One of the most important objectives of building a social media website is to build critical mass. But first, frame critical mass so that it translates into your niche. From the niche-based pool, you gain a potential customer match as well as reasonable expectations on the size of the potential audience you can expect to build. For most businesses, the goal of social media is to start a relationship with the customer match that in the end results in a monetary relationship.
Social media gets you attention, engagement from prospective customers, incremental revenue from existing customers, qualified sales leads and customer feedback all packaged in one of the most cost-efficient marketing vehicles you can develop. Look to the site not only for increased customer acquisition and sales but product improvement ideas and customer collaboration from your followers. Done right, it’s a guaranteed healthy ROI year after year and enhances the value of a life-time customer.
Give the site a personality. Start with the name. There’s lots of websites with cute names but “the name is on the door” philosophy is an old standby that continues to work no matter how communication channels evolve. Whatever the site is about, reflect it in the name. This will help you down the road in many ways including your number one challenge of traffic building. Even in the new marketing, basic branding rules still apply.
You can add to the personality of the site by enlisting bloggers who can make humor work, be controversial or find people who have charismatic writing styles. Create a working contract with content providers of some sort for example, maybe bartering goods and/or services or traffic driving partnerships, if they are consistent, good contributors. Team blogs is a plus. When developing the site’s personality not only should you enlist industry veterans or team leaders but talk to as many people as you can outside the niche as to what sites they visit now and why. Many times good ideas come from other industries.
Provide your visitors some kind of offer. Trial subscriptions, product samples, e-certificates, the list goes on. Give users something in return for their time. Get engagement immediately. Incidentally, all levels of audiences respond to offers. Find a good one or keep changing it up until you do. Your creativity in this area helps define your site’s personality.
Spend time on the design – nothing portrays personality more than the look and feel of it all. Most professional designers have experience on what works and what doesn’t.
Content is everything. Creating a site that works is like making sales calls. The more calls you make, the more chance you will sell something. The more blog posts, the greater chance of being indexed by search engines or other social websites. The more daily visits, the faster the track to critical mass. Don’t just recycle industry news, have content providers give a viewpoint, what the news means to a specific industry or team blog about the pros and cons. Quality posts are more important that quantity posts. Try to find content providers that write with an “infotainment” style – information you need to know written in an entertaining style. In the end, your content must provide need-to-know, fact and opinion-based material with a built in resource center—a way in which other people can find and trade information. It’s all about what a visitor gets from you. You really have one shot at a first time visitor to make them a repeat viewer.
Create partnerships. It’s a lot easier to open the box and work with others then to go the road alone. No matter how established a brand, driving interest on the web comes from connecting with others through the entire stakeholder database and yes, sometimes even through the competition. Reciprocal linking is important. Most organizations are open to this as they face the same challenges of providing good content. Spend time, money and effort on building the critical mass even if that means you need outside help. There are organizations that help with SEM, SEO, and all the actions you need to build traffic.
Different types of Social Media usage with attributes that work:
www.hperlocavore.ning.com is a social media site that connects people who want to yard share. A hyperlocavore is a person who tries to eat as much food locally, as possible. Users either have garden skills or land to share and want to take advantage of peer to peer agriculture. This community enlists the users’ help to build critical mass. And, they offer ways to do it including asking you to join and invite friends, follow and retweet, blogroll with them, Blog about the subject and link back to them. They even offer a graphic to add to your blog or site. If you tell users you need their help to support the cause, they will help.
Word of mouth counts more than you think. Viral scripts such as postcards, and referral scripts give visitors the tools to help drive traffic to the site. Use these types of tools whenever possible. Again, visitors will help attract other visitors.
Con-Way, Inc. is a truck and transportation logistics provider that uses social media to engage with customers in a very creative way – using Twitter, Con-Way launched a “new members only” page that pushes out load listings to its’ twitter followers. While the listings are on their site, this makes use of pushing content out to mobile devices, a form of communication heavily relied upon by their customers. Content is the key driver.
www.babycenter.com is a fine example of a community that uses content and includes an editorial advisory board with impressive credentials. The site is owned by Babycenter L.L.C and is a member of the Johnson and Johnson family. Not only does the site include top-notch content, but it groups the content for traffic traction. The site offers communities within communities relying on specific niche information needs versus general. Offers are everywhere. Community engagement is high. Design is outstanding. This site is a clear best in practice benchmark about how to use content marketing to build a community.
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