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If you've been exploring ways to strengthen your organization's social media presence, you're in good company. Social media is rapidly gaining ground as a critical element in business marketing. For example, a recent Nielsen report(1) shows that nearly 80 percent of US internet users spend time on blogs and social networks, and social media strongly affects what they buy. The number of consumers who use social media to make purchasing decisions is burgeoning as well. Another major US study(2) shows that the buying choices of 38 million people aged 13 to 80 are directly influenced by social media—up 14 percent within just the past six months.

 

Moreover, people trust information from their friends and peers more than that provided by businesses. NM Incite research(3) reveals that 60 percent of social media users create reviews of products and services, and that such reviews are the preferred source for information on product/service value, price, and quality.

 

Clearly, knowing how to influence the digital word of mouth that social media represents can pay off handsomely for your business. Yet how do you capture the hearts and minds of current and potential customers so they read and share your content widely? A carefully honed approach can make all the difference. Below are the first two of seven strategies to help point you in the right direction.To read the full article, please subscribe today to Supply Lines, our quarterly online newsletter at http://www.ariba.com/network/supplylines/subscribe.cfm.

 

  1. Listen to your customers, fans, and friends. It’s crucial to get a clear idea of exactly who’s saying what about you. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent listening tools available—including Radian6, ListenLogic, Meltwater, Google Alerts, Facebook Insights, HootSuite, and more—to help you do just that. Be prepared to spend some time “training” the tool(s) you choose to screen out irrelevant hits (for example, telling it you’re not interested in tequila when searching for the name “Ariba”). The granular data these tools provide can help you stay on top of good and bad commentary about your business, identify brand advocates with whom you should establish a relationship, obtain early warning about product issues or image problems, and identify influential bulletin boards or sites you weren’t aware of. You can then prioritize your responses in ways that have the greatest impact. Some of the tools even route hot-button findings to specific people in your organization designated to handle them.
  2. Create high-quality content. While this may seem obvious, defining what “high quality” means for your particular audience can be tricky. Your best guideline is to track the topics and types of posts that get you the most traffic, then create more of same. You’ll also find great tips for content creation on www.mashable.com, a tech marketing site with endless social marketing ideas for business customers. The following rules of thumb are valid for almost every company:

 

  • Use video and images. Research shows that the vast majority of users gravitate to video and images, and Facebook now features these kinds of content prominently on brands pages, so be sure to include them wherever possible.
  • Capitalize on the nerd factor. YouTube has an entire category of “How It’s Made” videos that garner huge attention, so don’t underestimate the value of posting such content for your business. Creating videos of your products being built or people using your services need not be complex or costly; e.g., you might simply ask an employee with an artistic eye to film and explain what’s going on in your manufacturing process. The highly shareable nature of “nerdy” videos may surprise you—for example, this Victorinox Rescue Tool demonstration has attracted over 300,000 viewers, and this video showing how marbles are made has been watched more than 1.2 million times.
  • Make lists. Top 10 tips, biggest 12 mistakes, and similar titles tend to appeal to a broad range of people, so consider this format when developing content.
  • Get personal. Rather than just re-sending information that users can easily find on your website, personalize it with entertaining or interesting customer and internal stories to give your brand a human face.
  • Ask questions. Draw in users by asking questions or requesting input on specific posts.
  • Play Santa Claus. Offer perks or benefits your audience can use, like early product release information, service discounts, and interesting giveaways. Another strategy is to provide “fans-only” resources—e.g., require users to friend you or join your Facebook community before giving them access to more exclusive content.
  • Give press releases a makeover. Press releases represent an often-untapped goldmine for social media. Instead of treating them as straightforward documents to be printed and read, spice them up with links and share buttons. For example, if a release features a customer story, incorporate a YouTube video link to an interview of that customer. Letting users see and hear the message this way greatly increases the likelihood that they'll share it with others.
  • Keep it short. Remember to break content into small pieces. For example, if you're writing a white paper, don't post the entire thing in one place. Instead, offer the draft online as a series of blog posts, solicit readers' input on what you're saying, and incorporate their feedback into the end result. You can also include a form letting people sign up to receive the final paper when it's ready.
  • Be likeable. Part of social media's appeal is its relaxed, informal nature, so keep your tone conversational and fun. Stiff, formal language or a driving sales agenda are surefire ways to turn users off. Instead, use humor and an upbeat, friendly, or even quirky approach to help build relationships and enhance customer traction.
  • Have a company blog and post regularly. Again, this needn't be difficult; you can easily drop a WordPress blog right into your website. Be sure to commit resources to your blog's upkeep, however. Create a content calendar and stick to it.

 

Read Part 2 of our blog for the remaining strategies

 

(1) State of the Media: The Social Media Report Q3 2011, Nielsen and NM Incite, September 2011

(2) Wave 2 of The Faces of Social Media Syndicated Reporting, a joint research venture of Knowledge Networks and MediaPost Communications’ Center for Media Research, June 2011

(3) State of Social Media Survey, NM Incite, April 2011

 

This article is part of the current issue of Ariba Supply Lines, a quarterly newsletter for eCommerce decision-makers and practitioners who want to increase revenue, drive process efficiencies, cut costs, and manage cash more effectively. To receive the newsletter directly in your inbox, please click here.