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6 Superb First Social Media Tactics For Businesses

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Though social media participation has exploded, we meet businesses nearly every day  that have barely, clumsily or not dipped their toes in the in the water.  They ask, “Should we have a Facebook page,“ “What about YouTube” or “Gee, should we be tweeting?”

These entrepreneurs are usually full of life, energy, present a history of offline success and have little idea what to do about social media. Is your business wondering how to incorporate social media in day to day marketing, customer service and public relations routines? This post recommends classic D.I.Y. social media marketing tactics & real-world examples for businesses.

Companies are also concerned about money. Often they have substantial budgets in place, expending marketing bucks to offline channels which are rapidly losing effectiveness.  Social media marketing seems expensive, on its face, and without obvious monetary return. Aware that the world has changed fundamentally beneath their feet, businesses don’t want to be left standing without a chair when the music stops. While every situation is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all, our recommendations usually have common elements.  Here are some classic tactics and associated real-world examples.

Mirror & Migrate Physical Life
It rarely fails to jump-start a company’s social media marketing plan to consolidate existing friends, customers and community.  Think of Facebook as the little black book of modern times, and your role as marketer is to organize your existing circle.

A Pilates studio should have no trouble incenting a good percentage of 430 customers to subscribe to that new fan page once said studio gives customers a good reason to do so. Offer revealing anecdotes regarding an beloved instructor’s personal life and Facebook-fan-only coupons for special Saturday sessions.

Try posting free videos on the studio’s YouTube channel to provide customers with daily workout routines to keep things going between classes. Show the YouTube videos at the end of every class to practice how customers can use them at home. Let every customer know that they can find these video links, organized by muscle group and difficulty level, on the Facebook fan page for easy access.

Expand the Circle, Make Friends Before Selling
Look, business people have been giving away free money for years. Coupons, sales, giveaways, bonus offers, etc… Take this timeless approach and stop overtly selling in social media.  Offer friendship first, without asking for anything in return, and watch the goodness come back in spades over time.

Practice Guerilla Acts of Giving. This week I happen to be working from Key West. Over the weekend I tweeted my location, using the word “Key West.”  A woman with an attractive commercial avatar @SunshineMichele, who was obviously monitoring the keyword “Key West,” tweeted back welcoming me to the city. She did not try and sell me anything but invited me to stop by her store and offered to help if my family needed anything while on the island.  Later that night I reached out and asked her to us find a great restaurant. She shared unconditionally, asking nothing in return.

When I checked out her Twitter profile I learned that she was tweeting for a company called Sunshine Rental that leases electric cars, diving & parasailing experiences and scooters in Key West.

Sunshine Rentals is now indelibly branded to me, I have a new “friend on the inside” and you know where I’m going to rent a Jet Ski this afternoon.  Also, one never knows whom they are dealing with. In this case Michele friended an AdAge Power150 marketing blogger who profiled the experience in this blog post.

She also earned a sweet Toolbar PR5 link on juicy anchor text and has me recommending Sunshine and Michele to our readers. I’ve got a great reason to trust. She gave and gave, never asking for anything. Marketing acts of unselfish kindness will come back over and over. Multiply the effect over thousands of tweets over months/years, and it’s easy to understand why it always works to make friends before selling.

Social-Only Offers
For those who seek to engage existing customers and recruit new ones, offering channel-specific specials usually works. This tactic has classic roots in traditional media.  For example one of the great hooks to sell Sunday newspapers has always been the value of clipping paper coupons. The math is easy: spend a $1.75 for the Sunday daily and get $30 of savings at the local grocery store.

The principle works very well in social media. Instead of asking customers to shell out cash for the paper, provide links to printable coupons, DM’d (direct messaged) to Twitter followers. Promote the program in public on Twitter and in the newspaper coupon section.

It’s easy to “sell” social media signups by offering exclusive financial incentive and just takes a little creativity and organization.  A hardware store can make it known to plugged in bloggers and Tweople  that they’re giving away valuable items free for 30 minutes on a certain day. Watch this catch fire on Twitter. Friends tell friends about inside-track valuable offers. Serving up special values, broadcast only by a certain social channel, is a well-worn path and a great entre’ for social.

Optimize For The Long Tail of Universal Search
In our opinion the mid and long tail of universal search is an amazing opportunity.  Search engines often insert video, pictures, news and other verticals into SERPs (search engine results pages).  This crosses over into SEO (search engine optimization) but often comes as a result of sharing on social media sites.

The engines don’t reveal what criteria they use to determine whether to include rich media in Universal results. However, certainly the media has to exist on the Internet in order to be indexed and inserted.

