Inbound Marketing 101: How to Use Social Media to Start Conversations
Social Media is the place where so many people go to ask questions of their friends, family and acquaintances. It's where the Zero Moment of Truth often starts. We are starting to go to our social networks before going to Google to ask the fundamental questions about what we should be buying, or to find solutions to our problems.
The admonition "Let me Google That for You" is becoming a less effective come-back as people prefer to trust their friends and connections for information rather than Google.
In his brand new book "Youtility," Jay Baer talks about the rise of "Friend-of-Mind Awareness," which has surpassed "Top-of-Mind Awareness" and "Frame-of-Mind Awareness."
"…companies are competing against real people for the attention of other real people. To succeed, your prospective customers must consider you a friend."
How can you succeed in this environment? How can you become your customers' friend and compete against their other real-life friends and family?
Jay Baer's answer is to become useful for your customers – or as we like to call it, you need to become valuable.
Use Social Media to Listen to What Your Market is Asking
The beauty of the explosive growth of social media is the proliferation of social listening tools.
Google Alerts was one of the earlier entrants into this space. While not really a social listening tool, it provided us the ability to "listen" to blog posts, web pages, and tweets according to pre-determined keywords you wish to track.
Then tools such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck and others appeared. They let you to monitor, in near real-time, conversations on Twitter, and then expanded to the most common social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus.
By setting up alerts for keywords or questions related to your industry or product category, you could find out what is on your target audience's mind.
The mistake companies make, however, is when they answer questions with an invitation to come "try us out." That's just a sales solicitation to prospective customers, and will get you blocked.
The best way to answer your customers' questions is to provide them with truly valuable answers, regardless of whether it directly benefits your company or not.
Answer Your Customers' Questions Publicly on
In the movie "Miracle on 34th Street," the Kris Kringle character, played by Edmund Gwenn, became famous in the movie for answering shoppers' questions so honestly that he often sent them away from Macy's, where he was the in-house Santa Claus, to Bloomingdales to get a better deal.
But despite the initial trepidation of store management, the word got out to consumers, generating an avalanche of new shoppers and positive press.
This was probably the first documented (albeit fictional) incidence of answering customers' questions publicly in a radically valuable way.
The Hilton Suggests twitter team in various cities across the world use social media listening tools to monitor the questions of tourists visiting their cities. Not only will they answer questions posed by Hilton guests, they also provide helpful advice to non-Hilton customers as well.
The result? The next time those people are on a business or pleasure trip, they will think of Hilton.
It's important to note, however, that the Hilton Suggests program does not provide any commercial content as part of its answers program. They only provide valuable information that answers travelers' questions directly, no strings attached.
Bring the Conversation on to your Blog
We discussed the importance of blogging as a way to generate leads. But the question is: why bring them on to your blog if you're already doing such a great job of answering their questions on social media?
Because in this new world of ubiquitous content, your customers want to find out as much as they can about the topics that are interesting to them.
Answering questions on Twitter or Facebook is limited, because the nature of social networks is transitory. We log on to Facebook or visit our Twitter stream because we want to quickly see what our friends are saying and doing. It's not the place to provide detailed, in-depth answers to your questions.
But if your prospects want comprehensive information that answers all the questions they have about a topic they're interested in, they will go to your website.
Gently ask your prospects to visit your blog to learn more. Use a social media landing page for this.
And please, don't invite them to visit your product sales page. Your prospects are still in "question mode." They are looking for information. They want to start a conversation about their problems and goals, not about your product or service.
Don't ruin it with a sales pitch. That comes later.
Social Media and Your Blog - Starting the Customer Conversation
Social Media listening tools provide you with an unprecedented inside view into your prospects' thought patterns. Use them to learn about your customers' wants, desires, and problems.
Then use social media to be friendly, helpful and provide them with valuable information. Become their friend, and do what friends do: help them.
Once you've answered your customers' questions, don't push it. Don't try to sell to them, don't push your product down their throat. But do provide them with an opportunity to find out more. Lead them to your blog - your blog should be an in-depth, information-rich resource that helps answers your customers questions.
Again, don't use your blog to push your products. Use it to start your conversation.
One last word of advice: you need to adopt the value mindset. The value mindset is the attitude that you're here to provide value to your prospective customers before they even become customers. Try to help them, don't sell them.
When you approach your customers with the value mindset, everything else will fall into place.