Google defines best practices as being, ‘commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective’.
In the world of social media and content marketing, we spend a fair deal of time talking about best practices. We write blog posts about best practices to help others, and we updated our social streams with endless amounts of content to do with best practices.
This is great. It’s awesome to have such an amazing collection of content on social media best practices. If you’re unsure about how to tackle a certain challenge, conducting a quick search for best practices in that area can be a lifesaver. If you want to validate your thinking, benchmarking against best practices can provide a great deal of relief and help you proceed with confidence.
Best practices can be supremely helpful to study, understand and follow.
But best practices should come with a major caveat.
By their nature, best practices tend to be generalizations. Typically, they don’t specifically address your unique situation, opportunities and challenges. And getting too caught up in following best practices can affect your comfort and willingness to take a chance and do something amazing that may be contrary to conventions.
Best practices should be a starting point.
If you’re learning about a specific social media platform, strategic approach, technique or tactic, study best practices to get a handle on what works for most people. Then, think about these best practices in the context of your business, brand, consumers, competition, opportunities and challenges. This context should be applied to what you actually execute, and what you execute will be more effective as a result.
Create your own best practices.
After you’ve studied best practices, start thinking about a methodology to follow to create your own best practices. Figure out how you are going to monitor and measure your social media and content marketing efforts so that you can benchmark certain actions against others and see what works best for you and your audience.
AB testing is a great way to do this, and over time can help you to fine tune your social media and content marketing strategies for maximum effectiveness. In time, you’ll have your own best practices, and you’ll have developed a resilience to falling into a trap of feeling too comfortable about what you’re doing, which can be hugely detrimental to doing anything really special, which leads nicely into my next point…
Learn to fear comfort.
Best practices and ‘proven’ strategies and tactics can be your worst enemy. The validation that you’re following best practices can be comforting. You’re following what works. You’re doing things correctly. You’re doing what the experts do.
But what you’re not doing is anything different. If you’re not doing anything differently, then you’re doing things exactly the same as everyone else, including your competition. If you’re not doing anything different than your competition, then what effect do you really think you’ll be able to have on your audience? Do you think you’ll be able to more effectively convert them to consumers? Do you think you’ll be able to build a stronger more loyal audience? Do you think your activity will convert audience members to becoming evangelists?
Not a chance!
If everyone did everything the same, the world would be a pretty dull place, and the same holds true on social media.
Defy best practices.
I’m not suggesting you just disregard best practices, and the strategies and tactics that have proven to yield success for you and your business, but find opportunities to take a chance. Try something different. Try something new that you’ve never seen anyone do before. Try something similar to what others might have even failed at, but build on the idea and make a few changes for the better. Defy best practices and do something a little less comfortable every now and again.
Then, monitor and measure what you’ve done. It’s not going to be a success every single time, but when it is successful, you’ll have hit on something that is fresh and new, and that none of your competitors have done. You’ll be a leader, and your audience will take notice.
And for all of your failed efforts, nobody’s going to chastise you for trying something new and having it fail. After all, you’ll probably be able to recognize that the new thing you’ve attempted is a failure well before anyone else even takes notice.
So, there you go. Best practices can be incredibly valuable to study and execute against, but don’t get so comfortable that you never try anything new. Getting too comfortable can be your worst enemy, not just on social media, but more broadly in business as well.
Keep pushing yourself to be better, and to think about things differently. If you’re not willing to do this, your competition, or someone you don’t even know exists yet, surely will. And by then, it’ll be too late.
What’s the last thing you did on social media that was a risk?
How do you keep your business on its toes, trying new things, innovating?
It would be awesome to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
When measuring the performance and overall strength of your business, your books are only going to reveal a portion of the story.
Social media can help to fill in gaps of information other more traditional methods of business evaluation cannot provide.
Through social listening, reading reviews and comments, and paying attention to competitive communities you can learn what you’re doing well, what needs improving, and gain a stronger understanding of what you can do to enhance the performance of your business.
The relative openness of platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress, give you numerous places around the social web to listen in on what people are saying about your business or brand. Even Facebook’s Graph Search has made the world’s most popular social network a place where social listening is possible outside the bounds of your own community.
Reviews are not only critical to driving sales for your business, but can be a great source of information and insight about the performance of your business. Glowing reviews can verify the things you are doing particularly well and give you ideas about how you can provide those experiences to more consumers. Negative reviews can reveal opportunities for improvement, areas of your business that are fundamentally flawed, give you ideas for future product development, and more.
