Successful social media strategies often require that it isn’t all about you. The best way to leverage social media for your brand is to look at what is already going on and how you can get involved, be a resource or otherwise leverage what the community is already doing.
Play their game. Don’t try to make your own game (at least not all the time).
Big brands are especially bad at this. They want to own everything. They are used to it being their event and their idea. Participating in the events that the community has already created to can win trust and goodwill of the members – you can be perceived as a supporter vs. a company trying to get people to join their event. The other good news is that it is usually cheaper. Most community events are organized voluntarily, and donating something free or covering food or drinks can go a long way.
Start With: How Can I Add Value?
Start by asking yourself how you can add value to the community? What can you provide them with that they will actually derive value from? It doesn’t have to be financial or free products – you can add value by facilitating social events or providing useful information.
Last year Verizon hosted a “Blogger Party” in Cincinnati where they showcased their new phones (around the time of the Droid launch). In addition to hosting a great social event where bloggers were able to connect with their friends, they allowed bloggers to borrow the phones for a few weeks with a full service plan – no strings attached. This generated conversations and discussions around the new phones while providing bloggers with a fun new gadget to test drive for a few weeks. Think about how your business can creatively add value while connecting with influencers.
Start With: How Can I Support the Community?
Whatever product or service line you are in there are probably already a number of community organizations and events taking place. Rather than trying to create your own community or event, look at how you can support the community that already exists.
For example, there is a twitter hashtag called “woofwednesdays” where people tweet about their dogs. If you want to connect with dog enthusiasts participate in the pre-existing hashtag conversation and add value.
Another example is participating in or sponsoring MeetUp groups. There are meetup groups for many different topics – from hiking to biking to photography. I participate in a hiking Meetup group that has hundreds of members. If you are a hiking supply company you could offer to donate lunch or water bottles for the hikes (which would probably cost < $100). By surprising people with a friendly offer (and not asking for anything back) you can earn the goodwill of the community.
Rather than trying to own the community (ie. start your own hiking club or hashtag) look for ways to join the existing community. In addition to being cheaper you can earn the goodwill of the organization and the members.
Success: GM and BlogHer
A year ago Jory DesJardin was in Cincinnati for PRSA Day (we were on a panel together). Jory shared how when GM first wanted to get involved with BlogHer their initial idea was to have car experts help answer questions about their cars. Instead, GM brought a bunch of cool cars to the conference and let BlogHer attendees drive the cars around for a few hours for free. Rather than making it about them (ie. we want to tell you about our product) they made it about the blogger by providing a valuable and fun service. Get involved in the community and help facilitate what they are doing (or want to do). GM equity scores among BlogHer attendees have actually increased due to their participation. The results speak for themselves.