ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — It’s critical to go where your customers live, and many of your best customers are clearly living on social sites. But can brands create a profile on Facebook or MySpace and consider their social media efforts complete? Most savvy marketers know that it takes much more to form an active, engaged community around their brand – but many are struggling with how far to go when incorporating social media into their marketing mix.
The reality is that participation on high profile social media sites is only one part of a successful marketing strategy. Companies must also learn to build and integrate communities on their own branded sites. What’s more, they must go one step farther by finding creative ways to broadcast the comments and content of their communities to an audience beyond their own virtual walls.
Participation is one of three fundamental dimensions of a holistic social media strategy, which includes Integration and Social Syndication. When properly combined, they can pay huge dividends for your business.
Part 1: Participation
Your consumers are spending time on social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, so you should too. There is no argument there. What is up for debate, however, is how you should go about participating on these networks.
Simply putting up a branded page on one of the popular social sites generates very little value. You need to ask yourself whether you are truly interacting with consumers, or just posting a promotion that people are likely to ignore anyway.
The keys to participation are authenticity, responsiveness, and personal engagement. This means not paying your agency to do it, but doing it yourself. It starts with identifying the right people in your organization who are comfortable with social media tools and who naturally represent the company well.
These people don’t even have to be in the marketing department. They could be engineers, customer service reps or senior executives. Whoever they are, they must know how to strike an easy, authentic tone without getting bogged down by stilted marketing messages.
It’s also important to put yourself in the shoes of consumers and think about what’s valuable to them. After all, when you go home from work, you’re a consumer too. Think about what you would want from a brand or product that you interact with in an online environment.
For instance, if you log onto Facebook and come across a Chili’s Grill & Bar page, what would you want to hear from them? Personally, if they were trying to sell me on the nutritional value of their Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Big Mouth Burger, I’d lose interest pretty quick. But if they were running a special promotion at locations in my neighborhood, or if they were doing something cool and unique for the Super Bowl, that would be of great interest to me.
One great example of a company participating well is Dunkin’ Donuts on Twitter. It’s an art form to interact with people in a casual manner and still be witty and on-topic about donuts, especially in 140 characters or less. But Dunkin’ Dave, the company’s designated Tweeter, pulls it off in style.
“Honored to have PC Hoops dribbling inside The Dunk,” he wrote to a basketball fan at Providence College. “You can drink coffee and tweet at the same time? I’m awed and inspired,” he replied to one ambidextrous Twitter user in Massachusetts. And, on President Obama’s Inauguration Day, he sent out a tweet informing customers in South Florida of free red, white, or blue frosted donuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts is listening to its audience and acknowledging customers as an integral part of its business. It’s no surprise that it now has thousands of followers on Twitter. It’s also no surprise that Dunkin’ Donuts is starting to eat its competitors’ lunch. The company recently said it expects to weather the recession and keep the heat on rivals like McDonalds and Starbucks.
This is the first of a three-part series.
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