It’s 2013. We all get it: Whether personal or corporate, successfully building a brand hinges heavily on social media participation. But new channels pop up every day to replace the ones we haven’t quite mastered; LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ are just the tip of the iceberg. How do you gain customer attention amid competing advice from the experts and competition from your peers? Build a following.
I found some answers at “Building a Following,” the first Boston event hosted by SMARTY, a West Coast-based membership organization for entrepreneurial women. Founder Amy Swift-Crosby rounded up an expert group of local talent for a fascinating discussion on the challenges of fostering community, gaining repeat customers, and building your business. Here are some key takeaways from the panelists.
Todd Van Hoosear, Founder, Social Media Club, Boston Chapter
Look at the Numbers
As much as marketing is focused on creating a warm, fuzzy feeling in your audience, it’s also based on cold, hard data. You’re not going to know if your initiatives are working if you can’t trace successes. How many views are you getting and from what platform? Use a link shortener like bit.ly, hook up Google Analytics to your website, use A/B testing on your email campaigns, and learn the basics of Excel — liberal arts major aside, if you consider yourself a social media master, crunching numbers IS in your job description.
Real-Time Marketing Is the Next Big Thing
The social media world was abuzz when the lights went dead at the Super Bowl — and then bowled away by the rapid-fire responses from brands such as Oreo and Tide. You, too, can seize the marketing moment — but use The Onion‘s Oscars debacle as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when you get trigger-happy with the publish button. Build a following.
Joanne Chang, Chef/Owner of Flour Bakery & Myers + Chang
Earn Before You Expand
It’s easy for first-time business owners to get carried away by a positive response. You’ve made it past the sink-or-swim stage! Time to dream even bigger! Stop. Breathe. As Todd attests, you have to look at the numbers — and that means ensuring that you’re making more than you’re spending. Sounds simple, but it’s a fact a lot of fledgling companies ignore.
Stick to Your Vision
Whether you’re launching a website, a restaurant, or a marketing campaign, you’re bound to get feedback. When should you act on advice, and when should you stand your ground? Joanne recommends keeping an eye on social channels for feedback. If you see trends in your customers’ critiques, take heed — but don’t try to please every single person; you’ll lose sight of why you started your business in the first place.
Sarah Dussault, YouTube Fitness Celebrity
Be Yourself, and Then . . .
People want to feel like they know the real you, especially if you’re working in a visual medium like YouTube. Sharing your honest opinion, being transparent in your recommendations, and responding to criticism respectfully are key ways to build trust with your customers. No matter how big you get, remember where you came from — and don’t forget to pay it forward by mentoring someone who’s just starting out.
. . . Monetize, Monetize, Monetize
You’ve built your brand through reliable content creation, relationship nurturing, and innovative thinking. Your followers adore you. Now what? Affiliate sales, sponsorships, PR campaigns, paid guest blogs, Google ads, and collaborative projects are just a few ways you can capitalize on your success. But don’t forget the first tip: Personal integrity is still important.
Juliana Casale is Skyword’s Writer Recruiter – and a social media junkie. You can find her most often on Twitter as @attackofthetext, and at networking events across Boston.