Direct mail, even email, may be addressed to your customers, donors, members and prospects by name. But short of face-to-face conversations, there is nothing quite so powerful and promising for a marketer than having the opportunity to interact in real time with someone who is genuinely interested in what you have to offer.
Social media makes it possible for brands – and their proxies like me – to connect with members of their target audience directly and instantaneously, building strong, mutually beneficial relationships that have the potential to last indefinitely.
Of course, to traditionalists, luddites, skeptics and naysayers, social media is like the proverbial uninvited dinner guest who never leaves.
They can blame it on technology. They can blame it on millennials. They can blame it on whatever and whomever. But like it or not, social media in some way, shape or form is here to stay.
Social media is a disruptive, revolutionary change in how customers and prospects are courted, one that marketers, advertisers, publishers and PR people ignore at their own peril.
Yet there are still a surprising number of holdouts, people who are desperately clinging to old strategies, tactics and channels like life buoys on an open sea, afraid they will drown in today’s new marketing waters.
What they’re doing to attract and retain business may work for them today. But chances are that very same business will fade away soon if they don’t adjust to the times.
Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. These are not just new marketing channels at the disposal of the corporate world. These are outrageously popular social media properties which our industry shares with the general public. The playing field is level and the competition is fierce, as it is no longer simply paid media we’re talking about, but owned and earned as well.
As the late, great Marshall McLuhan said more than 50 years ago, “The medium is the message.” And today, given the ubiquity of social media, never mind the mass appeal of television and radio, those words still ring true, perhaps more than ever.
Social media is the message of the millennium so far. It has changed everything about how we communicate with relatives and friends, fans and followers, customers and colleagues, even complete strangers. It has changed the world as we once knew it.
Yet many brands, B2B and B2C alike, are still fiddling and diddling when it comes to social media, or even scarier, aren’t using it at all. Thinking the jury’s still out on whether it’s worth the time or not, they’re missing the opportunity to join the biggest revolution in communication since the printing press.
I hate to break it to you, but this is not the time for hesitation. Seriously, we’re closer than you think to a turning point in social media. You’re either all in with it now or at risk of falling alarmingly far behind the competition.
For brands that are dabbling in it, but not fully on board, consider doubling down on your investment. Don’t rely on only one person for all your social media activities. Have a team at your beck and call. And don’t be just putting anything out there to see what sticks. Think strategy, not tactics. Create content that puts not just your products and services, but your people in a positive light. Keep it real. Be yourselves. Make a commitment to the long haul, but make sure you’re on the grid every single day, not just every once in a while. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. If you’re out of mind, well, you could be out of business.
For brands that haven’t even begun to establish themselves on social media, you have no time to lose. Learn from the activities of your customers and competitors who have beaten you to the punch in setting up shop there. Hang your own shingle on all the major channels today. Chop-chop. Build your audience. Announce your presence. Publish. Broadcast. Post. Tweet. Engage. Take whatever steps are necessary now to connect with your constituents online and convert them into believers in everything you have to share before it’s too late.
Note: The original version of this post, “Social Media: A Revolutionary Change That is Impossible to Ignore,” was published on ClickZ on November 15, 2015 here.
Social media. It’s not just for B2C brands anymore.
More than just dipping their toes in the social media waters, many of those in the B2B space are now diving in head first, making a big splash not just on LinkedIn, but on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and pretty much every other related channel.
Like everyone else, of course, they’re publishing the requisite stream of news and information. But more and more of them are beginning to resemble their counterparts on the B2C side, going above and beyond to express their opinions, let their hair down and reveal the personalities behind the brands.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Here are 10 examples of B2B brands that are killing it on social media.
1. IBM on Twitter
Known for having had one of the corporate world’s strictest dress codes back in the day, it’s no surprise that IBM’s social media channels are equally buttoned up in 2015. I mean that in a really good way, of course. After all, not only does the largest computer company in the world know its way around social media best practices, it’s not afraid to push the edges of creativity, either, as this animated GIF on Twitter illustrates.
