With more companies flocking to Web 2.0 to gain exposure, there are two developing (and constantly changing) extremes in the approach to social networking. While taking an honest, natural and authentic approach to creating a rapport with audiences seems like the sure-fire ethical solution for attracting positive exposure, many companies struggle to find a natural voice in the cluttered crowd.
Sitting, and hopefully not hiding, behind a computer screen should not affect the integrity of the message to your potential customers. Unfortunately, the ability to remain anonymous can put even the best marketer’s judgment to test.
Here are five basic concepts that may deter marketers from leaving their social media campaigns riddled with grey areas:
Listen to your audience: Before beginning your contribution to social media communities, take a step back and look at how your company and industry is perceived. Understanding your consumers’ needs and wants is the first step to providing them with useful content and support-and adapting to their language is key to developing your strategy. Knowing what kind of content is important to your audience is absolutely essential. The last thing a social media campaign wants to do is to flood communities with an irrelevant, one-directional message. In fact, you will be thrown into the lion’s pit, creating negative impressions and perpetuating existing ones.
Participate in the dialogue: Become an active member in all discussions, not only topics that will directly relate to sales or conversion. Showing your interest in all areas will instill your values, trust, and opinions across the board. An on-going presence will keep you in the forefront of users’ minds as a valuable resource. Your agenda for social networking (hopefully) is not totally self-serving, so try not to come across that way by only putting in your two-cents when it’s self-promotional.
You don’t have to be an expert: Remember, marketing (in more areas than just social media) is subjective and is an on-going learning process. Not always having an answer isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, not having an answer will give your posts a human quality. Individuals, rather than corporations, are going to make a stronger connection in these communities. It is important to develop your message not in industry terms, but in laymen’s; we’ve all heard corporate speak and wondered who these drones are really trying to reach.
Create fresh content: Some may tag original, fresh content as the most important aspect of being productive with social media. Despite whether the cliché phrase “Content is King” is true, fresh content creates a community around relevant information and establishes credibility.
Be authentic: If a social media campaign isn’t genuine, authentic, or natural, prepare for an onslaught of negative feedback. Being transparent about your identity and the nature of your message will enhance all other online marketing tactics by showing your consumers the respect they deserve. Deceptive practices may be tempting, and may even show quick results, but it will hinder any opportunity to create a relationship with users. Jeremiah Owyang [http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/2008/05/brands-punkd-by.html] has compiled a list of companies and individuals that tried to take shortcuts with social media only to see their efforts backfire. The last thing you want for your campaign is to expend resources and time, only to see yourself added to this list.
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