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BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Using Social Media to Engage Customers, Increase Community Awareness, Promote Your Services and Increase Sales

mattjan13Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing
We have to fundamentally embrace that marketing has changed. The customer has changed.  What used to penetrate the brain of our customer by “pushing” the messaging – newspaper ads, billboards, radio and TV spots – what we would call Outbound Marketing – no longer works as our customers are becoming smarter, savvier, as well as more distracted.  Inbound Marketing – producing content and an ‘engagement’ philosophy and strategy where customers are “pulled” by the intrinsic motivation to interact with our brand and company – is the new form of marketing.

A couple months ago, we were approached by the Business Council of Cohoes, asking us to present on the use of social media and our experience with it.  We wanted to take this opportunity to share some core concepts not only to that group, but to our readers as well.  This is what we think social media is and what it is not: being social on media is more than a tool, it’s a philosophy.  So often we see many businesses take on social media as a necessary evil (I don’t want to, but I have to), or at best, a tool they think should provide them a silver bullet for gaining more sales (so let’s just join every social media and post once a month).  Social media links ideas, people and ideas in a platform that allows engagement and sharing.

Cohoes-Council_Social-MediaBuilding a Strategy Around a Social Media Program
In the program for the BCC we will begin not on what’s the newest, coolest social media to join, but rather what’s our 40,000 foot view of what we want to accomplish.  Usually, this far extends the use of social media and revolves around a more strategic goal(s) for the company or business (engage our customers, become more present in the community, create a vibrant, fun and engaged place for employees to work).  This is what we’ll actually spend a lot of time talking about.  The actual tool or software that is social media is nothing more than a means to enhance and amplify whatever the message or strategic intent is – we first must define what we are trying to achieve.

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It and The Thank You Economy, preaches at great length about the idea of building a customer-centric philosophy around social media.  This drives us back to the point that what we’re really trying to achieve in the program is a philosophy about being ever-present for your customers, not about just joining the next social media platform.  Social media doesn’t push your culture, brand or story automatically; it has to be a philosophy of the company combined with the necessary resources (social media manager, time, money, content, etc.) to make it possible.  Social media does provide a great mechanism to push culture, brand and story, but it needs foundational elements (like any good business venture) in order to work.  We’ve seen many companies jump in and flounder because of the lack of strategic foresight.  We’ve also seen many companies do this well – engage their customers where they are, highlight their specials for the day, answer questions and trouble shoot, post warnings, or use social media as a focus group for new product development.

Key Strategies That Transform How You Interact with Customers
One group we’re working with on their social media program has identified these key strategies as ‘buckets’ they want social media to help them with: engage donors; increase awareness and participation around events; inform, educate and communicate with the local community; and finally, engage staff and provide outlets for their employees to become more involved with the organization via social media.  I think these are great, broad ‘buckets’ that could really transform the way the organization approaches not only social media, but how they operate.  It’s all interconnected, not in separate silos.

Notice we haven’t yet mentioned the newest, coolest social media.

Developing SMART Social Media Goals for Measurability and Accountability
From those big bucket items, we start to develop goals around each item.  Usually most social media goals revolve around increasing website visits, gaining more friends or followers, increasing open rates to emails, developing a website that encourages the social engagement of social media, creating a robust content calendar – real, practical, SMART goals that we can than methodically measure and improve.  Marketing 101 tells us that we need people to see our message at least 7 times in multiple ways in order to break through the noise and clutter to make an impact on them.  Social media does a great job of this by providing multiple platforms (LinkedIn for business people, Facebook for closer friends and family, Twitter for the on-the-go, mobile audience) and with multiple vehicles (blogs, podcasts, pictures, videos, etc.).

Identifying our Customer Persona
In order to use social media effectively we need to determine who our best audience or customers are (the customer persona) and then where they are (which will define the technology or social media we need to be on).  If you’re like most industries, you’ll probably have a little bit of all.  Let’s say we have a restaurant; our primary tool might be a Facebook Page, because of the sheer size and popularity of the social media.  We may see that in our urban-located restaurant we have a progressive group of fans that follow us on Twitter so we need to be posting there.  Some of our best customers may be women, ages 18-35, so we should probably be pinning our best meals on Pinterest or taking beautiful, filtered photos that will increase the desire to eat at our restaurant via Instragram (hint: those would be some of the newest, coolest social media to be on).

Ideas, People, and Stories
As we present to the Business Council of Cohoes, I’m sure our program will have a great cross section of local businesses – restaurants, book stores, flower shops, hair shops – each with a unique story to tell, a base of customers who “just love their service or product” and who want to engage with the ‘community’ that each business could create with social media.  With that in mind, our mission will be to help them see that social media is more than just a tool; it’s a way to connect ideas, people and stories.

Sign up for the workshop on Thursday, May 9th at the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce for the Business Council of Cohoe’s Creating a Social Media Roadmap workshop

Looking to start a program yourself?  Needing to get buy-in from the boss or stakeholders?  Try this article out first:


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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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