Social media has caused a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old, and 96% of us (the “Millennials”) have joined at least one social network. In the past few years we’ve seen an avalanche of powerful automated services take over the social media marketing scene. You can be certain that these fully- integrated brand management tools have hysterical sounding names, such as HootSuite, TweetAdder and SocialOomph, and they are playing increasingly larger roles in helping people and businesses communicate efficiently and effectively with large numbers of customers, fans and followers (How to Manage Twitter Accounts in Bulk). We are constantly being inundated with new and creative ways to share information and market our brands and ourselves, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to decide on the best value-added strategy.
In this article I would like to give a few suggestions to young entrepreneurs about what strategies and free tools I have found to be most beneficial in the launch of my first two start-ups, and which I have learned to avoid. Social media is way more about sociology and psychology than technology, so it’s important to keep in mind that the most successful social marketing campaigns come down to the people (and human interactions). Marketing is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships and letting ideas and information transfer from person to person as organically as possible.
#6: Sell Something That People Will Enjoy Sharing
Barack Obama is accredited with being the first Social Media President. He took a grassroots campaign and made it cool by lifting it into the digital age and using social media as the central platform for his presidential campaign. In doing so, he changed the face of American politics. But what we can take away from this remarkable campaign is not the number of Facebook and Twitter followers he compounded, but the realization that we are living amongst a generation that communicates very well. We get easily excited about new ideas and information, and we love being the first to deliver that information to friends and family. At the core of every successful marketing campaign are ideas that are worth sharing and talking about.
Think for a second, is your product or service something new and exciting? Is it something worth bring up randomly at the dinner table? If so, this automatically makes your marketing campaign more “viral-able”.
#5: Use Automated Social Media Services (Sparingly)
I use automated services such as HootSuite, TweetAdder and SocialOomph to manage a lot of my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I’ve personally found TweetAdder to be the most user-friendly (and it’s free), but SocialOomph is very powerful as well (I wrote a full review of SocialOomph on my site which you can read here). These services, however, should be used in moderation. A lot of users get overwhelmed with the enormous number of capabilities (especially with SocialOomph) and feel obliged to use them all. Features such as Auto Follow, Auto Respond and Auto Direct Message all take the human element out of social interactions, and I highly advice you not to use them. Unless you’re a large corporation who can’t handle the large amount of web traffic, this isn’t necessary. If you get five or six new Twitter followers a day, why not send personalized messages? Just think for a second, when was the last time you received an automated Direct Message on Twitter that got you excited? I’d rather get junk mail from a Thai restaurant (at least those come with coupons).
I predominately use these services for one thing, and that’s to disperse my Tweets more evenly throughout the day. They allow you to nicely input an entire index of Tweets into a queue, and you can schedule how often you want them to be published. I have about 70-80 Tweets in my library that I have published at random every 15-20 minutes (any more frequently and that becomes spammy). And please, don’t overuse the friend finders. Just a few days ago I was doing some Twitter maintenance, evaluating the new people who chose to follow me, when I noticed a Twitter account that nearly pushed me off of my chair. This particular account was following over 26,000 people, but had only 17 followers. Even more shocking was that the account had only been activated less than a week ago. Don’t be that guy.
#4: Integrate Your Bog with Twitter and Facebook
Whenever I publish a new article on my website, I usually want to inform the Facebook and Twitter communities. There are tons of WordPress plugins to accomplish this task with Twitter (check out WP Post To Twitter and WordTwit). Facebook relies on the RSS feed of your blog to publish onto your Facebook Profile and Fan pages. I’d highly recommend checking out these two services: Network Blogs and RSS Graffiti. They were designed specifically to enable the complete integration between Facebook and your blog, and they import your pretty little thumbnails really well. After some testing, I prefer the RSS Graffiti interface more, but the Network Blogs performs a little better.
