The small wins from social media

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT Delete” was released in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Big brands are trying to make big moves in social media.

There is an arms race — of sorts — for brands to reach a million fans (or more) on Facebook. Brands will look to see how many people are connected to their number one competitor (or the industry leader), and that acts as some kind of key performance indicator as to where they should be in fan accumulation. Whether that pinnacle is hit or not is not enough. They’re constantly chasing more fans along with an ongoing strategy to maximize the amount of likes that each individual posting gets. It becomes a strange form of content churning as they continually post content to get as many of these likes per post as possible.

Some of the more advanced brands are ditching the like in favor of sharing. The lesson is obvious, hitting a like button does not have the same impact and engagement as when a consumer proactively shares the content. It’s not just Facebook. This type of scenario is being played out across the social media channels in getting followers and retweets on Twitter; views, subscribers, and positive reviews on YouTube; receiving comments and sharing of blog posts; and beyond.

It’s not just about social media marketing, either.

Beyond the marketing, communications, advertising, and customer service that is being done at large scale in social media channels (look no further than the mass media advertising of today, where brands are frequently ending their ad creative with a Facebook or Twitter call to action), many brands are also purchasing enterprise software and tools to help them manage their social media offerings. It’s bigger than simply monitoring who is saying what about these brands. Some of these software as service providers offer up a full suite of tools to help generate, curate, mine, analyze, and optimize the mass production of social media content and engagement.

While social media was originally seen as a platform for brands to have real human interactions between real human beings, we have quickly arrived at the moment in time where all of this interaction is becoming not only automated, but as homogeneous as a brain-dead laundry detergent TV spot.

With all of this scale comes the desire to do bigger things.

Once the bigger numbers and results start pouring in, the c-suite always has the same reaction: They want to crank it up even more. They want it to be bigger and do more. The caution with social media is that these connected channels are highly personal. While billions of people are connected, the vast majority of these individuals keep their social graphs to a manageable number of connections (recently, Facebook revealed that the average user has about 200 connections). While brands love reveling in the case studies of their peers who turned an idea into something that moved millions of people in social media (look to see what brands like Old Spice, Nike, Oreo and Red Bull have done), there is another opportunity.

It’s the small things.

Following are three small and simple ways to win at social media that will deliver a long-term connection and plant the seeds for much deeper loyalty and engagement:

Blogging

Whether it is for search engine optimization, link generation, or for the sheer rush of getting a piece of content shared, liked, or retweeted, few brands understand the powerful opportunity that still exists with blogging in relation to the direct relationship it generates with an audience. Say your brand is doing everything it can to establish certain bloggers as industry thought leaders, a successful blog will enable those people to act as guest writers on other industry blogs, online publications, etc. These submissions are time consuming and are often at the mercy of an editor. If the content doesn’t strike a chord, it could be rejected.

With a strong blog, none of that hard work is wasted. It can either be posted to the corporate blog as an original piece or if the submission is accepted, it can also be re-posted (for posterity). A strong blog enables a brand to always ensure that the content being created is being published and made available. Small win: blogging as a repository for all of your critical thinking.

Twitter

There are these awkward moments when brands try to engage in the discourse and it either backfires or comes off as self-serving. One way to retain a sense of humanity and humility is to ask for insights. Most brands ask for help (i.e. “help us achieve our goal by following us, retweeting us, etc…”). Asking for insights is a much more powerful driver (i.e. “what are some of the best apps you use to keep yourself organized?” or “who are the people you follow on Twitter that deliver the most value?”). These types of insight requests (over asking for something) allow people to share the things that are relevant to them. It makes them feel important and should you — as a brand — respond, thank them, and even add to the engagement, it will make your fans and followers that much more appreciative, acknowledged, and warmer about sharing the brand’s messaging. Small win: use Twitter as a platform to get your consumers talking about themselves.

Podcast

Between smartphones getting much better at being able to handle streaming media, Apple’s latest developments in their podcasting app, and major media and entertainment people starting their own audio and video podcast series (Alec Baldwin, Joan Rivers, Adam Carolla, Joe Rogan, and others), podcasting is experiencing a growth spurt. A good swath of the business and brand-based podcasts still come off as infomercials (or worse). A credible podcast is a powerful tool in social proofing. Asking recognized authorities and industry thought leaders for a twenty-minute interview not only provides value to an audience, but it can be used in other ways. A show of this nature is a great internal communications tool to help your peers learn more about the industry you serve. It also acts as a great way to corner one of your industry’s stars and get them to talk about themselves (which these people love to do) and — in a more subtle way — be introduced to you.

So, imagine you’re attending your industry’s annual convention and this celebrity was a guest on your show a few months back: If you did a good job, you could reach out to them, connect, and network in a way that your peers could never do. Small win: use podcasting as a way to network with your industry’s key thought leaders.

There are hundreds of other small wins in social media.

This is just the beginning. You could look at other individual channels (like Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc.), and you could look to specific media like text, audio, images, and video to establish some of these softer (but powerful) metrics. Cumulatively, many of these smaller and softer tactics could, potentially, give your brand profoundly different outcomes than simply falling prey to these elusive run-ups on capturing as many friends, fans, and followers as your competitors are. Now, it’s your turn…

What are some of the smaller wins from social media that your activities have generated that have surprised you and your teams?

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About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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