The Most Important Thing that your Company can do on Social Media (HINT: Not Enough people talk about it)

When I mention “Social Media” to most marketers, they immediately think – Facebook, YouTube, “viral”, Myspace, Linkedin, Blogs and Twitter – and launch into a conversation on how they can leverage them.

While these are all great potential tools in your social media toolbox, and creating a social media presence can be extremely valuable, but creating “official profiles” for all of them, in my opinion, is NOT the Holy Grail of Social Media Marketing.

OK, so what is the Most Important Thing that I can do on Social Media?

Find people who are already talking about you (both good and bad) and engage them.

To do this all you need is the right attitude and an email account. You don’t need a big budget.

Think about it this way – How much money would you spend on a blogger outreach/engagement program? How effective would it be? Or to make a Facebook App? Or to build a “viral” campaign?

What if… you could find people who are already interested in your brand and get them talking about you?

The key difference?

Push marketing vs. Pull marketing (with the right encouragement).

Push Social Media Marketing = The company initiates the conversation and pushes the message out to consumers. Think Facebook pages, Creating a twitter account and following a bunch of people, Launching Viral Videos and trying to seed them, etc.

Pull Social Media Marketing = The consumer/audience initiates the conversation and the company responds, inspires and encourages. Think about the people who may already be mentioning your product online?

Why does it matter?

You will (typically) spend more time and energy with worse results on push vs. pull social media marketing.

Essentially you are:

  • Generating buzz
  • Building word of mouth
  • Encouraging and inspiring conversations
  • Showing you care
  • Creating brand advocates and evangelists
  • Making people LOVE you
  • Building positive brand equity

All with highly vocal and connected consumers.

How it Works!!

Scan social media for people who are already saying things about your brand (both positive and negative).

  • Talk back to them
  • Thank them
  • Send them something free
  • Offer them exclusive access to something
  • Show them you care
  • Tell them they matter
  • Be transparent and genuine
  • Offer and explanation or solution to a complaint (most people are reasonable)
  • Make them fee important

Find the people who already talk about your brand and give them a reason to talk about you and like you more.

Why it Works

  • Those who are active online have amplified voices. They have audiences. Your reach is greater than one person.
  • People like to feel listened to.
  • People like to feel important.
  • It is genuine.

What do you think?

Are there brands that are doing this well (I’ll follow up with examples tomorrow)?

Is this the most important thing that brands can be doing on social media? What matters more?

– Krista Neher


  1. Krista,

    I know of a few regional brands that are trying to start with their local Twitter community. is one in my area (Portland, Maine). I’ve also heard that (@zappos) uses Twitter really well.

    Great post and I’ll check back to see your list of brands that are doing this well.


  2. Ethan – Thanks for providing the examples above. @zappos is a great example – I also think that @jetblue does an awesome job as does @richardatdell….

    – Krista

  3. Great post Krista,
    I’ve seen companies that get it- and even bands.
    I wrote a post about a concert- and within an hour- the webmaster for one of the artists had a comment and built a link back to his site:
    Another example was a friend posted a picture on flickr about his experience with his new cookware (the glass lid shattered)- and they responded to let him know it was covered by warranty.
    These are companies that get it. All it takes is a Google alert on your brand.

  4. David

    When I was VP Marketing at Photrade one of the things that I learned really quickly was that people who talk about you *really* appreciate it when you respond – even if it is just with a small “thanks for writing about us”. Plus it opens a dialogue where you can get great feedback directly from your customers.

    Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂

    – Krista

  5. Solid points, Krista.

    I always liken it to the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship difference from high school to college.

    High school is like the “older style” of marketing when it comes to social media. We’re just starting to discover the other sex and we’re not really sure what to say or do. Of course, it becomes easier with practice, but these early days sure are frustrating!

    Then you go to college – a little more self-assured of yourself and clearer in your head what you want to do, and who with. Now we’re looking at longer-term relationships and building trust with our contemporaries and peers at the same time. Sure, the relationships may not last as college goes on, but we know what to do to find new ones.

    It’s a definite learning curve but so rewarding if you’re willing to put the time in, learn from mistakes and just talk. 🙂

  6. Krista,

    One brand/company that I use on a daily basis as a freelance designer just began following me today: @FreshBooks

    They are using Twitter to communicate (and have a two-way, on-going dialogue) with their audience. It seems to be working – they have a great product.


  7. @Danny – WOW – that is a great analogy – thanks so much for sharing!

    @Ethan – I saw Freshbooks at sxsw last year and didn’t know about their twitter presence. I’ll have to check them out 🙂

    Thank you both for joining in the conversation!

    – Krista

  8. @amberportercox says

    Bank of America @bofa_help is engaging customers online now – a touchy one to manage in this day and time, but the point is they are listening and responding – and that makes for a better customer experience.

  9. Hi.

    I have worked on many big brands like Yahoo!, eBay, American Express, Unilever etc. eBay definitely has engaged and celebrated their commuity. However, I have learned more about genuine conversations and engaging with people who already like your brand from the company I work at now —

    Ever since MOO launched, they encouraged their customers to post photos to Flickr (, engage in different communities (Livejournal, Vox, Fotolog, Facebook) etc. However, probably what we do best is listen and respond when necessary.

    Also I agree FreshBooks is fabulous at surprising and delighting their customers. They’re great guys at that.

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