Social Media

Social Media Advantage For Brands

Social media has become mainstream and as someone said: every media becoming social. I always think some brands and their attitudes to social media, content marketing, management. It is clear from every angle, except from view, that most brands are overlooking the "social" in front of the social media. This is what sets social media apart from other kinds of media. To excel in social media, you begin with cultivating a social media mindset. Most have not understood what this platform offers.

All that we are currently doing is majorly titled toward social media abuse which is based on advertising and shameless ego promotion. This affects corporate brands more though.

Most have concentrated mainly on mainstream traditional media. They have neglected or can we say they are unaware that the only way to survive in this time is a two-way communication media which embraces not only the traditional but online media platform. As we know, the current trend today is for brands to first learn about their brides-customers, get their attention through the use of social media platforms like blogging, Youtube, Xing, Facebook, Del.ici.ous, Bookmarking, RSS, Podcasting, videocasting, Wikis among many other available online media.

The evolution of these new media has opened up opportunity to seek opinion, interact, court, date and offers irresistible proposal that will hook the bride. Today customers are no longer buying one mode fits all offer by the traditional media. Some corporate brands here seem to hinge non-participation in online community building on such excuses that we are not yet online, neither are there recognized consumer fora which have major convergence of consumers online. Also no regulatory authority here pays attention to or gives any attention to whatever they have to say can. They also claim that online forums here have no impacts on corporate performance. Some also claim that social media is alien to us. My answer is that social media is not alien. The fact remains that many things had been part of us only that we do not accurately labeled them until the westerners help us out.

The idea of social media, content marketing is rooted in cultural rituals where a couple gets engaged before they could start dating. The process require that suitor's intention has to be established through family contacts, integrity checked and a cogent promised is made that he is interested in a serous relationship and not flings. Without these background checks, no one officially allows the intending couple to start dating. If this is violated then, the bride to be would be disciplined.

Drawing a parallel in this ancient ritual, the customers want the brand today to show that what matters is her, not money making. The customers want to be sure that out of arrays of suitors-products, services- your brand can take the initiative of starting a conversation, the customer wants to be sure your brand is not just flirting, looking out for short flings but a real relationship that will enhance her lifestyle. Brand through social media, content and social marketing set up a bate by loading the right words in their contents to convince, educate, entertain the bride that they are out to make her life better even before selling anything.

Customer wants to see how much of your intellectual property will be made available without charges. The customer wants to find out you are a giver. One of their love languages is gift sharing. A giver without string attached always takes the show. Social media, content marketing requires a lot of commitment. It takes time before social media and content marketing make huge impact. Any brand that can show high level of commitment in social media will always carry the day.

Typical case studies of brands with efficient use of social media include Tony Hseih. Tony followers in Twitter today is over one forty million. Hseih is the managing Director of Zappos.com. Tony through his 'tweet' has course to meet with customers at a bar while many in his position will rather hide under the guise of busy schedule. Tony uses Twitter to build interaction with customers; he uses twitter to solve problems for clients. The strength of Tony Hseih and Zappos communities has been used to strengthen relationships with Zappo's brand offline. Zappos client freely gives their ideas on what they want. This aids, leads to co- creation of brands products, services.

As busy as Richard Branson of Virgin group is, he also maintains a twitter account. He has used his twitter account to answer questions from angry customers as well as virgin potentials. The virgin group also has an integrated website that allows news update, blog among others. Southwest Airlines has used social media to build strong connection that impacts on the brand's offline interaction

A good example of the use of social media to spread messages and connection was recently demonstrated by Michael Jackson's personal doctor. As we are all aware, it was once insinuated that he killed Michael Jackson through drug overdose. About a week ago, he used YouTube video to spread his part of the case. This video spread across the internet as well as mainstream media. Popularity of virtual community has been soaring high with more people paying attention from academics and marketing communications practitioner discussing it in advance countries, yet Nigeria brands have assumed 'I do not care attitude'. Nations and brands are not considered backward just because of their location but based on attitudes, disposition to the use of technology that will aid progress. Building emotional connection, loyalty with the brand is becoming an easy thing through social media.

