I hear a lot of self-proclaimed “social media experts” raving over developing a “social media strategy”. The reason I cringe when I hear this is I feel that these “experts” are viewing social media as just another marketing channel like Paid Search, Display Advertising, or SEO for example, but it’s different. It serves as a powerful tool to connect and engage with your audience. While social media is different than other channels, it should certainly be measured as an equal to other channels by monitoring interactions and measuring revenue generated and conversions.
Think about how brands approach their image and marketing efforts. They know their brand can spread like wildfire via word-of-mouth and the way they can influence word-of-mouth is by giving their customers a unique product or service and unique experience and delivering a product or service with exceptional quality. Notice that I didn’t include anything about advertising. Sure, we’ve seen brands develop unique ads and we tell friends about them and pass along links to commercials or images of print ads, however that doesn’t substitute for a less than stellar product. The ad may be creative and evoke emotion in those who interact with it, but that doesn’t mean we’ll all rush out and purchase the product they’re selling. Even if the ad convinces us to purchase, if we don’t receive a great experience from the product, we aren’t going to recommend it to our friends. We know that people trust the opinions of their family and friends when it comes to recommending products or services and we’re seeing data that more and more people are turning to social media outlets when collecting information before making a purchase.
As a consumer, the great thing about social media is that there’s so much information available and not to mention it’s in real-time. Having so much information available is also a downside as there’s a lot of noise to filter through when searching for those things that you’re interested in. As a business, don’t spend so much time thinking about how to “get people to talk about you” via social media. What are you doing to deliver a unique experience that people will want to talk about? That’s where you should be focusing your time and energy. Imagine you’re a musician and you’re standing on stage in front of thousands of people. If you ask these people to cheer but you haven’t played a single chord, they’ll probably cheer for you in anticipation, but for how long? They are not going to support you and help you unless you begin playing music they love.
In May 2008, a couple of friends and I launched a simple app using Twitter’s API (www.fuelfrog.com). Fuelfrog is a free app that allows you to tweet your gas price, miles, and gallons each time you fill-up and it tracks your vehicle’s gas mileage. You can view how your gas mileage trends over time and view data such as how much you paid for gas the last time you filled up. We built something unique, at that time, using Twitter’s API and people embraced it. We received a lot of coverage across various blogs and via Twitter. We had an influx of users soon after we launched and each day we’re continuing to add several more. We launched something that was unique and gave people a new experience and as a result, people blogged and tweeted about it.
Here’s a look at the coverage we received for the first year (give or take a few months) after we launched:
- July 18th 2009 – Mashable
- January 23rd 2009 – CNET/Webware
- September 23rd 2008 – PopularScience
- August 8th 2008 – CNET
- June 19th 2008 – 37signals interview (note that I contacted them first about their book)
- June 2nd 2008 – About.com
- May 30th 2008 – Mashup Awards
- May 20th 2008 – AutoBlogGreen
- May 19th 2008 – FastForwardBlog
- May 16th 2008 – LockerGnome
- May 16th 2008 – CenterNetworks
- May 15th 2008 – bnet
- May 13th 2008 – WebWorkerDaily
- May 13th 2008 – LifeHacker
- May 12th 2008 – jkOntheRun
- May 12th 2008 – Download Squad
- May 12th 2008 – ReadWriteWeb
- May 5th 2008 – SocialTimes
- May 5th 2008 – A Tweet from @ev (founder of Twitter)
My point is that you don’t need to yell louder to standout among the social media outlets or perform one-off campaigns in an attempt to get your brand as a trending topic on Twitter. You could do these things and it takes a lot of effort, but in the end if you haven’t spent the time to create something worthwhile then what’s the point? Instead, focus on your business and delivering an extraordinary and unique product and experience for your customers and share what you’re doing via social media. The reception you receive from your friends, followers, and perhaps others you’ve never connected with will tell you whether you’re building something great or if you need to try harder. Don’t spend so much time up front trying to figure out how to “get people to talk about you” via social media. Instead, spend that time working on your app or service and delivering a great experience for those who do business with you, leverage social media to connect with this audience, and then measure the results.