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Brands seeking to engage their consumers via social media seem to be misunderstanding the whole concept of social media itself. It's for the people, by the people and business needs to recognise this. The consumer now has the power, and consumers in numbers can carry a lot of influence.

The main article covers five misconceptions that brands appear to have around the area, such as ROI expectations and the risks associated with getting involved. 

I've also offered ten tips for those businesses wishing to engage with their target market through social media, which I hope are useful. If you're an organisation that is chosing to ignore the soial media phenomenon I'd like to draw your attention to the last tip, entitled Do It! Enjoy the read...

I have recently attended a number of seminars and round tables; downloaded industry podcasts and had numerous conversations with agencies, brands and new media journalists.

This is all part of my job, as well as research for my PhD. I'm looking at how brand advocacy can be achieved and sustained in the online environment, specifically through social media.

The consumer now holds the upper hand and brands need to recognise that the power now resides firmly with the online people. If only Citizen Smith (aka Wolfie) was able to tap into this in his day!

Anyway, there have been a number of common themes coming out of all these pockets of research, which are:

  • Brands are seeking a best practice answer of how to engage with their customers through social media, though I don't think there is one.
  • Businesses want to know the return on investment from getting involved, though it is doubtful whether it can be measured accurately.
  • Less innovative and early adoptive brands see getting involved with social media as 'high risk 'to the business. I would argue that the risk of not getting involved is much higher.
  • Organisations are unsure of how to integrate social media into their overall marketing/engagement strategy, which is natural when anything new appears.
  • Some approaches used by brands seeking to gain consumer commitment via social media lack subtlety and will damage their reputation.
     

There are a number of other issues, but I think the list above outlines the main ones faced today. So, with the aim of trying to be helpful, I thought I'd put together ten top tips, (not in a Viz style unfortunately) to be considered when thinking about engaging your target audience through social media.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Precision - Find and identify the areas in social media land where the people who engage with your brand are having conversations about you.
  • Observe and Monitor - Listen to the conversations look for sentiment, authority and reach, and set up tools (there are loads out there) to regularly update you on these conversations.
  • Don't Dive In - Before reacting and getting involved in groups, blogs, forums etc. think carefully about your approach. Sometimes it's best to let your advocates do the talking, sometimes it's good for you to take part in a subtle manner. If the tone of the conversation is negative, be polite, be honest and offer support.
  • Give - Always offer something of value. This is when getting involved in a reactive manner or proactively creating your own social media content. Value can be classed as good information and insight or even providing "VIP" offers and treatment...it also needs to be offered for free, no catches!
  • Entertain - If you're creating groups, apps or widgets in social media/networks be entertaining and fun. That's what people want and that's what will encourage the viral aspect. Do not compromise your brand personality however.
  • Right Time & Place - Be there for your target audience when they want you and where they already spend their time. Consider the mobile platform seriously. Mobile devices have finally reached the point where surfing the web is now akin to the computer.
  • Be Social - Don't always be about "YOU". People will quickly become bored if you're always talking about your brand, product or service.  Take an interest in the people you want to engage with and offer something they can use in their social life....it is social media after all!
  • Think Awareness - and nothing more. If your involvement in social media raises your awareness, in a positive manner then that is great. If it also creates interest and involvement then that's a bonus. Don't expect commitment. Such brand approaches via social media will appear very shallow and you'll damage your reputation.
  • Forget ROI - This will be a tough one!! Measuring the return from the investment in social media is probably impossible today. (Coca Cola has recognised this.)

    There are certain metrics which can be monitored such as increase in unique visitors to your site (via social media AND search), increase in brand "buzz", ultimately increase in sales (if you're a commerce business). But don't expect to be able to calculate the Y return from your X investment in social media alone. It can't be done.

  • Do It! - Plan your approach; open your brand up to your customers; encourage interaction and synchronise your activity with your other marketing initiatives. If you don't get involved you'll quickly be over taken by your competitors who do.

These tips all need to be in the balanced to suit your target market and your brand. There is no single best practice approach, that would be like creating a best practice for making friends and influencing people!

We're all individuals and make our own choices of how to act and what to say and will rebel against control. So, get involved and go with the flow.

An example of how powerful it can be, if done well, is the release of Radiohead's last album. They offered a name your own price for downloading it online, from free upwards; they achieved higher revenues for the album this way than through the CD sales from the High Street. Who'd have planned that ROI?!

Karl Havard is Managing Director of Propellernet

Karl Havard

Published 5 December, 2008 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a trainer and contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

21 more posts from this author

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Guillaume Foutry

Good list! Don't you think that time is vital, I mean they need to find the right way to react but as quickly as possible, timing is highly impotant regarding social media for a brand.

almost 8 years ago

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Daniel Lazarides

It's strange, because an awful lot of the brands I've worked with focus heavily on the second point you highlighted - observing and monitoring - and never take the plunge in getting a social media engagement campaign off the ground. It seems as though some brands actually seem to be biding their time until something bad happens that they need to react to.

This is particularly noticeable in the larger/more traditional brands, possibly because as transparency is not their forté, they are not as willing to change their mindset and open up information to public view.

I have also noticed that persuading a brand to forget ROI is becoming increasingly hard in the harsh economic climate; though gaining "real-life" results, be it a group of new contacts after interaction with social networking sites or print media coverage following interaction with a journalist's blog, seems to resonate well with the (both big and small) brands that I have been working with.

almost 8 years ago

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WebSuccessDiva Social Media

This is a great list, especially the part about ROI :-)

almost 8 years ago

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Jim Reynolds

Karl,
Great post & good list. These are the primary things that I discuss with my customers and prospects on a daily basis. They initially come to us for a listening tool and they constantly ask for advice on how to interact.

