Social media is configurable and scalable for every business. The best strategy is the one that matches your corporate culture and customer base. To get started:
- Define your objectives. The primary one is positive customer engagement. This is when people participate in conversations with you and about your brand. Your community becomes an extension of your corporate family. Secondary objectives like increased sales and reduced costs follow naturally.
- Find your customers online. The most popular social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) may not be the gathering place for your customers. Invest in finding the right venue before participating.
- Be a good leader. Encourage your customers to join your community by giving them good reasons to follow you. Talk about benefits and lifestyle improvements instead of products and sales. For example, if you sell pet products, talk about keeping pets healthy and training them.
- Measure everything. Establish marketing and service benchmarks before implementing your social media program. Improved communication affects all areas of your company.
- Include structured flexibility in every plan. Social media is a dynamic channel in an evolutionary stage. Don't implement a strategy dependant on specific platforms and tools. Watch for emerging technology that affects how you communicate with your community.
- Focus on the quality of the conversations instead of the quantity of followers. One hundred people interested in your company are infinitely more valuable than thousands playing the numbers game.
- Integrate social media with traditional marketing and service. Everything working together creates an exceptional customer experience.
Most of the social media platforms and tools are free to use, but there is an extensive investment of time. If you jump in without a strategy, there is a high risk of customer alienation. Start small, and grow one person at a time. You'll know that your community is becoming engaged when they start having conversations about your company without you.