— IBM (@IBM) September 23, 2015
2. Cisco on Instagram
Many brands, B2B and B2C alike, are at a loss when it comes to developing new content to share on social media. Not this brand. In this classic case of newsjacking, Cisco shares a perfectly executed graphic to commemorate World Wide Web Day, complete with hashtag and logo. Great copy. Great picture. Great example of how to work the crowd on Instagram.
A photo posted by Cisco (@cisco) on
3. Oracle on Twitter
The social in social media is what many companies overlook, but not Oracle. The softer side of this global computer technology behemoth is front and center here, giving nearly 400K followers an indication of how much they care about philanthropy, not to mention a good look at the heart and soul of their brand.
— Oracle (@Oracle) September 22, 2015
4. Intel on Facebook
In support of last summer’s #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement, Intel used social media to celebrate the diversity of their own engineers. Jumping on this viral bandwagon with such enthusiasm called attention to the strength of Intel’s corporate culture and surely went a long way toward helping its recruitment efforts.
5. Raytheon on Twitter
It’s understatedly written, but this tweet speaks volumes about this big defense contractor’s caring corporate culture. Ambiguously worded to leave you in wonder, it’s referring to the fact that so many Raytheon employees are happy to honor U.S. servicemen and women on RED (Remember Everyone Deployed) Shirt Fridays. Awesome picture. Awesome cause.
— Raytheon (@Raytheon) September 25, 2015
6. Novartis on Instagram
You’ve got to give props to this pharmaceutical giant not just for having an Instagram account, but for using it in such a clever way. Calling attention to a rather fascinating interactive exhibit about the role nature has played in medicine, Novartis does an excellent job of piquing its audience’s curiosity and coaxing traffic over to beautifulmedicine.com.
A video posted by Novartis (@novartis) on
7. GoTo Meeting on Instagram
With so many brands competing for the audience’s attention, the quality of what you share on social media is as important as the quantity. Consumers and customers expect to see you on these channels, but they have very little patience for content that isn’t either informative, helpful, pertinent or entertaining. Don’t waste anybody’s time. Follow the lead of Citrix GoToMeeting on Instagram, where you’ll find less than 100 posts, but almost every single one of them of the highest quality.
Tim Wright of GrandBanks Capital believes one of the most important aspects of a compelling pitch is having the right team in place before you even walk in the room. #FutureofWork #C100VentureNorth #VentureNorth #GrandBanksCapital #VCPitchTip #CdnTech #entrepreneur #pitching #business #tech #funding #presenting #finance
8. Salesforce on Facebook
Far too many brands focus too much on selling their products and services on social media rather than promoting the virtues of their employees. Not Salesforce, which salutes its team for reaching a one million-mile milestone in movement. Humblebragging about those who work for you shows you care about their health and happiness. Demonstrating pride in your people not only makes them feel good, it assures anyone who’s thinking about doing business with you that you stand behind your team.
9. Illumina on Twitter
Two of the most important characteristics of any social media program are transparency and immediacy. Case in point is this example from Illumina Live Events. Thanks to the author’s introduction, you know who’s doing the tweeting, which helps her build a bond with you right off the bat. Anytime you have the opportunity to extend a warm, personal greeting to your audience and engage with them in real time, take advantage of it. The trust and credibility you’ll gain will be more than worth the effort.
— Illumina Live Events (@illuminaLive) September 21, 2015
10. Gartner on Facebook
Not every post you share on Facebook is going to stand out in the News Feed – unless it’s accompanied by a graphic such as this one. Gartner may appear to be merely driving its audience back to a blog post, but it’s also doing a superior job of branding its Smarter With Gartner series of stories. Good for them. And good for those who are taking this legendary research and advisory firm up on their offers. It’s a win-win all around.
As social media becomes less of an afterthought among brands and more of an essential ingredient in the marketing mix, it is increasingly difficult to stand out on these online channels.
There is only so much attention from consumers and customers to go around, after all, and the social streams are overflowing with content in all shapes and sizes.
So unless you want to be like the wallflower at the dance, being boring is not an option on social media. Even if you’re a B2B brand in technology, a regulated brand in healthcare or the biggest brand in an industry of one, there are simply no excuses not to be sharing a deep repertoire of content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and everywhere else your audience is hanging out online.
