Social media is an essential marketing tactic for most any business or organization. However, sorting through endless streams of comments and conversations can detract from important business tasks and create a frustrating experience.
So, how can your brand’s voice be heard amidst all the chatter in the noisy world of social media? By following a few simple tactics, you can help amplify positive messages to your audience and filter the conversations to find the gems you seek.
In addition to increased brand awareness, these tactics can quickly turbo-charge lead generation and establish “early warning systems” to get you in front of potential public relations disasters.
Most of these tactics can be rapidly engaged using HootSuite’s social media dashboard, which has been created specifically for spreading messages and tracking results from a single web interface.
Before you get started, set up a Twitter account and Facebook page for your company—if you feel like you’re late to the party, these tips will help you make up for lost time.
Start by Listening
For most businesses—particularly small businesses—finding and connecting with an audience is the key to success. Effective outreach can result in new customers and valuable media attention. The alternative is empty stores and quiet phones.
The good news is that small companies without the large advertising budgets and PR resources that larger corporate brands enjoy can use social media to reach specific, local audiences.
Let’s use the example of a yoga studio in Portland, Oregon seeking new customers. Using HootSuite, the first step is to set up a search stream for “yoga Portland” to capture all Tweets with these words.
Once you see mentions of these words, follow the people discussing yoga and add them to a Twitter list. Then, begin to reply to their updates with advice, opinions, and tips—just avoid giving them a sales pitch.
Doing this will build awareness as people see your thoughtful remarks and click through to your profile (through a branded profile icon) to learn more about your yoga studio.
Outreach to Influencers
Now that our fictional yoga studio is following a few hundred yoga enthusiasts in the area, the next step is to gently offer services. A great way to do this is to send personalized offers via Twitter (or Facebook) to key influencers.
Here’s an example:
“Hi @yogageek, noticed you enjoy Kundalini yoga. We’d like to invite you for a complimentary session at #PortlandYoga—think you’ll love it.”
You can identify key candidates by clicking on profiles and noting their “Klout” score, which is a measurement of influence and reach. Additionally, see how often they discuss yoga with their audience. Do they have a yoga blog? Great. Do they seem to be followed by many other yoga fans? Awesome.
Once they’ve attended their complimentary session, encourage them to share their experience via Twitter, Facebook, and/or their blog. Follow up with a comment and a sincere “thank you.”
Amplify by Sharing
On Twitter, you’ll notice the “retweet” option. “Retweeting” refers to people sharing your message with their audience to further increase your message’s reach. Each RT or Reply is a tacit “thumbs-up” for your brand. When you thank a retweeter for mentioning you and share their updates, you produce another impression of your business name and related culture.
Did you notice the “#” sign in the example message above? In Twitter-speak, that’s called a “hashtag.” By adding a descriptive hashtag, you can set up a search stream to track everyone who shares your thoughts and offers. Plus, it provides an instantly clickable way for your followers to see more messages containing that topical tag.
Instant Focus Group
Whether it’s a pricing change, new product, or service offering, making the wrong choice can be expensive. Sometimes, business owners are “too close” to the process to make objective choices. By building an online audience and asking their opinions, you can make informed choices that are more likely to resonate in the marketplace.
Your Facebook page is a great place for gathering feedback. The process can be as simple as posting a message with two options and asking which the reader prefers, and why. You can even incentivize responses by offering a promotional prize or special offer to all who answer.
Along with learning what the marketplace thinks of your brand, you can compare brand perception by monitoring competitors’ brand names and related terms. Learn what your competitors are being praised for, as well as what their stumbling blocks are. Use this information to position your brand and set yourself apart.
Early Warning System
Runaway rumors, negative comments, disgruntled customers, bad reviews—all of these can drive an entrepreneur to distraction. If you don’t reply quickly, the story can get out of control. Let it linger and it can impact your search results and change the public narrative about your company.
Mitigate PR conundrums by keeping constant watch over brand names, product names, and even executive names on the social web. By following what’s specifically being said about you, your brand, and your organization, you have the invaluable opportunity to directly address falsehoods, correct misconceptions, and quell rumors to set the record straight.
Play the Party Host
Amplifying your brand online is like hosting a party—there will inevitably be people who are rude or frustrated mixed in with folks having a good time. Your role is to keep things civil and moving towards your desired outcome of brand growth. Above all else, keep the conversation going.
If you diligently respond and engage in a consistent manner, you’ll ensure that the tone of the party stays in line with your brand’s principles and image. And remember, just like any party, you can never fully predict how it will go. Someone always spills a drink, maybe the neighbors make a noise complaint, but your party will be judged more for how you handle any little hiccups than for the actual mishaps.
Dave Olson (@daveohoots) is the Community Marketing Director for social media dashboard maker HootSuite. Working in the Internet space since 1996, Dave was a partner is two successful ISPs plus he worked with start-ups including ecommerce software, open source Web development, and a green business directory. He frequently presents at events including SXSW and Northern Voice, and appears in the media discussing technology, art, hockey, and culture.