Comments and discussion
For some time, branded social media channels have been a favourite place for consumers to express their delight with businesses, as well as tear a strip off them when they have negative experiences. While many of us are becoming pretty good at responding to these comments on social media, there is opportunity to apply what we learn in the comments on our social media channels to influence business practices. By tracking compliments and complaints, we can see trends occurring and apply what is learned to other inputs that influence our business strategy, product development, customer service, or really anything to do with our businesses.
Competitive and related communities
Discussions about your business and brand aren’t going to be contained within your communities. Competitive and consumer driven communities should be monitored on a regular basis, not only for your competitive reviews and analysis, but also to gain as broad and comprehensive an understanding as possible about the performance of your business.
Social media channels can be a great indicator for the various strengths and weaknesses of your business, but you obviously need to be paying attention for it to matter. To ensure you’re sufficiently keeping your ear to the ground, consider adding social listening KPIs to your regular analytic reports. This will help to keep you honest about paying attention to what consumers think about your business, and will ensure that what you uncover is easily shared with others in your organization.
How do you use social media to measure the success of your business or brand?
Have you ever adjusted your business strategy, product or service because of what you’ve heard from your customers on social media?
It would be great to hear from you in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Despite having an amazing opportunity to initiate and sustain meaningful dialogues with their consumers, many brands treat social media primarily as a broadcast platform.
Emphasis, energy and resources are typically pumped into the creation and publication of meaningful content – which is great – but minimal effort is put toward initiating conversations with current and prospective consumers. Virtually all interactions are the result of consumers taking it upon themselves to comment on a business’ content, ask a question, request customer assistance, or other consumer-initiated dialogue.
By proactively initiating a dialogue with consumers, you can expect to reach a broader audience, attract new consumers, build affinity for your brand, encourage reciprocated sociability, and increase the likelihood of consumers adding your brand to their consideration set. In short, you’ll be on your way to building real relationships, and if properly sustained and nurtured, and you continually offer tremendous value, you will experience all of the resulting benefits.
Not bad for starting and sustaining a conversation.
And, it makes sense. In the context of face-to-face interactions in the offline world, initiating a dialogue is the best way to have a meaningful conversation. Lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone to talk to you rarely results in amazing interactions, and the same holds true on social media (except, of course, for rare circumstances).
So, the question is, how can you go about initiating a dialogue with your consumers on social media?
Spend more time listening
The openness of many social media platforms means that as a business or brand, you have the capability to listen in on and observe your consumers’ conversations. By spending more time tuning into the pulse of your consumers’ conversations, you’ll be better positioned to identify opportunities to jump in and be a meaningful contributor to a conversation that is relevant to your brand.
Follow and subscribe to your consumers
A great number of businesses and brands have a strong focus on audience acquisition though rarely think about the benefits of following their consumers. Not only will this serve as an ice-breaker to introduce your brand, but will allow you to more easily monitor and follow the discussions your consumers are having on various social media channels.
Get involved in related communities
Believe it or not, your consumers are talking about your business and brand in channels that are not your own. In some cases, there are thriving, vibrant consumer-run communities that are focused on conversations to do with your business, brand, category, competition, and other related topics.
Take some time to monitor the discussions that are happening around the web that are relevant to you, and gauge the appropriateness of joining in. There will be some cases where the injection of your brand may be viewed as an intrusion, through there will be other cases where it will be welcomed. After thorough monitoring, use your best judgment to make a call as to how to proceed. The worst-case scenario is that you’ve found a meaningful forum for discussion to do with your business or brand, which can be a great source of insight.
Set goals and dedicate time to engagement
In my experience, the trouble most businesses and brands have with proactively initiating conversations on social media is a perceived lack of time. It’s one more thing, and in some cases one more thing too many, to do on top of an already ambitious publication schedule, responding to comments and questions, and other marketing activity.
To overcome this, I’d recommend you add goals to your social media strategy for consumer outreach and initiating conversations. Start with something manageable such as initiating X number of conversations with targeted consumers daily. Keep it small, get a feel for the time it takes, and build on that.
How do you actively initiate a dialogue with your consumers?
If you don’t, what keeps you from doing so?
It would be great to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
This post builds on an article I wrote entitled, Is Your Business Forgetting to be Social on Social Media, and will be followed-up with a future post on overcoming organizational barriers to being more social.
Social media marketing is perfectly suited to sustain relationships with your consumers, even after they’ve made a purchase.
An effective social media strategy that accomplishes this will result in sustaining and strengthening loyalty, and will ultimately result in higher repeat purchase intent.
