Yesterday’s SocialBiz conference in Melbourne on social media made it clear businesses are finally starting to embrace social media.
Some are doing it well, while others are struggling to connect with their customers, but for one reason or another they’re going social.
Sole traders, small business, big business – the reticence which prevented many businesses from adopting social media is now fading.
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With consumers now expecting businesses to have a web presence, getting your strategy right is more important than ever.
Here are five key lessons from the SocialBiz conference.
1. Build communities
The internet is now centred on bringing people together, whether it is on social media sites, through forums or via social businesses such as Airtasker.
Deloitte Digital founder Pete Williams says brands should focus on building communities in order to foster engagement and loyalty from their customers.
“Loyalty and engagement are human things, they don’t come from big data…they come from targeting, they come from really starting to think about what is it as human beings that creates loyalty and engagement,” he says.
To create loyal customers, brands should allow their consumers to take a central role in the brand.
Williams says companies such as Black Milk, Paul Newman’s Own and the Carlton Football Club are best practice examples of brands which are good at inspiring loyalty via social media.
“This notion of loyalty and engagement, use it with your consumers, customers and the people who love you, whether it be inside the organisation or out, and you can create the symbiosis where the people inside are inspired by the people outside. Then you have half a chance of becoming a social business,” he says.
2. Be helpful
Marketing futurist Tim Reid says the key to social media is being helpful.
“Successful social media is people having interesting conversations online… That’s all it is,” says Reid, who is also the founder of the Small Business Big Marketing Show.
“Interesting conversations are just things like educational conversations, funny conversations. They could be empowering, inspiring conversations, or they might just be helpful conversations.”
Reid says businesses need to focus on solving problems for their customers in their communications.
“A helpful business is creating marketing which is wanted by your customers, not wanted by the business in which you operate,” he says.
“In the social world the posts we’re putting out…are competing on the same level as our friends and family. That’s why a great strategy for anybody embarking on a social media campaign is to just be helpful.”
Reed says fashion businesses could consider having a Facebook page dedicated to answering customers’ fashion crisis questions, while real estate agents could post weekly videos on YouTube about the property market in their suburb.
3. Be mindful of the law
Social media is a good way to instantly connect with customers, but there are legal considerations to be aware of.
Pod Legal founder Jamie White says there are five main legal areas where businesses can come unstuck in their social communications: Misleading and deceptive conduct, copyright law, trademark infringement, spam, and privacy law breaches.
White says Australian Consumer Law has provisions regarding misleading and deceptive conduct, including behaviour such as “holding yourself out to have an affiliation with a third party which you may not have”.
He says businesses which post fake reviews or have endorsements on their LinkedIn page from businesses or people they haven’t worked with can fall foul of consumer law.
Other examples of conduct on social media which can cause a business to come unstuck include sending unsolicited private messages via social media sites to customers that liked the business’s page or follow the company on Twitter, posting content on Facebook which is in breach of copyright laws, and businesses displaying logos of brands on their website without their permission.
4. Collaborative consumption
Looking for a new business idea? Collaborative consumption might be your answer to the next big thing.
This concept is the foundation of businesses like Air B’n’B, Airtasker and Open Shed and the market for these types of businesses is tipped to strengthen.
CollaborativeConsumption.com community director Lauren Anderson says it’s just a reinvention of traditional market behaviour.
“We’re seeing the convergence of these new technologies we have at our disposal, whether they’re social, mobile or location based, which is enabling two key ingredients – efficiency and trust,” she says.
Anderson says community is central to the function of collaborative consumption businesses.
5. Get connected
Public relations expert Trevor Young says brand communication need to be prompt, real and human.
Young says a “connected brand” needs to connect to the people who mean the most to the brand, contribute in meaningful ways, cultivate relationships with their customers and emphasise collaborations online.
He says it’s the “micro-acts” which build a brand’s social media presence in the long run, not the viral campaigns.
“You don’t need Super Bowl Oreo moments… build your base or you won’t get traction on the big campaigns.”