Over the past couple years I have become more hands on and understanding of the power social media possesses from a marketing POV. Becoming more hands on with social media quickly made me realize the importance of building a community and actively engaging with them. For agency marketers, portraying social media’s powers and the importance of community building to the less tech savvy business owners and executives (marketers in certain circumstances), there are a number of points I feel should be made clear from day 1. Following these “guidelines” will help you, your client(s) and/or your organization get the most out of social media.

Don’t be Afraid to be Social

I have heard marketers on several occasions recommend staying away from social networks until you have a marketing plan in place and ample time to execute it. I disagree with this. While I understand some of the reasoning behind these recommendations, claiming your social presences on the web is the first step that should be taken in my opinion, with or without a marketing strategy. Even if you don’t plan on actively participating on these social networks right away, you will have the peace of mind that they are claimed and under your control. My advice is that it’s better to jump into social media without a plan than not jumping into it at all.

Keep the Means of Public Communication Open

Consumers like to share their experiences and engage with brands. One of the biggest fears business owners have when deciding whether or not to “be social” is that they are giving their customers a chance to be vocal and even worse, share a negative experience for others to see. People, this is not a bad thing. Let me tell you why. For starters, your audience is sharing their experience on YOUR page (yes, the one you have control over)! Secondly, this gives you, the business owner or marketer a chance to pinpoint common problems (complaints) and make the necessary changes towards resolving these issues in-house, preventing further complaints on the same issue. Lastly, keeping the means of public communication open via social media gives you the opportunity to address issues publicly, for the rest of your audience to see (this is online reputation management 101). Consumers do turn to their social circles and other consumers for advice, so the last thing you want to do is let complaints pile up and go unattended as this will give potential customers a great reason to shop elsewhere.

To go briefly off topic and expand on online reputation management 101, I would like to share an experience I encountered last week. I recently purchased a pair of bootleg Beats by Dr. Dre headphones on eBay. While the headphones were portrayed as and being sold as the real thing, I realized after receiving them that they weren’t. Naturally, I shared my experience on eBay for other potential purchasers to reference and to back up my statement that consumers do look to other consumers for advice, take a look at the following:

This user didn’t contact me until after his purchase but it’s a perfect example of consumers turning to other consumers for advice. My point here is that social media, community building, branding, online reputation management and all other forms of digital marketing feed off of each other.

Build a Community with a Combination of Great Content & Engagement

The best content is the kind that people continue talking about after reading, watching or listening. Find out where those people are talking about your content and engage with them. I will be the first to say that creating this content is easier said than done. It is more important than ever to have creative minds on your team, more so than data driven marketers in some circumstances. Creative content is going to spark and fuel conversation and increase its shareability. This is what will help you populate a community, increase brand awareness and my next point, turning them into brand advocates.

[image courtesy of geekphilosopher.com]

Turn Your Community Into Brand Advocates

Now that you are starting to build a community, get them talking! I have referenced a social media conference I attended in Buffalo, NY in a couple of my blog posts and am going to again. One of the speakers said something along the lines of the following: give your customers so many positive experiences and engagements that they feel guilty leaving your company for someone else’s. This concept of being the best should carry over to your content marketing strategies. Continuously generating great content, whether it’s a blog post, video tutorial, white paper, etc., will increase the likelihood of your audience sharing your content, referencing your content, recommending your brand and most importantly, coming back for more.

Provide a product/service and content worth talking about and sharing, actively engage with your audience and I can almost guarantee they will think twice before leaving you for someone else.

Get Started

Hopefully you find my tips and experiences useful and will be able to carry them over to your own social media marketing efforts. Continue delivering great content to your audience, engaging with them and giving them reasons to talk about your brand. Recognize the importance of building a community and you will be well on your way to a successful social media marketing campaign.

(view original post here)