In virtually every category, repeat purchases can be substantial contributors to long-term growth and success. If you can sustain a meaningful relationship with consumers through their ownership of your product or effect of your service, your sales efforts for repeat purchase will be much more efficient. It is always easier to sustain meaningful relationships with consumers than it is to cultivate new ones from scratch.
So, what should you do to sustain relationships with existing post-market consumers on social media?
Following are a few ideas:
Continue to provide contextually relevant value
When consumers graduate from being in-market, to making a purchase and being post-market, the content they see value in is going to change. They will see much more value in learning about ways to make the most of their purchase and reinforcement that they made a good purchase decision than relearning key attributes and selling features, after all, they’ve already bought into your value proposition.
Try to find ways to make your consumers feel even better about their purchase in the days, weeks and months following the initial excitement and enthusiasm wears off, you’ll be that much more likely to having them remain loyal and make repeat purchases.
Invest in supporting your product or service
It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, nothing is perfect. At some point, you’re going to be faced with a decision on how to provide support and service to your customers, and increasingly, consumers are looking for it on social media.
I strongly recommend thinking through every imaginable scenario that you might encounter, and figure out how to deal with those circumstances in advance of them occurring. This will enable you to act with confidence and more swiftly when you need to, and your consumers will appreciate how organized and professional you are.
Treat every interaction as an opportunity to strengthen loyalty
For many businesses, making a sale is the ultimate goal. Making a sale though, is really just a step toward building long-term loyalty and driving repeat purchase.
Whether online or offline, treat every follow-up interaction with your consumers as an opportunity to impress them and strengthen their loyalty to your business. Use consumers’ inherent skepticism about dealing with businesses to your advantage and create huge emotional swings in favour of your business and brand by surprising and delighting them through the quality of your interactions and the value that you continue to provide to them.
Investing in areas to build loyalty and motivate repeat purchase is difficult for many businesses. Justifying the energy, effort and expense in these areas requires a long-term vision and in some cases, ROI isn’t experienced for some time. Have faith that the efficiency of sustaining the relationships you build with post-market consumers will yield great results, giving your business a stronger, more sustainable future.
How do you build and sustain loyalty with your consumers?
Do you have a strategy in place to encourage repeat purchases?
It would be great to chat with you about this more in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
I’ll be writing about the importance of engaging and interacting with in-market consumers in a future post, but if you have interest in related reading on influencing pre-market consumers, please check out my article, ‘The Importance of Influencing Pre-Market Consumers on Social Media’.
Do you pay any attention to the continuous flood of Tweets that fill your stream from the hundreds or thousands of people, businesses and brands you follow?
I don’t want to offend anyone, but if you’re like me, you probably don’t.
The simple solution to more effectively absorb content on Twitter is of course to create lists, or search streams in a service such as HootSuite.
This lets you focus on want you want to be paying attention to, and filter out much of the noise.
But here’s my question…
Why does there have to be so much noise on Twitter?
A stat I came across some time ago indicated that roughly 15 percent of retweeted tweets had zero clicks (Source: HubSpot).
People – many people – are blindly sharing content without even looking at it. If people are sharing content that they aren’t even looking at, then there’s an absolute zero percent probability that they’ll be able to add thoughts, a new perspective, or their take on the content. By not doing these things, they’re failing to provide additional value and added context to their audiences than the link alone would provide.
Consider re-thinking best practices for how many tweets to publish each day.
As I’m sure you have, I’ve been exposed to a number of ‘best practices’ about how many tweets a company should publish each day. The number given has varied widely, but I’ve seen numbers as high as 30 or more being recommended to maximize engagement.
What works best in the long-term is focusing on the value of your content.
Instead of being fixated on a particular number of tweets that need to be published each day, focus on publishing quality content that is going to be of value to your audience. Links to articles you haven’t even read I would consider as being not overly valuable. You don’t know what the content is, and you won’t be equipped to carry on a conversation about its main points should a conversation be sparked.
When making the suggestion to be less focused on the number of tweets your business or brand publishes each day, I’m of course not including conversational tweets such as @-replies. In fact, the openness of Twitter is one of its biggest strengths, and it’s an amazing platform on which to proactively reach out to a broader audience outside of your own.
What’s your take on the quality and value of content being published by the majority of businesses and brands?
Have you adopted any ‘best practices’ for how many tweets to publish each day?
If so, what caused you to land on that number, and what benefits have you experienced by sticking to it?
It would be great to chat with you about this more in the comments, or of course on Twitter @RGBSocial