Effective Social Media Marketing: Living a life worth tweeting about

New York-New York Hotel & Casino

Last week the girlfriend and I took a trip to Las Vegas. (Hence the slight lull in posts. Sorry ’bout that!) While I was there, much to her chagrin, I posted notes and pictures to my Brightkite account – which cross posted to my Twitter, Flickr and Facebook profiles as well. Not surprisingly, I always get more interaction on these kinds of posts than I ever do putting up links to blog posts. It’s nice to vicariously join someone on their vacation.

If you’re trying to generate more business through social media, this is kind of important. It shows that when you provide something real that is happening, people will respond to it much more than if you’re simply throwing more messaging at them.

You may already know this, if you enjoy using social in your personal life. When you talk about events in your real life, your real friends respond. When you post about offers or products or something company-related, it seems to fade into the rest of the promotional noise.

My experience is that whenever your company has ANY kind of event, you should be sharing it. One great example of this is the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Flickr page. They seem to take photos of everything they do, and share them with the community. These posts don’t say, “Support the LAFD” all over them – they don’t have to. Seeing what these people do for the City inherently sells their importance to the community. They’re far more interesting than my piddly Vegas vacation pics, but they follow the same logic: Showing people an interesting something, rather than asking them to click on something.

Of course, reaching out to the community isn’t the same as selling a product. A better example of that is the University of Phoenix’s YouTube channel. Do you see something different about this page, compared to other YouTube channels you may have seen? Besides the branding and the layout, they are not drawing attention to their own videos, or their own recent activity. They are instead turning the focus to their fans – highlighting the commentary section. Rather than making this channel solely promotional, they invite others to leave comments publicly about them. So instead of making the channel entirely promotional, it becomes a place where others can take part in conversations with University of Phoenix directly – which is what social networking is supposed to be all about.

Don’t think of social media as the last step people take before deciding to take the plunge and buy something. Instead, think of it as a way to make friends and get them on your side. Once you’ve done that, think about what people would want to see and do when they get to your page, profile, channel, or whatever it is you’ve set up. Video, photography and Flash games are all great ways to get people to interact with your brand, if you can make it interesting.

Speed Racing is a game on Facebook application that is very popular. And while eBay Motors did not write the application, they were instrumental in getting products placed there. So as people play the game, buying new cars and upgrading them with parts, the eBay Motors brand is ever present. The game gives them the idea to pimp out their own cars, and gives them one name to associate with finding the right parts for the job. They may not be engaging users directly, but they are giving users something they want to do.

So there are ways to use social to get people to learn more about your company and product, but the ones that work do not force users to do anything. I believe the reason is that people are not coming to social because they have a problem to solve or are looking to buy something to fill a need. You find more people like that on search engines. Instead, people are looking for new experiences, and you can give them that while also familiarizing them with what you do.

It isn’t as simple as saying, “x number of people are on Facebook, so all I need to do is be there, and I can expect y number of customers.” The expression probably reads more like, “x number of people are on Facebook, so if I engage as many people as I can with something interesting and entertaining that’s relevant to what I do, I can expect y number of customers from search, e-mail sign-ups, direct site traffic, walk-ins to my stores…”

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