and selling.  It's easy to cross this  line when there is so much at stake.  Different people get spooked by the "pushy salesman" technique at different thresholds.  Really focus on celebrating your fans, engaging them, and empowering them to promote you.  Selling them should be one of the last actions you employ.  Think "Un-Marketing", The best customer is the one that seeks you out to purchase your product.

7.  Celebrate them - be all about your customer

I think, by now, the message must be driving home.  Be all about your customer.  It makes logical sense, but it's easy to forget when you get into the day to day of managing your business.  Find unique ways to celebrate your customer.  They will eventually repay you for the sentiment.

Other Notes

Social Media Listening Tools

Brogan mentioned some companies with great social media listening listening tools:

  1. scout labs
  2. radian6
  3. visiblemeasures
  4. crimsonhexagon

There are many out there.  I've personally dealt with Attensity, Fizziology, and SocialGuide.  They all offer similar products, but vary in expertise.  You'll need to base your decision on specific needs.


Brogan talks about the ROI of social media.  This is a hot topic today, as proving ROI with social media is challenging.  He looks at it a different way.  "Return on Influence" instead of Investment.  

Here are the questions you should be looking at:

  1. how to sell to upper management?
  2. how does this make my business better?
  3. how can it hurt me?
  4. how can it make me money?

You need to tie these questions back to numbers, sales, reduced customer service call time, etc.  That's how you'll eventually measure your ROI.  Keep in mind that community building will ultimately assist with lead generation, post sale education, support, research and development, etc.  Don't be so quick to judge the immediate return on the investment in social media.  It will pay off in one way or another.

Outsourcing Community Relations

With the costs and manpower required to maintain a community building initiative, it would be tempting to investigate outsourcing resource costs and teams.  That would be a big mistake.  Don't do it.  This is one thing that you can't outsource.  This should be a priority that you must turn into a "core competence".  don't put your best relationships in the hands of others.

Selling B2B

What if your company only sells to other businesses?  Well, keep this in mind.  Businesses are made up of people, people use social media as individual consumers.  All it takes are a few key employees to engage with a business on a personal level before they bring it into their companies.  It doesn't matter who you are selling to, this is important.

Getting Started

Here are Brogan's recommendations for getting started, which I tend to agree with:

  1. first steps - listen. find them where they are.  
  2. second - determine what they want. 
  3. third - decide if you join their community, or make one.  or both.  
  4. fourth - introduce yourself.  invite them.  ask them for goals and hopes.  share yours.  begin the journey, repeat. repeat. repeat.