Social media gets lots of attention these days. The NFL banned players from using Twitter. Bing integrated Twitter results into its search engine results pages (SERPs). When Michael Jackson died the site handled an estimated 5,000 tweets per minute and, proving Twitter’s global reach, a state department official asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance due to the critical role the site played in the recent Iran elections.
In June, Facebook attracted 24 million new unique visitors with 340 million unique visitors/month, surpassing Wikipedia as the fourth largest site in the world. Twitter’s unique visitors totaled 44.5 million in June, up 19% from May and 3,000% year-on-year.
Many marketers employ a wide range of effective approaches while, despite the super-sized growth, others have not yet leveraged social media. Consider these 12 ways companies leverage social media to build relationships and drive sales:
1. Listen to Your Consumers
Twitter Search (search.twitter.com) offers an easy and free way to monitor keywords, brands or products. Advanced social listening tools combine technology and human analysis to provide more scalable, accurate and meaningful findings. Findings can inform paid search copy, search keyword lists, landing page strategies, reputation management campaigns, and other online and offline strategies.
2. Talk to Consumers Face-to-Face
Social media offers an agent on the ground, a virtual presence in the conversation. Consider Jack in the Box’s Twitter page: http://twitter.com/jackbox. “Jack” interacts with consumers about more than fast food, even thanking followers for well wishes while he was in a coma.
3. Brand Yourself as an Expert
Some companies use social media to become a go to resource. On Facebook, H&R Block leverages the brand’s fan page to become the go to “person” for tax help online.
4. Monitor and Respond to Customer Service Issues
Comcast extends customer service to Twitter, where the company’s director of digital care, Frank Eliason, monitors and responds to mentions of Comcast. Business Week featured Eliason, calling him “the most famous customer service manager in the U.S., possibly in the world.”
5. Manage Reputations, React Quickly to Crises
Social media can be a great way to proactively manage potentially negative situations. Southwest takes control of consumer conversations early on Twitter. In July, the airline used the channel to inform consumers about 737 inspections and customer refunds following a near disaster.
6. Create Massive Conversations about Your Brand
Marketers that haven’t heard what t-shirt marketer Threadless has done on Twitter should see for themselves: http://twitter.com/threadless. Innovative contests and campaigns have earned the niche marketer more than 1.1 million followers, and the brand’s massive Twitter buzz, which costs virtually nothing, rivals that of the iPhone and the Iran Election.
7. Dominate the SERPs
The major engines limit search results to two per domain; so when a consumer searches on a brand name, that brand’s site will show up in a maximum of two results. Marketers can own more of the SERP by establishing effective Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media pages to work with their native site to outrank competitors.
8. Optimize Ads to Perform … Just like Search
Facebook’s bidded CPC auction environment enables marketers to only pay for the clicks they get. They create their daily budget, opting to spend $10 or thousands depending on goals.
9. Microtarget Ideal Users
Marketers can target consumers by location, age, sex, education, workplace, relationship status, interests, languages and other psychographic categories. Facebook recently added targeting by connections, locations and birthdays, too.
10. Harvest Data With Custom Apps and Sweepstakes
Hundreds of branded Facebook applications exist to engage consumers. Papa John’s pizza uses frequent sweepstakes to capture names and e-mail addresses while keeping its brand top of mind with consumers.
11. Promote Coupons and Deals to Sell Products
A brand’s Twitter following is a self-selected group raising their hands saying: I’m interested in what you sell or what you are tweeting about. Dell has raked in more than $3 million from its Twitter followers in two years, including $1 million in sales during the past six months. The PC marketer posts six to 10 tweets per week, each containing a coupon or link to an exclusive deal.
12. Create More Engaging Display Ads
Sponsored Twitter Pulse ads target mothers on thousands of sites, like Babycenter.com. The Twitter feed scrolls every 30 seconds showing the most recent conversations. A Juicy Juice sponsorship associates its brand with the parent conversations.
So why not do more with social media? Chief marketers should discuss with their teams what’s currently being done and what might best serve each brand’s unique situation.
Michael Kahn (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior vice president, marketing at Performics and a monthly contributor to Chief Marketer.