The Google query “Newfoundland Ferry” includes videos, one of which results from shared YouTube videos. Since Google loves YouTube (they own it),  YouTube video tends to rank well in Google SERPs.

Undertake traditional keyword research, tag and share short themed videos on YouTube.  Brand the videos in subtle ways and post them to your company’s YouTube channel. Network within YouTube to promote, again by giving without asking for anything in return. You’ll rank in YouTube with a great chance to appear in mainstream Google Universal search results. The same tactic works well using Flickr and other sharing services.

Engage Complimentary & Non-Competitive Businesses
Blogs like ProBlogger, CopyBlogger and TopRank have written extensively about such topics.  Little succeeds socially like blogging or tweeting the name of  businesses, which purvey wares complimentary to yours.

If your business is concerned about accidently promoting competition, take a holistic approach. Promote businesses that are complimentary rather than competitive. Hotels can promote nearby ski areas.  Concrete manufacturers can tweet about great experiences with local electricians. Once really established, don’t be afraid to highlight competitors. Power bloggers link to their competition. Our friend Lee Odeen is fond of saying, “make a big ass list,” and he’s right.

Monitor Real-time Channels Real-Time
Simple as it may seem; hanging a social shingle to answer inquiries is an excellent first foray.  When fax machines first came out, we all rushed to put the phone numbers on our business cards. Similarly, email gained wide adoption as individuals and business realized that colleagues and customers were interested in communicate via email.

Twitter and Facebook can be considered the same way, as communication channels customers may want to use.

Since many folks seek products and services by searching, having Twitter and Facebook profiles pop up in Google can often result in first customer-contacts. Make it clear from the profiles verbiage that your business welcomes inquiries via those channels.  Users are already there on the profile page so, if they happen to use Facebook or Twitter, it’s very easy for them to contact you straight away.  Monitor social channels real-time with your smart phone. Answer real-time.  Respond to those who tweet your company’s name, by engaging and giving.

Not to Worry
In conclusion, there are many easy entry points for businesses seeking to leverage social media channels.  Start by engaging the existing natural community surrounding your business. Give them a reason to take the relationship online. Make first meetings with new folks holistic and give a lot before trying to sell anything. You never know whom you’ll engage and become friends with or how they can help your business. Offer channel-specific offers and content and be creative.  Participate and share videos and pictures in communities like YouTube and Flicker.  Reach our to complimentary business and even your competitors.  Be available to respond as quickly as users reach out using real-time channels.

Creative Commons License photo credit: loop_oh

Marty Weintraub is President of aimClear, a search marketing firm in Minnesota serving national clients. You’ll find him tweeting @aimClear.

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8 Comments

  1. Michelle Ross on February 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    WOW!!!! There is no way I could ever thank you enough for sharing what I do with so many people!

    I’m here because I love Key West and it makes me happy to help visitors enjoy their stay.

    Thank you for the great tips and an astounding pat on the back.

  2. Marty Weintraub on February 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    You’re welcome. Thanks for a job well done…and the MASSIVE Jet Ski tour recommendation :).

  3. Elizabeth on February 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I think so many times businesses can’t get out of the mind set of selling. But you are so right, they need to focus on building relationships. Those relationships are where the business will come from.
    Thank you for the great points. Even those businesses who have been in social media for a little while already could benefit from focusing on these areas.

  4. Lauren Litwinka on February 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Hey there, Elizabeth – thanks for taking time to leave your two cents! So glad you agree with the points addressed in the post. Marty’s in Key West for the rest of the week but rest assured, his response will be on it’s way upon his arrival :)

  5. David Hall on February 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you so much for posting such a great article! Businesses need to realize that times have changed and if they don’t get on the ‘social media boat’, they will be obsolete soon enough. You have no choice today but to follow your customers..and guess where they all are? 350 million active users on facebook alone, the statistics for social media users are astounding!

    Social Media and Blogging have had such a dramatic effect on getting my business out there into the public. I cannot preach enough how important it is!!

  6. Scott Scanlon on February 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    The long tail is one of the most underused tactics out there. Every level of business can take advantage of this. I’ve worked with some very savvy real estate agents that dominate on the long tail especially with video. For engaging real time channels I like both Connecta.com and SocialMention.com. Great article.

  7. Andrew on February 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    I really like this sentence: Offer friendship first, without asking for anything in return. A lot of online sellers or bloggers making money seem to forget the value of friendship and is just thinking of what things can offer them. The internet would be a nicer place to live in if this value is inculcated.

  8. Michelle Ross on March 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

    You have inspired me! On top of sending people on MASSIVE Jet Ski tours, I’ve started blogging about this place I love so much. Thanks so much!

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