There’s one fundamental difference between companies that do great social media marketing and companies that screw it up: the former ENGAGE their audiences. They make it a two-way conversation. It’s not about “I’ll write a bunch of content and push it down your throat.” They ask questions and pay attention to what their communities have to say.
Where You Should Ask Questions?
At the end of your blog posts (to encourage comments)
On your Facebook page (so your fans comment on your posts and click on “like”, which helps you by giving your posts most exposure in your fans’ News Feeds)
On Twitter (we all tweet our own links, but do you ask questions?)
Some Awesome Questions You Can Ask
What’s your favorite vacation destination? (for a travel site)
What flavor is your favorite: chocolate, vanilla or strawberry? (Ben & Jerry’s does this all the time to figure out what flavors they are going to promote and which ones they’re going to discontinue)
What topic would you like me to cover in my next blog post?
Starbucks does a great job at encouraging their customers to share their photos sipping their coffees
Red Bull invited their fans to write their next commercial.
Ford gave a prototype of their Fiesta to a guy who is very active in the social media world and asked him to drive it for a few months and share his experience. This campaign was a total success. Can you give some sample products to your most influential customers and ask them to spread the word for you?
TableTopics.com is an awesome company. They sell a deck of “conversation starter” cards. Some examples: “what’s your favorite food?” and “would you rather live 100 years following a strict diet or 85 eating whatever you want?” They also have an iPhone app with all their cards.
Other Great Ways You Can Interact with Your Audience
Subscribe to blogs in your industry and comment often. Don’t spam; just contribute to the conversation.
Create a Twitter list with your favorite people to follow. Check its tweets a few times a week. When you see questions, answer them. When you find cool tweets, retweet them.
Do the same thing on Facebook: share stuff you really like. HootSuite allows you to share cool stuff on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at once. Install the bookmarklet on your browser and every time you find something your followers would enjoy, share it.
Check your inboxes and @replies on Twitter and respond to all the messages you get as soon as possible. If you use social media to start conversations, it would be a shame to not follow through once the conversation is started.
Use SocialMention or some other reputation management tool to get alerts every time someone talks about your business. Jump into the conversation right away. If they’re saying how cool you are, thank them and consider sending them a small gift for spreading the word about your company. If they have a complaint, acknowledge it, fix it and ensure them it won’t happen again. Your reputation is at stake; you can’t afford to ignore complaints.
Link to other people and websites on your blog posts. Some people don’t like linking to other sites because they want people to stay on their websites. They want to be in control, but social media doesn’t work this way. The more you link to others, the more you’ll get noticed.
Some people say that they can’t afford to do all this. I think they can’t afford not to. If you’re not engaging with your audience, your competitors are. And, as it turns out, it really doesn’t take as long as you might think. Asking a question on Facebook or Twitter takes 10 seconds. Logging in to these networks twice a day to respond to messages takes 10 minutes a day. Sharing a resource using HootSuite takes 5 seconds. Lack of time isn’t a good excuse anymore.
Did you find this post useful? Is there anything you don’t agree with? What do you do to engage with your audience using social media?