Social Media Strategy
By James Atkinson, LLB and Sarah Jamieson
Your social media and SEO strategies work in tandem. Your social media strategy is to gain trust and build a community. By doing this you create the ideal conditions for sales.
There seems little point in spending time and money building sites and relationships if you don’t have a sales and back end sales process. You want prospects and customers – not thousands of online friends.
As the image below shows, sales do not occur in clear “space”:
The picture illustrates some of the many factors that influence the buyer - in addition to the psychology issues I raised above - see Consumer Psychology and "Why Buyers Buy".
Online social relationships that are imbued with Meta Narratives are an excellent way to affect your persuasion strategy. For Meta Narratives see "Web Content and Meta-Narratives". Social networks are "Key Information Points" where conversations are happening in your market, opinions are being formed, and buying decisions are being made.
Social networks are a powerful vehicle to create traffic, persuade, and influence the decision to buy. Online social media has a huge user base that is rapidly increasing all the time.
The reality is that if you’re not influencing your prospects in the social networks, then your competitors will. Social networks are different from traditional internet marketing – users want quality information and interactions with like-minded people.
Sales pitches in social networks are largely ineffective.
The way to create traffic and sales through social networks is by building Reciprocal Relationships.
In addition, persuasion research shows that familiarity makes people more likely to find what you say credible and convincing. See: Persuasion Psychology - "Liking and Partiality". Familiarity makes prospects like you more, another driver in creating influence. These are compelling reasons to engage with your market regularly.
Google is also paying attention to social networking. Your level of social influence now has a direct effect on your search engine rankings. Social networks are where you can exert enormous influence to gain more traffic, sales, and even higher search engine rankings.
Social Networks and Influence
Social networks give you a valuable way to engage with prospects and shape their views throughout the buying cycle. You can join in the conversation and shape prospects’ views about your market.
This extends all the way from pre-buyers who are researching a market to existing customers with whom you want to deepen relationships.
Before the internet, marketers didn’t have much influence in the buying cycle until a prospect was actually ready to buy – at which time their opinions had of course already been formed. Shaping opinions in the pre-buying stage was tough.
Prospects got their information from a small group of friends and that was what influenced buying decisions. Likewise, we didn’t have as much influence on the backend to keep customers buying. Contacting customers to deepen relationships, build loyalty, and reinforce our unique benefits was difficult and expensive.
Social networks have also made business a lot more transparent. Bad products and service will get talked about and the word will spread very quickly. Good products and service will also get talked about!
The information prospects find in social media influences their opinions about the market, their needs, and the features and benefits they want.
You need to have a voice in that conversation and engage your market on social networks. If you don’t, you can be sure your competitors are.
The Future of Social Influence
As an interesting aside, haute couture is starting to recognize the importance of the internet for sales. At the Dolce & Gabbana show in Summer 2009, CEOs of the major cloths retailers were pushed back from their normal position in the first row.
Who displaced the executives?
The CEO of an online retailer!
In a show for the high-end Dolce & Gabbana line a few days later, bloggers occupied front-row seats. In the ultra-hierarchical world of high fashion, this is a significant shift towards the internet.
Online high-fashion retailers Net-a-porter and Yoox have proven that haute couture sells online. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are full of brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, and audiences at the European shows were Tweeting about the runway action as it happened.
Dolce and Gabbana now have their own online magazine and create web content by having their European shows filmed from multiple angles to be released online – everything from the street outside, guests arriving, and the designers inspecting models backstage, to the runway show itself.
Traditionally, fashion magazines - like Vogue - are the media where audiences for designer labels seek information. Magazines create a seamless blend between advertising and editorial content. The content exists to support the advertising and give it third-party credibility.
However, this is clearly changing. Now the Key Information Points are also found online, in the search engines, social networks, and blogs are starting to shape the audience conversation.
The Goal of Social Marketing
Your social marketing goal is to build relationships with a loyal community of people who regard you as a trusted authority. You do this using a two-pronged approach:
- Quality, relevant content
- Two-way interactions
This is where persuasion principles come into play.
Giving people content that is of value to them and helping them through personal interactions activates the "reciprocation rule". They will subtly but powerfully feel obligated to repay you by buying or taking some other action like sharing your content or joining your email list.
A community of people who are engaged with your content is a very powerful force for influence. People who enjoy your quality content will share it to the farthest reaches of the social networks.
Content sharing creates an ever-increasing influence ripple effect for you as your content achieves more prominence and produces more followers, traffic, and sales.
Google now considers social network prominence – for example: how much your content is being shared, voted for, and bookmarked – as a primary factor in rankings. Social factors have largely replaced the old link-building model, which was too easy to manipulate, as the main criteria for off-page relevance.
The biggest asset you can gain from social media is a community. Quality content and personal interactions are investments you make to build your community.
This is how you establish trust, loyalty, and a following. Once these elements are in place, the benefits of social networks flow naturally.
Communities = higher ranking = more sales!
Social Networking is Different from Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing tactics don’t work in social networks – period. If you want to be successful in social media, you’ll need to unlearn much of what you know about internet marketing.
Here’s the difference in a nutshell:
- Traditional internet marketing is about going out and pitching your sales message to a “cold” audience that has never heard of you. Hype, sales resistance, and lack of trust are familiar features.
- Social networking is about building relationships to position yourself as a trusted expert through quality content and two-way interactions. People naturally come to you when they’re ready to buy because they see buying from you as being in their own best interests.
People on social networks are not receptive to overt selling. They want information and relationships with people they trust, not a sales pitch. Any attempt to sell on social networks does not work, and will damage your reputation.
Social media is about building relationships with an ever-expanding community of followers. The first step is to gain trust. You do this with quality, relevant content that is of value to your audience.
Once prospects associate you with quality again and again, they will start to trust you. This giving and helping approach leads to a position of influence, trust and authority in your market. From there, traffic and sales follow naturally.
With the social networks, you don’t have to go out and try to “sell” prospects that have never heard of you and don’t trust you. As I already mentioned, trust is a condition that must exist before a sale can be made.
But a sales letter is not the ideal place to establish trust. Trust is best earned slowly over time with quality content and two-way interactions. With social networks, you build relationships to establish the ideal conditions to make sales: people already know and trust you by the time they are ready to buy.
You are not trying to sell anyone, per se. You are simply using the leverage of social networks to shift their mindset so they grow to trust you as an expert who is on their side.
Once prospects see you as an advocate who is on their side, they will view it as being in their own best interests to buy from you. Once prospects have made this change in their perception, they have an internally-generated motivation to buy. You don’t have to try to “sell” them with hype and marketing pitches – they will “sell” themselves on your products because they believe they are the right choice.
People will come to you when they’re ready to buy rather than you having to go to them. You have achieved a position where what you want and what they want are the same thing – a win-win situation. Their perception of you has changed from someone they know nothing about (the position marketers are in with traditional internet marketing)to someone they know and trust as their advocate.
And the speed with which this can be accomplished online is astounding!
SEO Strategy > Buyer Persuasion Points > Sales Prospects Perceive a Need > The Search Continuum > Educating Online Prospects > Social Media Strategy > The Sales Pitch >
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