Social Media Measurement, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Tools, Facebook, Social Media Marketing, Social Media ROI

Friend or Faux – 6 Ways to Activate Customers

Two questions.

How many Facebook fans does your company have?

What do you want your Facebook fans to do on behalf of your company?

Way too many people can answer the first question, but not the second. And that’s the biggest weakness of company-based social media at present.

The Friend Bubble

Doing something (buying Google stock, buying houses, buying McRib sandwiches from McDonald’s) just because everyone else is, regardless of the underlying reality, is a condition that we’re clearly prone to here in the U.S. This behavior of course creates artificial bubbles of enthusiasm.

Too often, marketers and their agencies are creating Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels because everybody else is doing it. I certainly support the concept of engaging with your customers online, but to me social media outposts aren’t Web 2.0, they are Toll-Free Help Line 3.0.

And what I don’t see is enough commitment to individual customer interaction and thinking about social media ROI from a bottom line, not a top line perspective.

Instead, it’s like some sort of post-modern Dom DeLuise in Cannonball Run, a madcap dash to get involved in a landscape of shiny digital outposts. And for what?

social-media-baseball-cards-1

Your Customers Aren’t Baseball Cards

There’s absolutely no point in collecting friends and followers like a hobbyist with a self-esteem problem. If you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of engaging with your customers in social media, you absolutely must give them mechanisms for supporting your brand. Of course companies will struggle with social media ROI when the strategic plan ends at “we’ll get them to be friends with us on Facebook.”

Here are 6 ways to activate your friends and followers so they don’t just sit there like a menagerie of tiny faces.

1. Expand the relationship with content
Provide printable materials (shockingly old school) that your customers can use. Brand stories. Ideas of how to use your company’s products in different or interesting ways. Letters to give to retailers when asking them to carry your product. Graphics they can download and add to their Twitter profile.

Give your customers tools needed to market on your behalf.

2. Tie your outposts together
If you have Twitter followers, make sure they know about your Facebook page (and especially any event pages you create). If you have a Facebook page, add YouTube videos and Flickr photos to it. Link your profiles to your blog, not your corporate home page.

Many (most?) companies do not include links to their social media outposts in their employees’ email signature files, in their email newsletter, or even on their Web sites.

Make your social media presences work in concert, not as unrelated efforts.

3.Understand your fans’ other affinities and interact at that level
Are you looking at the profiles of your fans/followers to see what they like (other than your company)? You should. Use Facebook insights or software like Unbound Technology (or just some reading and a spreadsheet) and map out the affinities of your fans. If there are clear patterns, create content or messages that are relevant in that area.

If you discover that many of your fans like “The Godfather” post a haiku about “The Godfather” on your Facebook page (including references to your brand, natch) and ask fans to create their own entries.

4. Use Contests
Creating a contest within social media doesn’t have to be hard, and it’s a fantastic way to keep your fans and followers engaged. I recommend a contest per month.

Ideally, have them interact with or create content that supports your brand position. Rate a video. Comment on a blog post. Suggest headlines for a print ad. Create a Godfather Haiku.

5. Exclusive Content
Zappos.com does a terrific job of delighting their customers by upgrading shipping from standard to overnight on occasion. Smart e-commerce companies always include a sample of a related product in the box. The same principle applies to content. Give your best fans and friends access (via link on Twitter or Facebook or your blog) to sneak peeks at your new Web site. Or new product photography. Or your new TV commercials. Just making them feel like part of the team goes a long way.

6. Research/Survey
Other than the occasional Facebook or Twitter poll, there isn’t nearly enough use of social media as a research laboratory. Your best customers are indicating that they appreciate your brand. Periodically, why not invite them to answer a few questions about themselves, suggestions to improve your company, and other ideas? You don’t need a full-blown My.Starbucks.com initiative to encourage customer feedback and insight. Just ask them every once in a while.

How else can you activate your customers?

(photo by jblpn)