I did an interesting session at a company in Boston yesterday that has a problem many businesses coming into Social Media share: they have a business that deals with a product or service that has a low “interesting” quotient. This problem is faced by loan companies, insurance agencies, tax consultants and a few hundred other types of businesses. For these companies, generating interesting content is possible, but getting people to go and view it can be a challenge.
What then, should the social media outreach for these companies include? So many social media consultants only preach content and persona, but that is a solution that does not work for every type of business. The particular company I worked with yesterday had decided to focus their initial efforts on Twitter (single platform deployment is not a strategy I often recommend, but in their case, fully appropriate based on their time constraints and resources).
In the case of a business that falls into this “uninteresting but useful” group, my advice is:
1) Be Helpful – make it a point to share your knowledge about your topic. In these cases, people may find unusual content increases your attractiveness to them as a destination site from your social media outpost, but it most likely isn’t what will get them there. Having resource pages for linking to and referencing and a willingness to have a human in your company answer questions and give helpful advice will work far better than funny videos or other content as the initial point of conversion. Then the “add on” content may help increase length of stay once you get people to click through to your site. The recommendation with this approach is a clear profile on your social media outpost that lets people know your policies (if there are restrictions on what you can answer from your industry, for example, or if you have a certain time of day you can make yourself available).
2) Be Honest – people are looking for companies they can trust in this tight economy. Be willing to say you don’t know something, be willing not to exaggerate or give false information just to land a sale. Make sure your information is accurate and your employees are interacting with integrity.
3) Be Human – much of the interactions with companies begin with customer frustration. That’s just the way of things – we should tell companies when we’re happy as often as we tell them when we, the consumers, are disappointed, frustrated or angry, but the tendency is not to do so (side note: Twitter is one of the few places where you’ll find more equal parts company satisfaction vs company dissatisfaction mentions). What this means for you is that even if your social media outpost is a message channel, a place for advice or a peer network for you, you will run into customers who will bring you customer service needs via that channel from time to time. Handle them in a way that leaves the customer with a god emotional aftertaste from your interaction, and make your company more human.
4) Landing Page – I can not stress the importance of a great social media landing page for all businesses enough, but especially businesses like these. You want to make all of your outposts easy to find, you want to make your reasons for being in social media clear, you want to integrate your offline marketing efforts clearly into the page, you want to tell people what you can do for them succinctly, and you want to have a site that is easy to navigate by a person who knows nothing about you or your industry.
5) Listen – set up monitoring sites and analytics trackers in as many places as possible. If you are on a site that offers analytics, like Facebook’s Insights on fan pages, make good use of those as well. Set aside time each day to focus on what people are saying about your company, industry and staff. Make sure you hear what they are actually saying – often a customer’s perception of a company is quite different than the company’s perception of itself! Then use your outposts to do daily outreach, always being human.
Yesterday I taught a workshop at the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension in Concord. I thought you’d enjoy seeing the slide deck from it.
I opened with a discussion about how decisions involving education and youth are made. We discussed that while decisions about online tools and activity should be made with logical factors in mind, like cost, usefulness, utility, education, learning encouragement, and more, they are often made from an emotional place of fear instead, causing both the educators and the kids to lose out.
We discussed some practical issues of regulation in the education industry, minors online, and basic internet safety to consider in the classroom, then quickly moved along to the meat of the class: bringing these tools into play and using them in forward thinking ways. We also discussed how they may not only help the classroom, but the administration of the school, and any associated alumni groups, causes, organizations and non-profits. It was a fun and fully engaged class, and the educators in it were already thinking about how to use RSS, Ning and other technologies to continue to collaborate on the ideas in it after the fact (in fact, they already had the start of a Ning group going when I arrived, and were floored at the other ways they could be using the simple tool).