And I mean everywhere. If your customers and prospects are spending time on Pinterest and Instagram, you need to establish your own solid presence there. Same goes for Vine, YouTube, Tumblr and Snapchat. Be there or be square.
Industry events and developments. Company updates and corporate culture. Promotions, offers, news and opinion. What you share is important, but sometimes where – and how – you share it is of even greater significance.
That’s where Periscope enters the picture. Launched on March 26 of this year, this live video streaming app owned by Twitter recently eclipsed the 10 million user mark and reports that over 40 years of video are watched per day. To say that Periscope is kind of a big deal right now would be an understatement.
Of course, you can and should use other channels to share your videos, but to ignore Periscope is to overlook an unparalleled, unprecedented way to connect with people in instantaneous, unfiltered fashion. The brand that uses Periscope comes across as both transparent and authentic, unafraid to cede control of the conversation and willing to share its true identity. Greater trust, better business and a stronger bond between those on either side of the medium is a likely result.
To use Periscope:
1. Download the app to either your Android or iOS device.
2. Log in with your Twitter user name or phone number.
3. Adjust your settings.
4. Set your notifications.
5. Look for people to follow.
6. Prepare to broadcast your own videos live.
It really is that easy.
You can use Periscope for everything from streaming breaking news to giving your audience a behind-the-scenes tour of your office. You can conduct interviews on Periscope, give product demonstrations, take surveys, you name it. What’s streamed on Periscope is limited only by your imagination.
Here are three great examples of videos created with Periscope.
1. Ryan Pinkham’s Live Tutorial
Constant Contact’s Ryan Pinkham used Periscope to record a live tutorial from his desk entitled, Email Design Mistakes Your Readers Hate. He also turned his broadcast into a blog post and archived his recording on YouTube to give his content an indefinite shelf life.
2. Michael Hyatt’s Blog Commentary
Another excellent example of Periscope use is author and speaker Michael Hyatt’s discussion about his original blog post called No, You Don’t Have to Work 24/7 to Succeed. In the blog, Michael also mentions that he broadcasts on a daily basis during the week at 12:30 p.m. CDT.
Keeping a regular schedule like that is a great idea, regardless of what you’re going to cover, as an audience can grow accustomed to tuning in to watch you at the same time every day.
3. An Interactive Tour with the Mayo Clinic
Finally, the Mayo Clinic’s interactive tour of its Rochester, Minnesota campus was originally streamed on Periscope, like the two other videos above. This “after-hours, behind-the-scenes” tour has also been subsequently uploaded to YouTube.
Unfortunately, you can’t watch a replay of someone else’s Periscope video after 24 hours unless they’ve repurposed it elsewhere such as YouTube or Vimeo.
That same inconvenience, however, helps spur real-time viewership, creating a sense of urgency every time you see the words “LIVE on #Periscope.” Chalk it up to the fear of missing out.
Given its immaturity, Periscope is a relatively unproven app, of course, but that certainly hasn’t stopped many brands from having jumped on the Periscope bandwagon, tooting their own horns and throwing any fears of revealing who they are as people to the wind. If you haven’t already, now is the time to try the next big thing in social media.
When I give presentations on social media, I often refer to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. After all, so much about social media is about building strong relationships with others. And that’s what Dale preached as well as anybody, especially in this classic book.
Yet I really only have to look as far as my parents for reference in this case. They may not be on social media, but so much of what I’ve learned about interpersonal communications I’ve learned from them.
And that’s what it all boils down to on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. The most successful business people and brands on these channels are those that have a knack for engaging effectively with others as human beings.
Sure, it doesn’t hurt that they have either a wealth of knowledge and expertise or a line of ridiculously cool products and services. When all is said and done, however, they are simply themselves – which just might be their most endearing quality.
They are like my parents, in a way, who are nothing if not the real deal. Ages 84 and 90, respectively, my mother and father have always been as authentic and unassuming as they come, people I look up to as the embodiment of character in every way, shape and form.
