E-Marketing Strategy: 3 Ways to Engage Your Audiences Through Social Media
Previous installments of this column have addressed the first few steps necessary to build a strong Web marketing foundation: optimizing/rebuilding your website, locating your audiences online and distributing your content out to the blogosphere. Often, these first foundational steps are passed over in favor of the sexier task of social media marketing. And, sexy though it may be, social media marketing isn't easy, and it isn't free.
Jumping into social media spaces with the strong foundation you have learned to build in the past three articles will make your work more effective. This column will address the goals, the voice and some fun strategies to help you leverage social media tools to boost your sales and community.
The goals of social media marketing are the same as any traditional marketing campaign: sell books, increase awareness and build community. Though, unlike traditional marketing, you will be more effective at reaching these goals through social media if you reverse their priority: build community, increase awareness and sell books.
People join social media sites to meet people, play games and have fun. They do not join these communities to make themselves more accessible to marketers. Companies that use their social media accounts solely to pump out marketing messages are seen as corporate intruders in an organic conversation—and therefore their accounts are blocked, reported as spam, and "de-friended."
Your most basic goal on any social media site is simply to meet people. Introduce yourself, your company and your books. Seek out, join, and contribute to existing conversations just as you would in the real world—as a friendly person who is free of an agenda. As you interact in the community, people interested in your books will naturally gravitate toward you to pick your brain about your expertise, your authors, your books and (sometimes) your willingness to read their latest manuscripts.
People find and follow companies on social media platforms to get a peek behind the curtain. They want the inside story—especially from industries with gatekeepers like in the publishing world. You'll often see the number of people following a company's Twitter account is dwarfed by the number of people following the personal account of that company's CEO. People would rather hear the mutterings of the head honcho than the polished pitches from the marketing team. People don't want polish. They want authenticity. Voice is important.
Finding the right person to run your social media efforts is vital and shouldn't be taken lightly. Companies often toss this task to transient interns because they assume young folks know how to best navigate these waters. Nine times out of 10, this is a mistake.
The person (or people) tasked with running your blog, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts must be friendly, well-spoken, passionate about your topics, professional, diligent and not too busy to spend significant time talking to people online. That's a tall order and may seem impossible, but consider this: The person in this position is the most visible, most accessible, most influential customer service representative that your company will have. Filling this slot with talent is well worth the investment. He or she will be the "voice of your company."
Using social media tools to engage your company in niche-related conversations is important, but it is only the beginning. If your goal is to build a community that is passionate (and talkative) about your books and authors, you will need to do more than just talk. You will also need to have some fun.
In a few minutes of brainstorming, you and your team can probably come up with great games to play, contests to run or promotional giveaways to try. If your games and interactions are fun, people will forgive you for their marketing aspect and will likely even recommend you to their friends. Here are a few to get you started:
1. Contests. Using contests as a marketing tool is nothing new. But, due to the explosive and public nature of all of these social media platforms, a well-run contest can be enormously effective at reaching new people within your target audience. I have run Twitter contests that successfully reached 40,000 people for the price of one free book and 30 minutes.
There are several styles of contests you can try: an old radio-style contest (think "the 27th caller"), a photo or video contest, a writing contest, a trivia contest, a "photograph our books on your bookshelf" contest and so on. These are fun to invent and fun to play. I recommend running a contest once a week—at the same time each week so that people will know when to play.
2. The Giveaway. Giveaways are a much beloved tool of some social media marketers. They can be cheap and easy ways to motivate word-of-mouth recommendations. If you've got some books burning up shelf space that you'd like to off-load, look to your social media audience.
Pick a book to offer up—signed copies work well—and let people know that you'll send it off to the 1,000th person to "Like" you on Facebook, or the 5,000th person to follow you on Twitter, or—better yet—the 10,000th person to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter. Yes, you're effectively buying contact information, but it's a cheap, targeted, fun and public way to do it.
3. Access to the Experts. When all is said and done, your social media subscribers aren't following you for you. They're following you for your access to the content and authors they love. Therefore, the most effective arrows in your quiver are the authors themselves.
Use Twitter, Facebook and your blog to connect your authors and your readers. Hosting a Q&A session with an author on Twitter, for example, is a good way to garner a lot of quick and targeted attention. This type of session doesn't have to last any more than 30 minutes to be effective, and most authors will love to do it. The discussion generated during that time will reverberate throughout Twitter—as everybody who is participating in the discussion will be doing so publicly in the feeds of all their followers, advertising the discussion, the author, the book and you.
When brainstorming strategies to interact and engage with your social media audience, try to find ways that harness the exponential potential of the medium. Good luck! And have fun. BB
J.S. McDougall is co-owner of Catalyst Webworks (CatalystWebworks.com), a Web design and marketing firm specializing in the book industry. He is the author of six books about conducting business online, including "Start Your Own Blogging –Business." Follow him on Twitter at @catalystwebwks.