Initiating social media communications with existing and potential customers require some thoughtful planning. You have to be non-obtrusive and engaging. Otherwise the conversation will fizzle out even before it begins. Practice the following when opening up social media talk:
1. Observe and listen.
Monitor the social networks for ongoing online communications about your product, brand or niche. You can do this manually, by hanging out at social networks, blogs and forum communities. Or you can use monitoring tools like Technorati, TweetDeck, or Google Alerts to filter and track online communications. After a while you can get the pulse of what people are talking about and how they are talking. You can also conduct market research on your niche, industry or competitor. When you eventually join in conversations or open up a new one, you are knowledge-equipped and ready for fruitful conversations.
2. Know when to talk, and when not to.
Tasteful conversations are appropriate and perfectly-timed. No butting into people’s conversations. No off-center remarks, incessant gabbing, nor aggressive behavior. People find it annoying to be a target of a marketing pitch in one-on-one communications, direct tweets, wall-to-wall posts, or blog comments. Expect a major freeze when you exhaust people with talk about you and your product. When you run out of things to say, a simple “thank you” or “we care” is enough.
3. Really talk.
Vary your topic of conversations. Intersperse casual and engaging talk with your product announcements, event promotions, or company advertising. Be relevant without being rude or arrogant, making sure that people get useful information from conversing with you. You can bring users industry news, or dish out informative or instructional articles. When you really have to push your product, do so with third-party product reviews. When you stimulate two-way communications, you can also gain useful feedback about your business from others, and address customer complaints effectively.
4. Balance casual and corporate communications.
The challenge of social media marketing is infusing both personality and professionalism in each message sent. A right dose of personality keeps conversations interesting, charming fans and followers alike. But too much of it may turn off costumers away from your brand. A professional tone should also be maintained to preserve the company reputation.
5. Remember that people — not tools – market.
People are unaffected by system-generated emails. Real people are behind successful social media communications. They may use tools for effective marketing, but the wit, intelligence and the warmth infused behind every message, are what’s keeping customers engaged.
6. Build a social media culture.
All of your social media talk above is geared towards creating the perfect mindsets and motivations that will encourage your customers to keep coming back for more conversation. People should rally to a theme or concept that you propose for your product or business. They should be transformed from skeptics to loyalists, from lurkers to active participants of your social media culture. They should be empowered to speak out and feel that their voices make a difference. A quality-crafted message sent out in multiple channels like blogs, forums or tweets; a call to respond; plus a social media policy that upholds security and privacy, will keep the culture going for a long time.
Remember that a social media culture is not grown overnight. It takes a lot of patience and commitment to cultivate. In the end, your culture transforms into one associated with reliability, trust and transparency, making for loyal and satisfied social media participants.