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Testing the Waters of Social Media

July 29th, 2011

From the largest corporation to the smallest family owned business, everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon. But are they going about it the right way? While social media can be a powerful tool it must be carefully implemented as one element of an overall marketing strategy.  The mistake many organizations make is they jump in with both feet without having a full understanding of the medium or the message they want to convey.

To help organizations take strategic social media baby steps we’ve developed a proven process to guide a business’s foray into the Facebook age.

Don’t start by posting, begin by listening.  Listen to the online conversations your customers are having and note where they are posting. This can help you identify patterns and topics that are important to you customers and is the first step in our 5 Steps of Social Media Engagement Model. Similar to radio and television stations, social media offers different channels that are targeted towards different markets.  Think about it- Babe’s Pork Chops should not create an account on the social networking site, Vegans R’ Us. Selecting your social media platforms is just as important as understanding what role social media will play in your marketing campaign as a whole. There is no standardized social media template. Businesses must adjust social media to meet their individual needs. This could mean launching a marketing campaign only available on social media or creating a campaign that begins with print and TV ads that promote customers to log onto the company Facebook page to see the end of the story. A social media presence must have a purpose.

Once you have identified the target audience you hope to reach it is time to join the social media universe. The next four steps in our model are about how to effectively disseminate information beginning with responding. Saying a simple thank you to customers who are saying positive things about your company is an easy way to get started posting. Once you feel comfortable commenting on postings it is time to start sharing. Let your followers know about upcoming sales and events that you are having. Soon you can begin to shape the conversation. Drive the conversations people are having online by suggesting new research ideas and continually moving the conversation in your direction. Taking the initiative to start the conversation puts you in the position to be a leader.  By continually shaping the conversation you have become a trusted outlet by customers and you can begin leading the conversation within your industry. As a leader you can now influence the changes and advancements within your industry by creating insight.

REI, an outdoor retailer, has recently looked to twitter to change how things are done in its industry. With years of social media experience behind it, the company has decided to activate a new social media strategy. REI has announced that it has segmented its national twitter feed into 53 smaller target market areas.

This new social media strategy supports a larger new retail strategy where REI will begin catering each store’s offerings to meet the specific needs of the customers in a given area. For instance, REI is currently building a retail store in New York that will have an entire floor dedicated to cyclists, even offering bicycle repair in one of the largest cycling markets in the US.

Through the segmentation of its one national twitter into 53 smaller accounts REI is better able to respond to the needs of customers on a more targeted basis. Sharing information is now easier than ever because of the individualized markets and the fact that they have trusted hundreds of employees to now have access to their twitter accounts. They have already been successful identifying employees who are experts at communicating particular pieces of information like product arrivals and customer service. They can soon begin shaping the conversation by offering original content. They have already sparked conversations within the retail industry by introducing this new social media strategy. This has put them on the fast track to becoming a leader. REI is poised to become a leader through this social media strategy that has been carefully crafted to aid in their new approach to retail sales.

Nervous Newbie: What are your fears about joining the social media community?

Posted Under: Digital & Social Media, Innovation & Technology
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