Honestly, I wish they would combine. Network Blogger gives you more control over where your posts publish on Facebook, and they are delivered a lot faster. I’ve spent 30 to 45 minute before waiting for RSS Graffiti to find one of my recently posted articles. I don’t like this lag. Network Blogs is way faster (even immediate if you go to the app and hit refresh). But they are both improving quickly and are wonderful free services that can help you easily integrate your blog with your Facebook Profile Page and Fan Page.
#3: Use StumbleUpon to Find New Interesting Content
If you want more Twitter followers and you want more clients, be more interesting. But (as funny as it sounds) we don’t always have the time to be interesting all by ourselves. That’s where social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg and Delicious come in handy. For those who are unfamiliar, StumbleUpon (specifically) is a discovery engine that personalizes the internet by getting to know you a little bit then makes recommendations for what you might like. It’s a great service to use if you are looking to quickly find a fun or interesting article to feed to your social media followers. It really feels like you are surfing the web. Some of the funniest and more entertaining things I’ve come across on the internet I’ve found this way, and in a matter of only a few minutes. The more you customize the search algorithm, the more useful it will become to you. And as soon as you find something worth sharing, share it. Write about it. Tweet it. Send it to your Facebook.
The more interesting you become as a brand, the greater chance that people will pay attention to whatever it is that you are selling (and it feels more natural this way). And don’t be afraid to reach out a little and post information unrelated to your company. Randomness and unpredictability is what makes us human.
#2: Subscribe and Use RSS Feeds of Reputable Sites
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a great way to get quickly notified of new content on a website that you regularly visit. By subscribing to the RSS feed, users can stay up-to-date with new postings, updates and headlines. It’s a streamlined method of receiving content of interest. Feed readers allow the user to aggregate multiple feeds, making the process of gathering website content more efficient. Instead of visiting websites individually for new content, feed readers monitor the sites for you and provide updates from one location. This information, if valuable, can be passed along to your network. And if you are fully confident in the quality of the incoming content, you can even set up an auto-publish from the RSS feeds of a few reputable sites onto your Twitter or Facebook accounts (all the automated social media services discussed previously can help you do this).
For design-types, sites like Smashing Magazine or Mashable usually have RSS feeds that are pretty safe to auto-publish from. This way, whenever they publishes a new article, you can inform your network in real-time without doing a thing. Still, it’s a good rule of thumb that any interaction with your customers, fans or followers that is purely automated is usually unhealthy for your brand. RSS feeds are a great way to collect information, but auto-RSS feeds should be used in moderation.
#1: Never Underestimate The Power of Referral Marketing
Online social marketing aside, in both my start-ups if I’ve learned one thing it’s that referrals are the best way to attract new customers (I know everyone says this, but it’s actually true). In our firm we’ve even started to throw around the buzzphrase “referral marketing” to represent an effective and highly leveraged business development strategy. If you can give your existing clients an incentive to sell your products and services for you, it’s one of the quickest and most valuable ways of breaking into new social circles. And don’t be afraid of being vocal about your desire for referrals, you’ll be surprised how out-of-their-way some of your clients might go for you. Having a human-verified reference makes business relationships feel more comfortable. So this has to be a part of your sales process. Asking for referrals must be integrated into all that you do. It is a proactive strategy and not something you can leave to “word of mouth”. Referral marketing is active and results-oriented, and it’s one of the most cost-effective ways of expanding your social network. For a week, forget the expensive, complicated marketing efforts and focus on something simple, cheap and achievable: make a referral.
The goal of this article is to reduce, but certainly not eliminate, the human capital involved in managing a social media marketing campaign. Your goal should never be to fully automate your marketing campaign, or even come close to that. People who are using social media sites do not want to be constantly battered with marketing messages, so you should ensure that the content that you place on these sites is engaging and relevant. Deciding on an appropriate tone of voice for social media is also important to ensure consistency with your marketing materials. If used correctly, social media is a powerful marketing tool that you can’t afford to ignore.