As a consumer, do you like being spoken to, or talked at? I’m guessing it’s the former. Imagine your brand’s social media presence is a car dealership. Is it a place where prospective buyers can take their time, browse without the pressure of a hard-sell, and get honest answers when they want them? Or are they being pitched as soon as they walk in the door, and steered to the model that’s more profitable for the company but maybe not the right fit for the shopper?
You don’t need to choose between promoting your company and giving your audience what it’s after. Here are four ways to promote your brand through social without turning consumers off.
1. Link to your own relevant content
Your blog’s content has a niche or theme that it addresses, which serves as the connective tissue between posts. As an ongoing exploration of particular topics, linking to previous content to provide further reading and depth is a great way to showcase your area expertise, ramp up your SEO, and encourage readers to spend more time on your site.
What to avoid: Don’t link exclusively to yourself, or visitors will get the perception that it’s all about you—they won’t like that. Your links should be a healthy mix of internal and external, and they should always be relevant to the subject at hand.
2. Play a part, but don’t steal the show
Of course you should be excited about that award or honor your company just received, but getting the world outside to care is tricky. Find an angle that will resonate with readers by locating the larger significance of the recognition. If it represents a step forward for your industry, tell them why. If it was a nod to your innovation, talk about the ideas and journey that led you to that awards stage. Take the spotlight off yourself and use it to illuminate the bigger picture, so that readers don’t find themselves asking, “Why should I care?”
What to avoid: Don’t strike yourself from the record entirely. You do, after all, want readers to know about your achievement, but that’s only part of the story you’re trying to tell.
3. Generate interest without asking for attention
I know this sounds like something you might find on a Successories poster, but leadership is earned, not asked for. It’s especially true of brands in social media. Brands like IBM encourage their employees to participate in conversations across the social web, externalizing their expertise and winning mindshare and positive word of mouth in the process. Your Twitter accounts, blog(s), and Facebook pages are tools by which you can draw attention to your company simply by being interesting, when the vast majority of brands are saying nothing new or noteworthy. Disruption drives interest, gets clicks and links, and creates social currency.
What to avoid: Don’t be disruptive just because it gets attention. Big ideas are disruptive by themselves, and don’t need to be spun. Don’t get caught unprepared for the spike of interest in your brand once some of your content sticks. Know exactly how you’re going to leverage the attention you receive, and be sure you can measure its impact.
4. Quit upstaging your best marketing team
Nothing personal, marketers, but consumers trust each other more than they trust you. Giving customers a voice can be scary for brands – “Customers are muddying our advertising message!” – but accepting that your brand is what your customers say it is presents big opportunities for marketers. Brands should encourage customer feedback through social media: Facebook, customer reviews, Twitter, blog comments – anywhere there’s an opportunity to engage. Harvest this feedback, and learn from it to deliver a better customer experience and even product improvements. Amplify this feedback so that shoppers will find it and be guided toward your offerings.
What to avoid: False transparency. Giving customers a voice means being open to all of their feedback – even the negative. Most feedback is positive, and even negative feedback can be good for your brand. White washing (only publishing positive feedback) and astroturfing (posting fake positive feedback) are PR nightmares waiting to happen.
Consumers are empowered through social media. If they don’t like what you have to say, it only takes one click to revoke that Like or Follow. Luckily for brands, if done right, marketers needn’t choose between promoting their brand and serving their social media audience.
We surveyed top CMOs in The CMO Club to get the real story about how they use social media — and their answers (and honesty) may surprise you. Join us February 2nd to hear about the results and see what’s most important — and most impactful — to top CMOs.