Social media is no longer optional. People today expect the organizations they interact with to have at least a modest social media presence. However, a successful social media strategy doesn't just focus on meeting expectations - it aims to exceed them.
Many businesses and nonprofits recognize the necessity of social media, but perhaps don't yet realize its true potential. Here are some examples of innovative ways to use social media to go the extra mile and build valuable, lasting relationships with your followers:
One of the reasons social media is so appealing to today's audiences is the transparency it brings to the individual-organization relationship. As interactive, real-time platforms, sites like Twitter and Facebook break down the traditional barriers between everyday members of the public and the large organizations they encounter daily. Social media reveals the 'human' behind the brand.
A real-time Q&A is exactly what it sounds like. It's an open invitation to your followers - a chance for them to ask questions and get your answers as part of a genuine conversation. Just as Reddit's 'Ask Me Anything' has made celebrities more accessible to their fans, routine real-time question and answer sessions can bring brands closer to their followers.
This real-time engagement isn't only beneficial for connecting with target consumer groups, it can also be an effective way to communicate with shareholders or potential investors. Zillow, the leading online real estate database, has recently announced it will take questions via social media during its May 7 earnings call.
By tweeting @Zillow with the hashtag #ZEarnings or writing in questions on Zillow's Facebook page, anyone who wants to has the opportunity to speak directly with the company's management team. Access like this simply was not possible before the days of social media.
Though social media is very much about serving your customers, don't forget how they might be able to help you!
Never before have brands had such close access to their target audience. Getting to know your customers once involved organizing focus groups and commissioning expensive research surveys, but now it can be as simple as tweeting them a question.
Recently, Lay's potato chips used social media to 'crowdsource' a new chip flavor. They asked their customers to submit ideas for a new flavor and then vote on the final three via their 'Do Us a Flavor' Facebook app.
Crowdsourcing does more than just encourage people to participate with a brand - it allows them to actually contribute to it. This approach makes everyone a winner. Businesses and organizations are able to deliver exactly what their followers want, and their followers get to receive exactly what they want.
In many ways social media is just the latest piece of communication technology, landing on the same historic timeline as its predecessors the telephone, the phonograph and the printing press.
However, social media is also something in and of itself. It is different from previous technologies in that it is mass communication at the individual level. With both incredible breadth and unparallelled accessibility, social media can facilitate global conversations and even give rise to real change.
One fascinating example of this is the #GivingTuesday movement. A collaborative effort by several corporations and nonprofits, #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving, designed to counterbalance the annual shopping days of 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday' by encouraging people to contribute to their charity/nonprofit of choice.
#GivingTuesday is 100% a product of social media. With a hashtag built into its logo, this campaign was cleverly designed to capture the power of social media as a widespread conversation starter.
Live Event Coverage
From the Oscars to the Olympics, large-scale events have always attracted advertisers hoping to capitalize on the high number of captive viewers. Thanks to social media, making the most of these high profile events doesn't have to cost millions. A topical tweet that's particularly humorous or poignant can actually cause a bigger buzz than a multimillion dollar TV commercial.
A stand-out example of this is Oreo's perfectly-timed tweet during the 2012 Superbowl. After the power went out in the Superdome, Oreo's social media team sprang into action, letting their followers know 'You can still dunk in the dark'.
Thinking ahead, the digital agency working with Oreo got together with the brand's exec team to watch the game. They recognized the benefit of participating in live event coverage and knew that a speedy sign-off process would be key to their success.
While the traditional marketing approach may be to start a conversation, with social media marketing, it's often better to simply join a conversation. It's less about pushing your brand and more about being a present part of your followers' lives. Real-time event coverage is an ideal way of doing this.
Innovative social media campaigns are not restricted to big, established brands. Small businesses and nonprofits are fully capable of developing a unique social media strategy that exceeds their followers' expectations. Let the examples above inspire you to take a bold approach. Start small, but think big!
There are plenty of ways your business or organization can put a creative spin on social media. Please share your ideas in the comments!