Social Media Marketing is Not Just Another Channel – It’s Community Building, by Maddie Grant

Marketers love to think about social media as “just another tool” or “just another channel” through which to broadcast their promotional content. But social media is much more than just another billboard along the digital highway. Used in the right way, social media marketing can help you acquire new customers, convince them to buy more often, and increase the amount they spend with you. (That’s FRY – frequency, reach, yield – a mnemonic we use all the time.) You can be right on time with exactly what your customers and the market needs, and you can make the transaction just one click away. Social media can make your job more rewarding when you prompt your target audience to act and spread the word through their network about what they love about your company or product. Your evangelists want to spread the word about you, especially if you make it easy for them. That’s not a drive-by – that’s building community.

Running social media marketing campaigns takes specific skills, and it will be up to those in marketing positions to apply their skills to this specialty. You need to own the campaigns. You need to push your social media stakeholders to make marketing a priority, and then work together to keep everything you’re posting in balance with your organization’s core mission and your customers’ expectations. You’ll need to build relationships – with people who influence, with people who just wander by, and with people who come back again and again. You’ll need to nurture those audiences so that when you need them to help spread the word about a new campaign, they will be there for you.

Here’s how.

  1. Manage the process of capturing and tracking leads. Followers and fans are nice, but the goal of social media marketing is to sell products and services. To be successful, you need to convert that follower or friend into a lead, and follow up with them in the right ways to make the sale. Promote your social media sites every chance you get in your email and direct mail marketing. And have every staff member use a signature block that lists your company’s official social media sites so they can find you online. (Oh and by the way – nobody cares about your website anymore.) Create compelling offers and landing pages for your social media audiences. Integrate marketing campaigns into your organization’s official social media outposts. Get to know the specific features of your outposts-i.e. Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter accounts-that you can effectively use for marketing. Work with your outpost administrators to plan the timing and exact messaging. Try some advertising on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  2. Identify influencers and give them something to talk about. Social media has the potential to be a word of mouth engine. Each of your customers and stakeholders are connected to their own network of people they know personally and respect. The art and science of compelling your customers to share your stuff with their own network is worth practicing. First, define influence (for yourself – stay away from sites like Klout which are contextless) and score customers on both traditional and social influence. Then build relationships with your influencers on social media. Work with the admins of your official social media outposts and anyone else who engages on social media to monitor, respond to, and share content from your influencers. Make your influencers look smart and connected. Why would an influencer ever share your stuff? Because it makes them look good.
  3. Reimagine content for the purpose of marketing. Social media marketing is all about breaking through the clutter and getting the attention of your audience. Approaching content as a marketing tool will help you be successful. That means collaborating with the content creators across your entire organization to add a layer of content designed just for driving lead generation and peer-to-peer sharing. Make sure that you share quality, current and relevant content??don’t become part of the clutter. Create bite-sized content in eye-catching formats. Align your social media marketing campaigns with the editorial calendar. Recruit content from satisfied customers who are happy to explain why your products are valuable, or why they use your services.
  4. Look beyond the social media your organization owns. This is a job that is uniquely yours. No one else will take the time to do the research and the outreach needed to find potential prospects and customers engaging outside of your own official social media outposts. Advertising can help, but so can being social on sites related to your industry or profession. And being social is free – it just takes time and attention.

It’s never too late to start applying social media to marketing. You may already be doing some of this. And with a little planning and collaboration with your colleagues, you can keep building your audience and experimenting to find exactly what drives the best results. Good luck, and have fun getting to know your market – and growing your community – in all new ways.

About The Author

Maddie GrantMaddie Grant, CAE is the co-author of Open Community: a little book of big ideas for associations navigating the social web and Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World. Maddie is also the lead editor for SocialFishing, one of the most visited and respected blogs written for association executives, where she gets to express her viewpoint as a classic Gen-X early adopter and “shiny new toy” addict.

As the chief social media strategist for SocialFish, Maddie draws from more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications, and international business operations to help associations large and small build capacity for using social media to achieve business results. Find Maddie at