Specifically, here are the lessons I’ve learned from my parents that can be applied to activities on social media by individuals like you and me as well as small and big brands alike.
1. Be trustworthy.
This should go without saying, of course, but when it comes to sales and promotion, even the best marketers have a tendency to push the edges. Don’t even think about it on social media. Everything should be kept on the up and up. We’re not making deals here. We’re making friends, followers and fans.
2. Don’t brag.
If honesty is the best policy, so is modesty. No one likes braggadocio. A small shameless plug every once in a while is okay. Your audience should be made aware of your strengths and accomplishments. But the more you talk about others, not yourself, the more inclined they’ll be to pay attention to what you have to say and to eventually do business with you.
3. Stay positive.
Remember that nobody likes a complainer. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the Internet and not real life. There’s no difference anymore. Lift people’s spirits with your hope and optimism. Look on the bright side of life. See the glass as always half full. A positive attitude makes everything a lot easier not just for you, but for those around you.
4. Ask questions.
My parents are great conversationalists, always showing concern for what another person has to say. That’s why they’ve had so many long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with others over the years. They know that people are happy to share how they feel with you – and that they’re even happier if you actually take an interest.
I was taught as a child not to be selfish, to share with others, especially if they were less fortunate than me. While this notion that “sharing is caring” was ingrained in me at an early age, it applies to everybody on social media today. News and opinion, knowledge and information, activities and whereabouts. All of this is great fodder. All of this is what people and brands alike are expected to dole out to their friends, followers and fans.
6. Don’t knock others.
If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all. I can’t be the only one who heard this as a child. Such timeless advice applies to practically every opportunity we have to say something publicly. What you express on social media ties back to your brand. People want to feel good about their interactions with you, not deflated because you’re a downer.
7. Be empathetic.
If you’re there for your audience, they’ll be there for you. Listen to what they have to say. Respond in a supportive, timely fashion. Put yourself in their shoes. What can you say that will make them smile? What can you do to add dazzle to their day? What do you have to offer that will help them get more out of life? An empathetic ear and a kinder, gentler voice will go a long way toward winning over your audience.
8. Play fair.
If you look at social media as an extension of who you are in real life, this lesson is one of the most important. Be a good sport and don’t cut corners. Don’t step on any toes to get to the top. Be someone others can look up to for your values, principles and moral code. Play well with others. Corporate citizenship counts.
9. Take pictures.
When I was a kid, my dad loved his slide projector. That and stacks of photo albums were how our road trips, family reunions, summer vacations and campouts were documented. Pictures brought us together. And while they’re obviously still kind of a big deal, pictures aren’t just for families to share in the privacy of their own homes anymore. They’re to share with everybody on social media.
10. Look up.
As much as my parents appreciate what I do for a living, they’re the first ones to remind me to look up from my electronic devices as often as possible and to enjoy real conversations with real people. I can’t argue with them. Not only is it healthy and refreshing to go unplugged, it’s actually where most deals are made. Take your online relationships offline. Have lunch together. Play golf. Take a good long walk. Talk to each other face to face. Social media should be a complement to everything else you do as an individual or a brand, not the be-all and end-all.
I was having lunch with a colleague of mine a couple years ago or so, and as I began to take pictures of the food on my plate he asked me why I would do such a thing. I explained to him that food was a huge draw on social media, and that the restaurant where we were eating might reply to me if I tweeted about it, as might my followers. I was as convinced then as I am now that it’s a myth that no one on social media cares what you’re eating for lunch. After all, everybody likes food.
While there’s an art and a science to success on social media, there’s also a certain psychology of which brands should take note.
If you can identify your audience’s hot buttons and trigger points – that is, what’s going to capture their attention and cause them to respond – you can increase the chances of your social media activities resulting in more revenue as opposed to simply more effort on your part.
Of course, the majority of your content should be focused on your products, services and industry. But a portion of your posts should stray beyond those parameters every once in a while, highlighting your employees and corporate culture. The brand that portrays itself as interesting, entertaining and fun proves it has a personality, not just a pulse.
Which topics and themes are popular with almost everyone? What can you say or show that will resonate with practically everyone within ear- or eyeshot?
