By Michele Weisman Many will consider 2010 to be the year in which social media achieved critical mass as a legitimate means of communication. The evidence-- Facebook gained over 500 million active users; approximately 65 million tweets were posted on Twitter each day; YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world and exceeds 2 billion views per day. In fact, a major motion picture, The Social Network grossed approximately $192 million worldwide, which is further proof of the influence of social media on our culture.
While the numbers and growth are staggering, many still don't "get it". Despite the enormous potential to reach very large audiences instantaneously, many businesses still fail miserably with their social media strategy. Adhering to one or more of the following resolutions will go a long way towards improving many flawed social media approaches:
1. Humanize your brand. Engage with your community like a friend, not like a company. Connect with your audience on a personal and authentic level. Share compelling stories. People relate best to brands that adopt human characteristics. Your brand must be approachable, engaging, and ultimately likeable.
2. Integrate social media into your corporate culture. Align all employees with the company's social media plan. Establish appropriate guidelines and create a social media policy. Invest your resources by hiring the right employees or partnering with a social media agency.
4. Focus on what your community is saying. Community is earned and fostered through meaningful experiences. Be vulnerable and transparent: let your customers and fans give feedback. It is important to listen as well as to HEAR the conversation. Listening gives you an edge over your competitors. Do you like what is being discussed about your brand? Use social search to identify key themes and issues and address them appropriately with your audience.
5. Create realistic benchmarks. Set milestones so you can measure both your effort and your progress as you work to achieve your 2011 goals. What does X amount of fans or followers, or X amount of likes and interactions mean? Rather than focus on the numerical value, concentrate on reporting and analyzing.
6. Identify your key influencers. Steve Knoxs, CEO of Temors, P &G’s Word of Mouth unit, said it best- “Victory in marketing doesn’t happen when you sell something, but when you cultivate advocates for your brand.” Brand ambassadors are not a new concept. However, it seems a lot more authentic for a brand to have its ambassadors spread the word about the company. Once your advocates are known, reward them with special brand ambassador privileges.
7. Focus on local. Location-based services (LBS), like Foursquare and Facebook Places, have exploded. Create a social shopping experience for your community by offering exclusive deals. Explain how to become an expert and trusted source by posting tips to local venue sites. Analyze the data timely. The demand for real-time information and increasing reliance on the mobile web will increase in 2011.
8. Educate yourself. Spend at least 10% of your day reading and re-educating. Read blogs, attend conferences, join Meetup groups, listen in on webinars, and engage with thought leaders in your industry. Social networks, like Facebook, are constantly changing. Be ahead of your competition.
9. Use multimedia! A picture is worth a thousand words. Facebook users can now print their Facebook photos at Target. Twitter embeds multimedia into their stream, which allows the user to view photos and play back video content directly from the Twitter homepage. Just last week, Foursquare added photos and comments to their iPhone app. Post videos and images to show that your business is fun, that you care about your employees, and most importantly, that you connect with your community.
10. Experiment with other social networks. Don’t limit your social media presence to just Facebook and Twitter. Create a Tumblr, sponsor Meetups, and produce a viral video on YouTube. It is important to keep an open mind and embrace all social networks.
11. Be passionate and have fun! Stay motivated and don’t be discouraged. You will make mistakes. Recognize your shortcomings and be honest with your community.
Let’s have a toast to successful social media communication in 2011. What social media resolutions would you add? Share in the comments section below!