Taking advantage of the "Social" in social networks
So social media marketing is about the conversation, not the tone. People are starting to understand that. This is a good step, but what does it mean in practical terms? Having conversations with people is nice, but the goal of a brand is ultimately to get people interested in spending their time or money on the brand after all. What does this conversation accomplish, and how does a brand use that conversation to get the critical conversion from the conversation to customers?
The key: customer investment
Almost everyone is familiar with the smart and modern Mac commercials. They’ve been watched, remade, spun off, and parodied almost to death, and they will remain icons of excellent publicity. But think about it: when was the last time you saw one of these commercials on TV? How often do they reappear?
The fact is that the most consistent and outspoken defenders of the Mac are its users. People with an Apple laptop are eager to tell their friends about it, show it off in public, and talk about its virtues. This is true in other areas as well: Honda users have fan sites for their chosen vehicles, most people enter fad diets or exercise programs as a result of the influence of their friends, etc.
So give people a reason to talk about your brand by making it your brand.
Step 1: A place to talk
There’s no reason not to have an open, public discussion forum for your brand on your site. This can take the form of the comments section if your brand consists of a simple blog, or it can be an entire message board. Definitely have a Facebook page and enable comments so people can provide feedback on your frequent informative updates.
Step 2: Other places
People like to put up their own fan sites, in addition to the official ones. This should never, ever be discouraged. Yes, there are some risks in having a site that is not under your direct control. However, very few people are going to respond favorably to “big companies” overriding the “little guy” who just wanted to show how much they liked a certain product the company makes.
Instead, take advantage of this as an excellent opportunity. Contact them as an official representative and mention how much you appreciate their interest. If someone has an entire web page dedicated to their line of best-selling how-to books, make a friendly “how to be an awesome fan” spotlight on their page showcasing your site. When people see how well the brand treats its fans, they will talk about it.
Step 3: Talk it out
Wherever people are talking about your brand, make sure they have good quality information about things, and that the information you give them meets your audience’s expectations. If your brand is high-end technical engineering tools, provide rigorous specifications that your users can dig into. If it’s a Sunday casual wear fashion line, it offers interviews with the fashion designers and what their inspirations were. Give them some real meat to talk about and they’ll be chatting away for months.
Also, remember the principle of reciprocity. If a conversation seems to be really taking off, get involved. If someone raises an interesting point in an otherwise quiet thread, nudge them with some official perspective. As you see fit, participate in the discussions and help people see that you want to talk about the brand as often and as soon as possible. Stimulate discussion, encourage discussion, do whatever it takes to keep the party going just one more point.
Step 4: Reward Interest
This was touched on slightly in Elsewhere, but can be expanded upon more in your own point. McDonald’s recently presented an award to one of its most loyal customers, Don Gorske. The restaurant recognized him as the world’s first Big Mac enthusiast, as Gorske has eaten more than 23,000 Big Macs in his lifetime. An odd award for most lights, but McDonald’s certainly turned heads, and Gorske has been a guest on Super Size Me and The Rachel Ray Show.
Most brands can’t harness that degree of influence, but there are plenty of ways to reward a fan for their loyal interest in a brand. Perhaps your biggest fan deserves an early shipment of the newest product he’s planning. Perhaps you have read every one of his novels to date and maintain such an active community of authors and fans that you will use his name for the heroine of his most recent work. Or maybe the reward is a friendly lunch where you talk about branding ideas and other things you have in common. Maybe you’ll even hire your No. 1 Fan because he has some genuinely great ideas.
In general, think humanly
No list can comprehensively contain all the material that will get people interested in and talking about any brand. There are so many verbal tricks, psychological cues, and special tricks that even trying to Google them would take months of research.
The most important key is to think like a human being. Remember the ads or conversations that piqued your interest in something, that made you want to engage with a brand as its advocate. Try to extend those same thoughts to what you put on your brand, and you’ll attract people just as interested as you are.