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Maximizing Social Conversations as a Marketing Strategy

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Social media marketing is hot, and for good reason. More and more consumers are using services such as Facebook and Twitter not just to communicate with friends and family, but also to gather information for important purchasing decisions. If you’re not reaching out to your customers via social media, chances are your competitors are. In this article, Michael Miller, author of The Ultimate Web Marketing Guide, shows you how to use social media to encourage two-way conversations with your customers — and benefit from that interchange of ideas.
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Social media marketing is hot, and for good reason. More and more consumers are using services such as Facebook and Twitter not just to communicate with friends and family, but also to gather information for important purchasing decisions. If you’re not reaching out to your customers via social media, chances are your competitors are.

What makes social media different from traditional media is its two-way, conversational nature. Traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the like) offer one-way communication; these media broadcast their static messages to the widest possible audiences. Social media, on the other hand, are interactive, encouraging two-way (or more-way) conversations between multiple parties.

It's this active participation that makes social media of particular interest to marketers. There are plenty of media available, both online and off, that let you broadcast your message to consumers. But how many media enable you to engage your customers in an active conversation? That's where social media shine.

And to fully realize the marketing potential of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, you need to participate in them. I'm not talking about advertising, although that is always an available option; I'm talking about active participation in conversations with your customers on these sites. Only by participating in these social activities can you establish that invaluable one-to-one connection with your online customer base.

Starting the Conversation

To incorporate social media as part of your online marketing strategy, you have to participate in the social networking itself—to literally become part of the community.

At its most basic, this participation involves establishing pages for your business or products on all the major social network sites, creating a Twitter feed, and the like. You can use this type of presence to notify interested customers of upcoming products and promotions, as well as to connect one-on-one with your online customer base.

But that’s not all; your participation needs to be two-way. It’s not good enough to post messages on Facebook and Twitter; you also need to read messages posted by your customers, and respond to those messages. The communication must be two-way in order to engage your customer base socially. You need to connect often and personally.

In terms of frequency, that depends a bit on the individual social network. For Facebook, you probably want to post a new status update each day; anything less and your page starts to look abandoned, while posting more frequently might be a bit annoying to some of your fans. Twitter, however, is different; you want to tweet several times a day, to keep that feed fed. In other words, tailor your frequency to the medium.

In terms of your posting style, you don’t want to be an anonymous corporate presence. Your customers much prefer to connect to "Phil from Jascorp" than with faceless "Jascorp Marketing Department." Use these social media conversations to put a face on your company or product line.

Your goals, then, must be both objective (numerical) and subjective. Objective goals might include signing up a set number of fans or friends to your Facebook page, or getting a set number of subscribers to your Twitter feed. Subjective goals should concern the quality of conversations you develop with your customers via these social media; the ideas generated, topics addressed, and so forth.

When it comes to these subjective goals, perhaps the most important goal is to simply get the conversation started. With social media, you really don't know what's going to develop until it develops; the key thing is to simply establish the mechanism for engaging online customers and make sure that those engagements are fostered. What happens next is sure to be interesting.

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