Social media has become a great platform to identify with, interact, communicate brand element. This often starts in online forum and lead to offline beneficial relationship. Today, nearly three billion of the seven billion potentials are now connected in social media platforms. Agreed the ratio is still slow here but the number is increasing daily. Through social media brands can ignite confidence in the hearts of the bride, build thought leadership. Your brand competitors may have better product, services but will surely lose out to you if you can build strong connection with them before you ask them to buy through massive advertisement.

If your brand can give away enough information, answers to concerns and prove that you are on the verge of seriously neglecting your own best interest, of tight schedules, in order to serve these greedy, needy brides that desire your brands become more open, honest with them which is the essence of social media. Social media do not allow cover ups, unnecessary protection of corporate brand's failures. I am of the opinion that if our banking industry's Managing Directors have been active in social media, there is possibility of gaining public sympathy instead of this anger, tantrum they are now receiving from various angles. Their followers would have been able to defend them and take appropriate position that may have given them soft landing in this trying period.

Since our brands have concentrated on one form of media, mainstream, tell me why should their brides not block out their useless bragging through advertising? Tell me why is it difficult for brands n our environment to see handwriting on the wall that their brides now desire their authentic voices that are not coloured with jargons of self- serving moneybags? The brands' brides are now also afraid; skeptical of marketing. Why should the brides be loyal when the element of trust is shaking?

Having established that let us now examine proper way of participating in social media which is now being exchanged for web.2.0. For brands to actively participate in social media, brands need to observe, listen, find clients' hibernating medium. In doing this, brand should first define its social media strategy through careful evaluation of brand's resources, analyze the target audience, and identify objectives. Having done this, brand must carefully pick or access platforms that fit their goals. This will inform the decision to run a blog or just to participate in other forums like Twitter, Facebook, discussion board, social media bookmarking, stumbleupon among others. Be sure you know that such platforms are used by your niche audience. Identify the top influencers of your industry online through recognitions given to their opinions, comments, awards etc.

To do this effectively, brand may consider creating the position of community or social media/knowledge management manager or hire consultant who has track records in skills like community management, online reputation management, monitoring, tracking, podcast, video cast, web links etc. These skills do not require a programmer's knowledge and in actual fact, they are used by customer relations, brand, and Public relations experts. The only requirement is passion that is backed with proven results. The said manger or consultant must also understands forum rules, reputation software, know how to distribute contents without creating offense as this may be counter productive. Great ability to create qualitative content for blogs, create profiles and claim such blogs in online directories is also essential. Social media, content marketing, management is seen as collection of open-sourced, interactive and user- controlled online application used to expand the experiences, knowledge and market power of the users as participants in business and social processes, the social media landscape is basically about conversation before any marketing campaign.

Brands must therefore consider Rajesh Setty's suggestion that it must demonstrate that your brand cares, is curious to find out what is the concern of the customers, contribute, make sure the content is worth their attention, clarify issues, build conversation that will lead to strong relationship, bring in a lot of creativity, demonstrate the brand's character and values cherished, build community, tribe, brings change, instill courage and be highly commitment to a cause its believe in.

Let me conclude this piece by highlighting how brand can start participate in social media and content marketing. Content marketing is an art of understanding what your customers' want, need to know and the science of delivering it to them in a useful and compelling way. The content has to be engaging in a useful and compelling way. To start, the brand has to build trust and credibility. This is huge work. This becomes easy if your brand can take time to listen to customers first. By that brand discovers their problems and the content is therefore tailored to provide solution.

Avoid talking too much about your brand or your expertise as much as I do know the fact that your brand need to establish the line that your brand is worth their attentions. This can make your brand's efforts become suspect. Your customers want educational content without initial marketing spin. The content also has to be compelling, entertaining to earn the scarcest entity on the wed- time/patience. Great content must guides, clarifies, enlightened and connect. The language of the content has to be in tune with your industry. Contents that solve problems drive traffic and increases sale rate.

Social media and content marketing make your clients see your brand as unique resource, trusted advisor and a brand that makes them look good. This will make them to gladly exchange their money and loyalties for your commitment to the relationship. When you have so much to give, they will not wait to tell others about your brand. There are some other factors that come into play here but let us conclude today's piece by saying that brand has several opportunities when it annexes the two way communication of mainstream and evolution of new media.

How To Grow Your Small Business Using Social Media

Are you a small business owner looking for ways to grow your business? Are you looking to attract more leads to your business, or have heard about Social Media Marketing, and now want to try it?

