6 Superb First Social Media Tactics For Businesses

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.

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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