Yesterday I had a great opportunity to speak on the phone about social media and marketing with some people from the marketing departments of about 20 national governing bodies for US sports. This was made possible by Tim Yount (VP of Marketing, USA Triathlon), who I met last month at the IEG Sponsorship Conference in Chicago. After the conference ended, Tim invited me to speak on the call yesterday and talk about social media — what it is, why it’s important, and some key steps organizations should keep in mind when getting started.
Thanks to Tim for having me on the call yesterday and thanks to everyone else for taking time out of your day to listen. I hope it was beneficial and please feel free to contact me with any more questions you may have. If you’re from one of the organizations from the call, thanks for checking out my blog. For everyone else. here are some points I shared today about social media marketing and six main principles.
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social Media marketing is a huge buzz word these days, but what does it really mean? I think it really boils down to this (and I’m definitely not the only one who has said this before): Social media marketing is when companies take a human approach to marketing by participating in conversations with their audiences. It’s about engaging audiences in an authentic way to provide helpful information, solve problems and build relationships to achieve business goals and gain a leg up on the competition. In the past this was difficult (and it’s still not easy), but the tools and platforms that are available now have made this a more viable option…and a necessity in many cases, depending on your audience and goals.
Here are 6 principles of social media marketing that I shared with the group. These weren’t meant to be how-tos or steps to take to create a strategy, so measurement and setting goals weren’t included (though I did include those pieces in another part of the presentation). These principles are more about the actions that an organization’s audience will notice and appreciate.
It’s been said before but I will say it again. Research your audience first. Figure out where they are and what they’re saying about you, your category and your competitors before attempting to insert yourself in conversations online. Spend a month and make notes of the types of conversations about you and what percentage are positive and negative. Listen. Learn the various unspoken rules, guideines and dos and don’ts of the communities you’re thinking about joining. When you do start participating, listen to your audience and figure out what they like. Involve them in idea generation and product creation. Use social media platforms and tools to provide customer service on steroids. It’s about them, not you.
This has a dual-meaning. Part of social media marketing is engaging your audience on their own turf. Your goal may be to get people to come to your website, but what really should matter is engaging people (they way they want to be reached) to build relationships. The other part of this is providing and creating content that is engaging. If it’s not interesting or helpful or entertaining, people aren’t going to care or pay attention to your efforts. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Is whatever content you’re producing something that is interesting and good enough to share? If not, then you should re-evaluate your efforts.
Based on your research and listening, you can probably identify some people who are already talking about your organization. These people are great to involve in your efforts, so you should empower them and give them the tools and content to become an even bigger advocate for you. This also includes enabling people to share your content with their friends on various websites, and maybe letting people take your content and create new content from it in the form of remixes, mashups, and videos. Give people ways to feel ownership of your brand and they’ll get closer to it. Lastly, empower and enable your employees to get involved in your efforts.
Share interesting articles, pictures, videos, links about you and your industry. Give to get. Give some more. Give and share your time, attention, expertise, questions and insight with your audience. The more you do this, the more relationships and trust you will build. Your audience will appreciate this, and that’s good for business.
If people are taking the time to interact with you online, why not reward them (and in some cases, you may have to reward them). Reward your loyal and passionate fans and followers with exclusive content, access, discounts and promotions. There’s also an opportunity to involve sponsors in this piece to give your fans something of value.
Participate, don’t promote. If all you do is say, “Look how great I am, look how awesome my product is” people will get tired of it really quickly and stop listening. The whole point of social media marketing is to participate in conversations with your audience, not just talk at them. You don’t have to start with a huge splash; this invites a lot more scrutiny and criticism from people who might not like what you’re doing. If you start slow, there are still a lot of things you can do and learn from. Participation is the key.