As a small business owner you face many challenges - limited capital, minimal support staff and having too much to do in what seems like very little time. So, how do you grow your small business without heavy investment in marketing and advertising? Answer - through the use of technology. Web 2.0 provides you with various tools and techniques that help you to generate leads and increase the exposure of your home-based business. Social media is one such tool. Here's all you need to know as a small business owner to begin increasing revenues using social media.

What is Social Media?
Social Media is a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, GooglePlus, and MySpace.

What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is using the above mentioned platforms to reach a new audience of consumers and create product brand awareness. By spreading word of a product from user to user, Social Media Marketing strives to gain greater legitimacy for a message because it is shared between trusted "friends."

Which Social Media Channels are most popular?
Studies show that Facebook & Twitter are most popular social media channels followed closely by YouTube and LinkedIn, GooglePlus.

Why should Social Media Marketing Interest me?
If you think this kind of Marketing is not for you, think again. These platforms offer a large bundle of benefits to small business owners. Here are some reasons why you should consider using Social Media for your business.

Exposure: As a small business owner you rely largely on network marketing to channel leads to your business - which, in turn relies on your interaction with people. This is the core notion of what Social Media is! But Social Media offers virtually unlimited opportunities to interact with people - millions of them! With this interesting form of marketing, your business is no longer limited to local leads; you will find leads coming in from a diversified geographic market!

Zero-cost: While other marketing media would be expensive, this type of marketing is relatively free, or requires negligible monetary investment. It's a great low-cost way to get your message across.

Improved web presence: Being on popular social media platforms strengthens your web presence. The more people talk about you on Facebook or Twitter, the greater are the chances of your business being found on relevant web searches such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

Direct contact with prospects: These platforms put you in touch with your customers directly. You can have one-on-one contact with them, know what they really want.

Go viral: Such marketing offers you the opportunity to go viral with your marketing. Think about this. You put up a video about your business on YouTube. 10 people like it, and five of them share it with their friends, who in-turn share it with 20 more people. This is known as "viral marketing," and it can be a very effective method to increase your lead generation.

What is a Social Media "game plan" and why should you have one?
A social media game plan is a process consisting of a few simple steps that can help you achieve your social media marketing objectives. The social media arena is large and you can get lost in it if you don't play by the rules. There's a lot of competition and you have to have a clear plan if you want to stand out of the crowd and get noticed.

Your ideal Social Media game plan
A typical game plan for your business should consist of these four steps

  • Build your network
  • Propagate your presence
  • Stay connected
  • Monitor

Step 1 - build your network: The first step is to search for and add those users to your network whom you think fall into your target audience segment. When placing a request to add users to your network, it is always better to accompany such requests with a personalized message. You can also look for and join groups that pertain to your line of business. For example, if you are a business selling Health drinks and other health-related products, you could join groups where topics such as nutrition, diet or health are discussed. Such groups provide you audience for the products you have to offer. However, when in a group, do remember to ADD VALUE. Answer questions that you are equipped to answer, actively participate in discussions, be subtle and don't aggressively "push" your products.

Step 2-propagate: The next step is to announce your Social Media presence. You can do this by adding links to your social media pages on your website, e-mail signature line or newsletter, if you have one. You are out there with your business-announce it!

Step 3-stay connected:The third step is to stay connected with your fans and group members. Social media marketing initiative is easy to start, but requires effort to maintain. And like many networking efforts, results are usually not immediate. Acquire permission from group members and others on your network to send e-mails. You can then e-mail relevant content to people on your network. The key here is to send RELEVANT, VALUE ADDING content-not an advertisement of your products/services. If you are a health-drink selling company who is also a part of the diet and nutrition group, you can send links such as '10 Best Anti-Oxidant Rich Fruits' and then perhaps add an image and some information about your product, encouraging people to get in touch with you if they're interested. This approach will be better-received than just sending the prospects an e-mail flyer totally dedicated to your product.

Dos and Don'ts
While social networking is all about human interaction and cannot be strait-jacketed, here are some tips that will come in handy.