Here are 10 ways to find common ground with your audience on social media…
What the Beatles sang in 1968 is still true in 2015 in real life (IRL) and online, too – “all you need is love.” And by love, I mean love in all its incarnations. Heartfelt romance between two people is one thing. But brands can also show love for those who work for them, their customers, their families and friends. Gratitude. Fondness. Appreciation. Praise. Love in the broadest sense is what we’re celebrating here.
— NHL (@NHL) July 11, 2015
If love is too strong, at the very least you can acknowledge the presence of your audience. Surprise and delight them with free swag. Treat them like VIPs. Provide them with a discount. Give them a shout-out. Move them to the front of the line. Even if what you have to offer is only a favorite, like, reply or retweet, your followers and fans will be grateful for the nod.
Example: Earl of Sandwich
You know who's awesome? You are. pic.twitter.com/2PCdStl87e
— Earl of Sandwich (@earlofsandwich) July 7, 2015
You don’t have to be a restaurant to share pictures of food on social media. Everybody eats. But don’t share just anything that’s on the plate in front of you, anytime, anywhere. If you’re enjoying a gourmet meal on a very special occasion, that’s a moment to seize. If there’s an opportunity to associate your brand with food in any way, shape or form, take advantage of it and take plenty of pictures.
Example: WSM Partners LLP
— WSM Partners LLP (@WSMPartners) June 1, 2015
It’s something everyone can relate to, something everyone likes. No one can deny the magnificence of a colorful sky when the sun disappears below the horizon. No one can complain about seeing a beautiful sunset. One of the most popular images in our personal feeds should make at least an occasional appearance in yours.
Example: Carnival Cruise Line
— Carnival Cruise Line (@CarnivalCruise) July 5, 2015
As I’ve written before here on ClickZ, “many brands are going out of their way to let their hair down on social media, taking great pains to reveal their lighter sides.” The last thing they want is to be perceived as uptight and self-centered, unable to take – or share – a joke every so often. Humor shows you’re human, not some stiff corporate logo. Smile and the whole world smiles with you. Clown around from time to time and you’ll have your followers at your feet.
Example: State Farm
6. Current Events
Many trending topics are related to what’s happening in the news. A big game. Political elections. Awards shows. Celebrity gossip. National holidays. The whole world is paying attention. And sharing their opinions with hashtags. This is your chance to not just weigh in with timely, relevant commentary, but to newsjack the story, injecting yourself into the global conversation in order to be seen by a much broader audience.
Example: Goose Island Beer Co
— Goose Island Beer Co (@GooseIsland) July 3, 2015
Small talk can be a big deal on social media. No, really. It’s actually a great way to break the ice and strike up a dialogue with someone you’ve met for the first time. Ask them how the weather is in their neck of the woods. Tell them it’s raining cats and dogs where you live. You never know where the conversation is going to lead.
Example: WCVB Channel 5 Boston
People use social media for a number of different reasons – marketing, sales, networking, entertainment, gossip, news and information, you name it – but everyone could use a lift now and then. Pump up your audience with motivational sayings and stories, anything you can think of that fills them with confidence, boosts their egos, inspires them to achieve more than they could imagine and helps them to enjoy life to the fullest.
I’m not going to lie. Selfies are kind of a big deal right now. Take them. Share them. Ask for them. As I’ve written before here on ClickZ, “The selfie has gone from a silly little trend to a mainstream phenomenon, something almost everyone has embraced”…. Selfies aren’t going anywhere soon but onwards and upwards.
There’s a reason pet ownership in this country has more than tripled since the 1970s and that more than 60% of U.S. households today include at least one pet. Dogs, cats, fish and ferrets. Pets are wildly popular. Employee pets. Customer pets. Ordinary pets. Unusual pets. Include them in your content stream and you’ll get plenty of likes, favorites and retweets, never mind all the oohs and aahs.
Example: Steelcase Store
— Steelcase Store (@Steelcase_Store) June 26, 2015
Note: This post, “10 Ways to Find Common Ground With Your Social Media Audience,” was originally published on ClickZ on July 14, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on August 17, 2015 here.