Years ago, when the web was relatively young, I remember business owners asking me to build them a website with the rationale that “they just needed one.” There was no more discussion than that. Me, being young and hungry, built them a site that, for the time and my skill level, looked great. But then they sat and luckily, only a few of those sites from that time still exist.
One of the main reasons that I am glad that they aren’t around anymore is that no one, including me, connected with this project ever asked the question: What do you want this site to do for you? Of course now I ask the question as a matter of routine.
What I am noticing now that time has passed, business owners are doing the same thing with social media. ” We need a social media presence” and that’s the end of the sentence, and I suspect, the end of the thought process. That’s unfortunate, because with social media, you’re playing with fire.
So how does a company build a community around their brand? There are a few steps, and not all of them are simple.
Define your brand as a persona: What does your brand like? Dislike? Stand for? Stand against? What is the ethos of your brand? What is your brand promise? Your brand story? And what kind of car would it drive? Some of these questions sound silly, but you’ll need to look at your brand as an individual actor amongst a group of actors in the social media ecosystem.
Once you have defined your brand as a persona, then develop a list of keywords that have a connection to your brand. This is a good time to break out that mind-mapping app and gather people who know your brand and whose judgement you trust. The more diverse the group the better.
Now that you have found your brand’s persona, who are the people that would gravitate towards the products and services that represent your brand at it’s best? What do they like? Dislike? Stand for? Once you have identified that audience, then come up with the keywords that connect to that audience.
See how those keywords mesh. When you combine those lists, you may come up with new keywords. Make that your master list.
Now, if you haven’t already, set up your social media touch points; Facebook and Twitter at a minimum. Once those are set up, make sure that all of your other touch points mention your social media presence. Current customers can be a great way to build your fan base.
Okay. So everything is set up to go after new fans. Four steps:
Invite: Through your social media and other channels, invite your target audience to join your fan page or follow you on Twitter. You can find these people by searching the Twitterverse or Facebook using your previously developed keywords and see who comes up. Engage them honestly in your authentic brand voice and ask them to check you out. Some will, some won’t. The trick is to keep at it.
Incentivize: Integral to the invite process is to create an incentive for them to like your brand or follow you. This incentive needs to align with the values of your brand and the values of your audience. If your brand is aligned against an environmentally-conscious group, perhaps a $1.00 contribution to reduce their carbon footprint for every like might get them to sign up.
Impress: Show your audience how authentic your brand is and gain credibility with this group and their trust. Give examples of when you’re putting your money where your mouth is, or show real world examples of how your product is helping people just like them.
Interact: Here is where many businesses drop the ball. Once you have initiated a conversation with your audience, you must continue to communicate with them and respond to them as if you are in a real conversation (because you are). You must also remember that your brand is just one of the people speaking in this many-to-many communications model. Of those that actually try your product or service, make sure that they are blown away. If you do create an impression on (hopefully delight) a customer, invite them (again) to make their thoughts known on your social media page, regardless of their experience. They will feel heard. Through this process, you will create brand advocates who will make the job of getting new sign-ups easier.
Remember those keywords? When you make a post, any post, make sure that at least one of those keywords are included in every post or tweet. Make good use of the hash-tag (#) in Twitter AND Facebook. This will make it easier for others to find you. Over time, your brand will become associated with those keywords and in the minds of your new, growing, vibrant fan base.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you may have on the subject and any details about your experience creating/maintaining your social media strategy.