What you should do?
Add value to your contacts: Always add value to your contacts. Always! Provide them useful information, tips and other interesting facts that they can use. For example, Jane, a home-based business owner sells health drinks and weight loss products. So, it makes sense for her to provide her audience with interesting articles on the topic of weight loss.

Be consistent in your online participation: It is not a one-time effort. It is about building a relationship... and relationships take time. Be consistent in your social media communication. Have an interesting tweet/post/update at least every day. In some few cases, multiple postings a day are even better-but don't forget rule#1-add value. Your posts shouldn't sound like pointless ramblings or advertisements of your product/service.

Pay attention to what's being discussed: If you have joined a forum or a group, actively participate in relevant discussions. Use your specific, professional knowledge to help others. Contribute to add depth and dimension to a discussion.

Conversation is the key: As mentioned before, social media marketing thrives on relationships. To build a strong relationship with your prospects, you need to engage in a conversation with them. Maintain a 2-way communication between you and your audience. Take genuine interest in what they have to say and follow up on comments or observations that are made.

Thoroughly know the subject you are talking about: Position yourself as an expert on these platforms. But be sure that you know what you're talking about. Research if you aren't sure of something. Mistakes on these platforms spread quickly and damage the reputation of your business.

Personalize your interaction: It's advisable to personalize your interaction with your audience. Inquire about an event or occasion posted on a Wall, such as a recent trip, or "like" their vacation pictures on Facebook.

Portray your individuality: The biggest advantage small business owners have over large corporations is the fact that they are much smaller and haven't lost that real-person feel. Let your audience know the person behind the business. Make sure your interactions include a personal side!

Respond to your customers' grievances ASAP: Did you know that 88% of customers say unanswered complaints on social media sites deter them from doing repeat business? And deleting customer complaints is even worse! So make sure you resolve your customer's complaints on social media platforms immediately. Even if you can't resolve them, at least respond so that they know they're being heard. Acknowledge everything.

Mention your Social Media presence: Advertise your profiles. Always provide links to your social media profile in your website, blog, e-mails and even print materials. For websites and blogs, it's best to add Facebook and twitter widgets which provide a live feed of what's happening on your Facebook/twitter page, right there on your website or blog. Provide incentives or value adding information such as whitepapers or articles in order to encourage people to follow you on social media sites!

Monitor & moderate: Monitor your social media presence. Find out where your name's coming up online and in what context it has been used. A Google alert is the simplest way to do this, though there are many free tools available online to monitor your web presence. Also stay in-control of your social media pages. Read what others are putting up on your page and respond promptly.

Syndicate your Social Media content: Content creation takes time. So why not make the most of the content you have? Post your content on all popular social media sites and don't hesitate to re-use them. Turn a blog post into a link and put it on Facebook. Convert it into a video and add to YouTube and Facebook or turn it into a presentation and put it up on SlideShare. The aim is to get maximum exposure for your content.

What you should not do?

DON'T overtly push your products/services: Social media is a platform

where you build relationships, to create value. It's NOT an advertising venue. Your audience

will shun you if all you talk about is the stuff you sell. Think about it, would you talk to your family

and friends about the products you sell all the time? Of course not! Then don't treat your

social media audience any differently.

DON'T spam your contacts with pointless updates: OK, so now you added two new products to your line-up. While it's great to share the news, don't spam your contacts with ads. Put up a link to the new range of products; monitor who is interested and share information on a need-to-know basis.

DON'T have grammar and spelling errors in your posts: You are a small business out to create an impression. Don't spoil it through spelling and grammatical errors. Use spelling/grammar checking tools, but never rely solely on them. Proofread your posts before putting them up online. If spelling or grammar is not your strong suit, have someone else proofread your work before it goes out

DON'T fail to respond to requests for help in your area of expertise: If you are a part of a group or forum, seize every opportunity to display your expertise. Don't be a wallflower-actively participate in discussions.

DON'T let your profile get stale: Make sure your profile is frequently updated and that you offer something new. One mistake many small business owners make is creating social media profiles and then forgetting about them. Your social media efforts have to be on-going to bear results.

DON'T get distracted: There's a lot of distraction available online-especially on social media channels that can make you lose track of your productive hours online. Games, quizzes, forums and live-chats-while these can be interesting tools to attract prospect interest, focus on your goals. Otherwise you'll find yourself investing too much time and energy into activities that offer no returns to your business.