14 Best Practices for Brands to Grow their Audiences in Social Media by briansolis


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									14 Best Practices for Brands to Grow their
Audiences in Social Media
By Brian Solis, industry-leading blogger at BrianSolis.com and principal of research firm
Altimeter Group, Author of the highly acclaimed books on social business The End of Business
as Usual and Engage!

As a consumer, you are blasted with the same request over and over, “Follow Us on Twitter, Like Us
on Facebook” As a consumer however it is more than natural to ask why should I or what’s in it for
me? These are questions of which a significant number of businesses cannot genuinely answer.

Businesses are realizing the importance of establishing a presence on Twitter and other vibrant
social networks. In many ways, hosting a branded account is now common practice, a required
extension to the push channels created through email, traditional marketing and web sites. What
businesses are still learning however is that creating a channel, hosting a channel worth following,
and building a loyal audience is a far greater challenge and overall investment than initially
anticipated. At the same time, the realization that a shift from a push mentality to that of two-way
interaction is nothing less than disruptive to the operation of business as usual.

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Today a notable number of businesses are approaching branded social channels from a ready, fire,
aim approach. This method conjures a façade of achievement when in fact, any progress, if at all
recognized, is short term and shoddy at best. Many focus on numbers without first analyzing who
they’re trying to reach and why and more importantly how engagement satisfies the needs of their
customers. To build vibrant communities in social networks, businesses must develop a remarkable
and diversified channel strategy that reinforces the brand and communicates tangible business value
and exudes customer-centricity. Without a mature content and engagement strategy, a great
unfollow and unlike movement is inevitable.

A Focused Perspective

You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.
- Mark Twain

Competing for the attention of the elusive social consumer surfaces new challenges for brands.
Rather than luring a static audience, brands must now demonstrate ongoing value in order to

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
captivate an engaged audience. As a result, brands must now focus on defining a mission and
purpose and delivering value for each of the audiences they’re hoping to address.

The key to zooming in on purpose and usefulness within social channels starts with the realization
that there is no one audience. Nor is there a sustainable market for branded messages, marketing
campaigns, or “Tweet/Like to Win” contests. Indeed, every channel created to represent the brand
must carry a purpose, mission and corresponding value. One of the most common questions I’m
asked by businesses of all shapes and sizes is “what is the right number of accounts we should
have in each social network?” Or, “how many profiles is too many or too few?”

The answer is as simple as it is revealing. Create the number of channels that meaningfully extend
the focus of your business, topline and supporting brands, and relevant stories to the dedicated
audience they’re designed to serve. Additionally, only create the number of channels that strengthen
the brand rather than dilute it and also possess the capacity to ensure its ongoing relevance.

For example, I’ve worked with leading organizations that over time accumulated hundreds of profiles
on Twitter alone. Is that too many or not enough? If we bring it back to the earlier answer, it is only
too many or too few if each account does not serve a purpose that strengthens the brand experience,
appeals to a dedicated and scalable audience, and receives the necessary support to stay engaged
and deliver endless value.

Initially many brands experienced unmanaged growth encouraging or in some cases ignoring, the
creation of profiles simply because it was easy and trendy to do so. Best intentions aside, many of
these accounts were unrewarding for followers and the account managers and in some cases
diluted the brand through unfocused engagement. These channels were representations of an
orchestra without a conductor that at times found its instrumentation inclusive of improvisational and
amateur jams. Sometimes beautiful music was brought to life and more often than not, noise or
worse, silence was the end result.

So what are the best practices in creating an engaging social stream? Let’s take a look at the traits
of some of the more successful and regarded brands in the business.

1. Design an Effective Channel Strategy: Evaluate the main brand, sub brands, and notable
personalities that require a “follow worthy” or “likable” presence. If there are other accounts that exist
beyond the initial strategy, assess their value as a standalone channel and its current state. It may
be best to simple truncate accounts or close them all together.

2. Create a Life Support System: Develop an organized framework that supports each presence
uniquely. Ensure that each account establishes a rhythm that meets the needs of its audience.

3. Mission and Purpose: Know the audience you’re trying to reach and design a communicable
mission and purpose for each account.

4. Develop an Editorial Program: Create an editorial program that addresses the various needs of
the social consumer including entertainment, sales, service, engagement, HR, etc. Evoke the new
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Significant and Shareable). Create content that’s both engaging, contextually
relevant, and shareable. Think beyond the basics such as polls, curation, promotional content,

5. Construct a Listening Framework: The best listeners make the best conversationalists. Build a
listening framework that monitors the brands as well as the distinct conversations related to each

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
6. Establish Conversational Workflow: Each account requires an information path and workflow.
They also require bridges between them to ensure that every representative is informed and that the
right delegates within the business are on point to engage or respond accordingly.

7. Formulate a Decision Tree: Draft a clear flowchart that details the steps for a variety of “if this
happens, then do this” situations. This is designed to help representatives follow a pre-defined path
for the real-time nature of engagement.

8. Initiate a Training Program: Representatives will require ongoing training to stay sharp and
focused. Every engagement either reinforces or takes away from the brand experience. As
technology moves faster than our ability to master its lessons, training keeps employees on track.

9. Install a Governance and Reward System: Much like the marketing team protects the integrity
of the brand and how it’s presented, a social team is necessary to manage the integrity of each
Twitter account as well as the overall portfolio. At the same time, a reward system must be put in
place to encourage exceptional work.

10. Draft a Social Media Brand Style Guide: Chances are a style guide already exists that
communicates brand presentation, usage guidelines, and other forms of brand-related marketing
aesthetics. This guide requires a significant update to account for social media. Its primary function
is to define the brand persona, characteristics, voice, and essence. Additionally, the updated style
guide will define the design of each presence and how represents should accurately enliven it
through narrative.

11. Compose Guidelines and Do’s and Don’ts: Develop a social media policy that conveys the
do’s and don’ts in social media. If one already exists, update it. The law has changed and now
protects employee rights to express opinion about employers within their personal accounts.
Additionally, many employees complain that the existing guidelines are either too extreme or
ambiguous to define successful engagement. Design the guideline to serve as guardrails and also a
roadmap to success.

12. Serve Customers and Prospects: Social consumers now expect brands to solve problems and
answer questions in social streams. Each channel requires a service function or a dedicated channel
to satisfy needs and promote appreciation and loyalty.

13. Employ Language and Timing Techniques: Two points of note, timing is everything and in
brevity there’s clarity. Studies already show that the time and day and the language structure of
Tweets and Facebook updates determine overall reach and engagement. Optimize language and
timing to make every update count.

14. Design Engagement and Performance Metrics: Monitor the performance of each account to
improve the engagement and editorial strategy for each account.

Following these best practices will prevent your brand from falling victim to the coming wave of
customer unlikes and unfollows. But more importantly, focusing social channels and investing in the
value of each will improve the customer experience and encourage greater engagement. By
increasing meaningful interaction, brand reach is dramatically amplified through the social effect,
encouraging customers to not only Like the brand, but genuinely love it!

Originally published in Mashable

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

The New ENGAGE!: If you’re looking to FIND answers in social media and not short cuts, consider
either the Deluxe or Paperback edition

Click here for the Conversation Prism, Twitterverse, Behaviorgraphics, and Social Compass

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is
globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published
authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and
influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and
culture. His current book, The End of Business as Usual helps companies rethink
business strategies to lead, not react to, the new consumer revolution. His previous
book Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and
measure success in the social web.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+ | Youtube
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