Some Tips For Reaching Customers Through Social Media

by Jim May, PR Manager

So you’ve identified which social media could provide your company with some significant value, but now you have to actually execute. Here are tips for some of the vehicles that have been discussed in previous entries.

Message Boards/Forums

– Go where it makes sense. If your company makes power tools, you probably don’t have a reason to be posting about it in a forum dedicated to world travel. This seems obvious, but a lot of companies take a scattershot approach, posting salesy product information on completely unrelated sites. Doing so accomplishes nothing but to create a negative association in the minds of those sites’ users.

– Don’t be anonymous. Message boards are all about people with a shared interest swapping information among themselves. Promoting your company’s goods while posing as just another interested consumer would clearly be dishonest and is the kind of behavior an online community will punish as soon as they discover it.

– Check the terms of service. Some message boards won’t allow representatives of companies to join to discuss their products. Others will, but require a special account that clearly labels the contributor’s vested interest. Before joining any specific community, it’s always a good idea to email the site’s admin team to make sure you’re staying within the rules.

– Keep it active and open. This applies to those few companies that establish their own message boards to foster discussion among current and potential customers. First, make sure the board has enough regular posters to guarantee constant new content. To this end, it’s perfectly acceptable to encourage employees to participate in the board. Second, don’t stifle the information being shared just because you don’t like it. If a discussion turns towards something negative about your company or product, feel free to jump in and offer a counterpoint, but don’t resort to simply deleting topics you dislike. If people feel prohibited from offering honest opinions, your message board will turn into an online ghost town.

Blogs

– Demonstrate your expertise. Once you’ve set up a blog, it’s vital that you offer up information or opinions that your customers wouldn’t otherwise see. To build a base of regular readers, you have to develop content that provides value to those who consume it. Occasional ‘fluff’ pieces are acceptable, but make sure the majority of your entries have some meat to them.

– Choose relevant topics. While expertise is vital, it’s not enough on its own. A blog entry of highly technical data that provides no value to the end user might be interesting to others in your field, but it will likely leave customers scratching their heads.

– Let some personality show. It seems a bit obvious, but people really do tend to like and identify with other people a whole lot more than with organizations. Encourage the contributors to your company’s blog to let their personalities shine through. If your entries are in a drab, corporate tone, few people are going to want to sit through reading them.

YouTube

– Integrate videos into other forms of communication. Once you’ve created a YouTube channel and posted some videos, tie them back into your other marketing efforts. If you issue a press release on a new product and have posted video of it in action on YouTube, include a link to the video in the release. If you work with trade press specific to your industry, see if they’re interested in including links to some of your videos on relevant areas of their own websites. These types of actions don’t merely increase exposure of your videos. They also create a more comprehensive value proposition for your customers.

– Go for substance over style. This holds especially true if you’re paying to develop assets specifically for YouTube. Most marketers, current company included, tend to think they’re fairly clever. It’s easy to see a humorous video go viral and get millions of views, then think gee, I could do one of those. Such thoughts can quickly turn into a quest of catching lightning in a bottle. Make sure your top priority is creating content that will provide your customers with something they’ll appreciate.

– Ok, style’s important too. While content is vital, few people want to sit through a 20-minute video of someone staring into a camera and droning on about a specific topic. Even if you don’t have the budget for professional production, there are plenty of ways to spice up a video. Intercut images or videos of the products or processes being discussed. Throw in text with bullet points summarizing the video’s content. Use some royalty free stock footage relevant to the subject. These types of things can easily be done on a personal computer and will make it much more enjoyable for customers to sit through the content you’ve created.

Ok, that’s all for this week. In a week or two, I’ll have one more entry that focuses on tips for Tweeting and social sites and wraps up the series. Thanks for reading.

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