As I continue to try to help small business owners and marketers embrace all things social, I’ve begun to talk about it in different terms.
We’ve moved beyond the notion that social media is department or even a set of tactics, but what is it then.
To me, for the typical small business, it’s a layer – a layer of data, behavior, access, engagement, awareness, and trust. And, like a typical layer, it serves to add to the whole.
I do a fair amount of outdoor activities and layering is an essential practice when you are going to be out for long periods of time under changing or unpredictable conditions. Every layer of clothing or protection is intentional and in some way supports the other layers, but it’s the whole of the system that may make the difference between comfort, and at times even survival.
I think that is the best way to look at your social participation. It’s not a stand-alone or even add-on activity, it’s a layer that allows you to do what you’re already doing more efficiently and effectively. Taken in that light and done with intention, there should never be a question about the payoff – it’s practically guaranteed.
Below are just five ways to view your social media activity as a layer of your entire system.
Move to email
Email is still the most effective form of marketing and relationship building. It is a tremendous tool for building the kind of long-term relationship that allows you to convert sales. While many have concluded that the same thing cannot be said for social media relationships, you can and should view your connections in these networks as a way to gain more email relationships. If you’re offering something valuable enough that people will exchange their email address to receive it, you can effectively promote that exchange in many social channels.
Find you referral champs
By appending your customer data with social media data, either by way of a service, API or CRM add-on, you can often discover your more active and potentially influential customers and prospects. It’s funny, but this information can hide in your standard customer profile because the way people act offline and the way they participate online is often dramatically different. A customer that buys very little from you currently may turn out to be your greatest potential referral champion, but go unnoticed and therefor ungroomed lacking this layer of data.
Understand your customers
I’ve often said that the ideal way to learn about the needs of your customers is to go home with them, hang out with them, find out what they like, don’t like, listen to, eat, drink and care about. Well, and you know where this is headed, guess what many people talk about in social media – yep, what they had for lunch today just might be important after all.
Improve your SEO
Great content isn’t great until somebody reads it, shares it and links to it. That’s the reality of the online inbound marketing world we live in today. It’s not enough to produce lots of great, education-based content you’ve also got to do things that draw attention and links to it. Social media participation is yet another layer, perhaps one of the most effective, for enhancing your search engine optimization, drawing eyeballs and those all-important inbound links to your content.
Build PR muscle
One of my favorite uses of the social media layer is the ability to draw closer to the journalists that cover your industry or community. Today’s journalist relies on social media as a lifeline to real-time information and as a tool for collecting resources – it also makes them much more available through direct communication. By targeting key journalists and using the social layer to build a relationship as a resource, you can quickly enhance your overall chances of media coverage.