We always stress, listen listen listen first, then interact. Be social, give and then watch the trends. If you treat the community like a valued member of the conversation they will also give back.

Best Regards,
Jim Reynolds
Director of Sales
Techrigy, Inc

almost 8 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

@Guillame. I agree that timing (just like in good comedy) plays an extremely important part. In fact, this is becoming a much more high priority component now that mobile platforms have finally reached the point where interacting with the web is almost as good as the pc/laptop. Because of this, people can interact anywhere and "real time" social media (I believe) will become a real necessity.

@All. The ROI aspect has been picked up in other areas too. I may follow up with some more in-depth info' on this relating to the multi channel (bigger picture) approach. It may help (I hope it will) businesses take the plunge.

almost 8 years ago

Alan Charlesworth

Alan Charlesworth, lecturer / researcher at University of Sunderland

Hi Karl - I'm not wanting to rain on your social media parade, but ...

... social media marketing simply is not for everyone.

Remember the old marketing mix concept - you use only the ingredients that are suitable/pertinent to the organization/brand/product at that moment in time. SMM should be [but probably isn't] in the mix to use when appropriate. I find a lot of folk read about the success stories and decide it is the new - and cheaper - solution to their marketing woes.

Having said that, your list is sound for those for whom SMM is feasible - I'll be adding a link on my website.

almost 8 years ago

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seosoeasy

Great list.specially i like the first 4 tips.It was interesting to me.thanks

almost 8 years ago

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paul hendrick, Partner DJH Advertising

Karl


Enjoyed the article very much (particularly the Citizen Smith reference).
I think you are spot on about the ROI.  I think the social media and blog sites are like free 'focus groups'. If you study customers comments you will get unfiltered feedback from the customers. Whilst you can't pinpoint their age or socio-economic status the context of the site (ie 'The Spectator' blog) will give you a good idea of who they are. The cost of ruuning such research on an on-going basis would be prohibitive. So i think you cann assign real value to it.

almost 8 years ago

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Adam King

hi Karl. Great post. I've used your list to monitor the progress of my own campaign and its looking promising. However, the only area where I haven't paid much attention is: Consider the mobile platform seriously. How? If mobiles are just smaller laptops, what should I be doing differently? Apart from maybe designing an app for the i-phone which isn't really my level of expertise!

almost 8 years ago

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Vince

Great list Karl,
We are trying really hard to make our site a brand that people find entertainment with.  This is an awesome top ten list, you can post this to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/ and then link back to your site.  We are looking for content and in return our users will track back to your site.  The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.
-Vince

almost 8 years ago

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Pedro Moore

I'm starting a online magazine and plan to use social media marketing as my main way of promoting my site and bring traffic to the website.  Before this article i was just winging everything but not sure what are the proper techniques in social media marketing and after reading this article.  It makes it a lot easier and to be honest, I tried some of the tips and I have noticed a lot of unique visitors this past months versus the month prior.

I truly appreciate this post.  It has become very useful for me.  Quick question, to continue this growth i have to constantly stay online engaging people in order to build and/or keep traffic?

over 7 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

@Pedro: That's really good to hear. I'm glad the tips have helped. Good luck with your online magazine. I hope it's a success.

over 7 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

@Adam...Hi Adam, thanks for reading the post. The mobile app' thing is more about Internet access outside of the workplace and home...and more of an "on the go" type of behaviour. Some business models are perfect for this, such as Trainline, for checking train times; or a social network app' for socialising when on the move or stopping for a coffee etc. (twitter and facebook come to mind here). I'm sure there could be something in this for King & Allen , probably around appointments for reminders, fittings or collection? It does needs a little more thought however.

over 7 years ago

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Regina Mize

Thanks for the article. I definitely think the advice about getting involved rather than just promoting your product or service is excellent. Customer's are more likely to spend money on products or services with a company they feel loyalty towards and are connected to. Being social helps build that connection.

over 7 years ago

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B2B Marketplace

Nice write up

Thanks for the good article, has been very useful for me. i am very thankful for that.

almost 7 years ago

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vikas jain

hi karl ... those ten pointers does summarises how brands can engage with social media but what about surpirsing your social media ..... the concept of creativity ......today when a netizen visit the brand he looks for offers and surprises... are the brand really following it........

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Vikas, Wow! I wrote this post well over a year ago and I've had to re-read it to remind me of the content. It's amazing how time flies and things move on. I guess creativity, fits into the "entertain" point. With so much more brand activity on the social web, they do need to differentiate themselves, hence the need for creativity, genuine offers (if they're selling stuff). What I find interesting having re-read this post is the ROI comment. Technology has moved on and we're now very close to measuring genuine ROI. Thanks for reading. Karl

over 6 years ago

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iridiumInteractive

Thanks Karl for this handy check list for any company seeking to brand themselves better and connect with their stakeholders. Completely enjoyed reading it.. 

over 6 years ago

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Wendy

i still think the ROI measurement is necessary. However, it's not to test the investement $ but it's to see the program effectiveness. Now we have mesaured that by Awareness, consideration and peference. Once e-commerce is ready, we can track the outcome.

We measure A by impression, C by consideration, submission P by referral, spending time...

about 6 years ago

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Gifts to India

Sends Gift to India helps you to send flowers, cakes, Valentine gifts across India. Send gift to all cities like Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and many more.

about 4 years ago

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