Posted by Theron Lalla, Associate Account Manager
In the last several years, “social media” has become a term thrown around by companies who are determined to stay competitive, even if it means adopting something they don’t quite understand. It’s almost a repeat of the dot-com boom, where every company—start up or conglomerate—was convinced that if only they had this new thing called a website, profits would automatically soar. As we saw then, not necessarily. Similarly, companies are now on sprees of developing “social media strategies” and “leveraging social media.” However, those fancy phrases usually end up being nothing more than code for “Look! We made a Facebook page!”
So what is social media, really? Put shortly, it’s sharing among peers—an embellishment of a “for us, by us” mentality. At its purest form, this is not something a marketing team can control. Unless it’s a local non-profit or open-source driven community, it’s more along the lines of a “for you, by us.” But there are still ways to create a community around your company and products, and actually allow yourself a chance to become a part of a social network.
For starters, put a face (or faces) on the brand. People don’t identify with a logo—they identify with people. Make your “official spokesperson” an actual person, rather than a team of PR experts. “A guy who works at XYZ” seems more tangible (and accessible) than “XYZ’s company page.” If your company wants to be particularly daring, post (SFW) pictures from company events so that others see that the company is more than just a corporation trying to sell something.
An equally effective approach is to create a community mindset around your company. When your brand becomes a demographic that represents traits of its users, then the community will expand on its own as like seeks like. Google accomplished this—possibly accidentally—by using invites in it’s early days. Until then it was just another search engine. But with invites, it became a seemingly exclusive club, where an existing user would invite friends, family, or those like themselves who would likely prefer this approach to search… essentially feeling almost like a “for us, by us” mentality.
Another approach, which can be used in tandem with any of the above, is the first ever business strategy—figure out a need, and fill it. Whether this is a need for a product, service, or information, matching a need that the rest of the world ignores will make your brand a hero. In the information industry, Yahoo and Microsoft both understand this, with Yahoo’s Upshot Blog and Microsoft’s Bing engine attempting to fill a need for more immediate, filtered information. They’re not attempting to be the next Google—and that’s a good thing.
These three approaches indicate that “social media strategies” are less about joining every social trend and more about—as others have found—returning to a focus on customer engagement. It’s about getting on your customer’s level, and becoming a part of their crowd. And that’s when you’ll really start to leverage social media.