Universal McCann has done it again and assembled a very informative presentation on how strangers are influencing brand buying decisions. This presentation is definitely worth the read. Some key takeaways, looking through the eyes of retailers trying to figure out how to leverage social media for connecting with broader communities:
There are some great examples as well. What do you think? Coming soon in a future post: some “quick hits” ideas on how retailers can get quickly engaged in social media.
Social Media is a commitment. It's not something individuals or businesses can dabble in and expect to be successful. Here are some top ways that I've found Social Media to require commitment. Chalk this one up to both lessons learned personally and bordering on the obvious to folks who have been leveraging social media for awhile.
1. Blog Frequency
Best practice often suggests that while maintaining a blog, the author(s) should post new content 2-3 times a week at a minimum. This keeps readers engaged and setting a regular pattern will keep them coming back. For anyone whose main responsibilities have nothing to do with blogging, it can really be a challenge to keep up. There are lots of strategies, from keeping a queue of posts and topics drafted, to scheduling regular time to dedicate. What helps most of all is having an author or authors who are passionate about the topic. Those folks will find a way to make it work, but long term dedication is a major factor in a blog's success.
2. Personal (or Professional) Brand Management
Once you have a blog, a twitter account, an account on Friendfeed, etc – you need to keep up with those who comment and respond. It takes time to search twitter results for posts with your name buried in the middle, blog posts and other tools for people to keep up. I sometimes stumble across a valuable response to a comment I made days earlier and regret not addressing it right away or capturing the RSS feed for that comment train. A great aspect of these social media tools is that the information lives on, but much of the conversation takes place in a short time. You can miss a window to participate with the primary group if you don't take time to keep up.
There are lots of free tools to leverage for this, including search.twitter.com, Google alerts and Technorati among others. Our agency recently partnered with Radian6, a social media monitoring package. I'm still learning about it, but so far I would compare it to robust web analytics packages – with a major advantage that you can gain insight not just to your own brand, but competitors.
3. Ubiquitous Content
The beauty of RSS is the distribution of content. Social networks are proliferating. New blogs are cropping up, and new tools are adding to the way we can share information with each other. Frankly, there is so much valuable information to digest it's hard to keep up with it all. There also is plenty of less than valuable content to sort through. I use Google Reader and at times feel like I have to declare "feed bankruptcy" and mark everything as read, and I'm sure I miss valuable content in there. Imagine if everyone you know had a blog, was connected to you on Friendfeed and was on Facebook. Even apply this just to your company, or your industry. Would you be able to really keep up with all of the content?
4. Relationship Building
I mentioned before that I use LinkedIn and Facebook regularly and recommend scrutinizing your social media connections. These are great tools to keep up with friends and colleagues, but also to build relationships with contacts from networking events, business meetings and other settings. Setting up a profile is a one time event for the most part, but truly using these tools to build upon relationships takes effort and consistent usage over time.
Regardless of whether you have a few dozen or a few hundred connections, tools like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others require dedication to participate in conversations, answer questions and 'consume' the media. Uploading and tagging photos, booking trips on Dopplr, checking out events on Upcoming… When you start to interact with other folks, there is almost an informal contract you sign jumping in to participate. You license people to reach out to you and they expect a response back, otherwise they may move on. It takes a long term commitment to get the most out of these tools.
When people ask me for advice about social media, I often start with, "It's a commitment – are you ready for it?" What other ways do you see social media needing commitment? A logical next question – what advice do you have for folks trying to balance the commitment with everything else they have to do?
Photo credit: eschipul via Flickr
Roll over, hit the snooze button if you like, but opportunities are there, waiting. It's inevitable – someone in your marketing department is going to ask you how you are including social networks in your plans for the next year, maybe even for the holidays.
Alarm Goes Off
Some highlights from the Gartner article:
The article is worth the read for anyone exploring how to leverage social networks in a business context.
Another Wake Up Call
This September, STORES magazine – the official publication of the National Retail Federation (NRF) – decided the growing trend of retailers leveraging and exploring Facebook was worth a cover story. I was honored and delighted to be interviewed by Executive Editor Susan Reda, based upon our study from May of 100 of the top online retailers and their use of fan pages. Susan did a great job outlining the different points of view about Facebook – with over 100 million users now (the article mentions 90 million but was authored a month or so ago), it's hard to ignore the level of reach and access. In the article, I recommend exploring Facebook and learning about it – but in the context of a broader list of objectives for engaging in social media and not for the sake of jumping in. I also caution about interaction with customers – social networks are about connecting and sharing content with friends, not about selling and users can be resistant to "forced messaging."
What Do You Think?
Is Facebook the right forum for retailers? What retailers do you think are leveraging Facebook well? Are you concerned about the invasiveness of advertising? I'd love to hear what you think and your reactions to the two articles above.
photo credit: mcgraths via flickr