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The Social-Media Revolution

Use Facebook and other platforms to target customers at a granular level.

It’s been about five years since we started dabbling in social media. At first it was all about the social interaction. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter were starting to gain some traction. I remember opening my Facebook account when there were only 100 million users. Now it is 1.1 billion users, and the landscape has fundamentally changed.

In the beginning, Facebook was just a bunch of college kids posting pictures of their frat parties and other personal shenanigans. It was just fun and games. Over the next few years, as their meteoric user base kept climbing and climbing, the business community woke up and began to take notice. They immediately started to market in the old-school ways by abusing the users with constant pitches, sales, promos, etc. That’s still happening to a large degree, and the results are predictably bad. Consequently, businesses will tell you they’ve tried using social media, but their results were poor to dismal. They are absolutely wrong.

The revolution in social media isn’t about posting what you ate for lunch, or where you went on your vacation, or checking in at a certain restaurant. It has much deeper meaning for your business if you use it correctly. Let’s talk about realizing the full, revolutionary potential of social media and the steps you need to take to reap the associated benefits.

Social signals and social proof
We’ll start with the end in mind. Our goals are two-fold. The first is to maintain a Top of Mind presence with our customer base. This means building out your fan page and connecting with your customers and your potential customers. These are the people with whom you will be conversing. It’s helpful to realize that most of your customers won’t be ready to buy anything from you when they see your posts. But they will probably know someone who they can recommend you to that does. This is where the Top of Mind comes into play. You want your services to be at the forefront of their thoughts.

This is pretty straightforward. What’s less obvious is what we’re looking to do. You never want to engage in blatant, in-your-face selling. Your goal is to present yourself as the pre-eminent expert or authority in your market. You want to be the one everyone goes to. To achieve this, you need to understand social signals and social proof.

Social signals are about what you pick up from conversations in your news stream. They may be local, regional, or national events. They may be items related to your market niche. They could be just about anything the social sphere is talking about. You want to enter that conversation and contribute to it.

As an example, there may be significant buzz surrounding a local event for which you’re doing the T-shirts or signage. You can actually help to promote the event by posting useful and interesting photos, videos, or commentary about what you’re doing to support the event. You might make a free offer to your fan base that helps promote the event. You want to add value to the event and build goodwill and awareness for your business at the same time.

Design your posts to be shared
This is where the viral element shows itself. Viral means simply that the post is passed along to a greater number of people than the number originally seeded. As an example, you have 500 fans. You post something and 10 of them share with their friends or fans. The average friend/fan base is 266. The secondary exposure to your initial 500 views is now 10 x 266 = 2660. If the post is really good, it will get shared again and again.

This is an oversimplification, but the method is completely viable. A good friend of mine started a new fan page with zero Likes in May. He wrote a book that will not be published and available until August. He has been using this method for the last six weeks and, as of July 1, he has more than 17,000 Likes—and they are growing at more than 900 a day. I’ve been watching it daily. The growth is amazing. That leads us to social proof.

Social proof is where the market validates you. In late 2012, Nielsen, one of the nation’s largest media companies, released a market survey showing consumer/advertiser trust. Some interesting surprises were in store:

Consumer Trusts Advertiser Claims: 13%
Consumer Trusts Independent Reviews: 70%
Consumer Trusts Peer (Personal Friend) Reviews: 92%

What’s surprising is the year before, Independent Reviews were 74% and Peer Reviews were 88%. From the numbers it should be crystal clear the need to be connected to as many friends and fans as you can and communicating with them as often as possible. People buy from those they know, like, and trust.

A significant number of Likes will be a low-level form of social proof or endorsement that you’re bringing value to the table. The next level up are shares, where your friends and fans are actually sharing what you post. You can use the same strategy to get your posts shared as you did for Likes. The value of a share is greater because of the peer-to-peer effect.

I’ve used the Facebook example as a starting point. I also use LinkedIn, Twitter, and now Pinterest and Instagram in the same way. Because we’re in the graphic-communication business, we have all kinds of arresting, likeable, shareable imagery we can use.

Data metrics and analytics
The real, revolutionary, business changing, disruptive technology of social media lies in the underlying analytics. These are big data, also known as predictive modeling. You’ll recognize it if you’ve ever used Amazon, Netflix, or iTunes. Basically, it’s a way of showing you what others viewed or bought based on your own browsing and buying habits.

Everything that happens in social media—every post, comment, Like, share, and tag—is tracked. Everything in every profile is tracked. Log in and duration is track. Every search you make is tracked. Everything, related or nonrelated, is tracked. Furthermore, the next-generation database software behind all of this works differently from what was available in the past.

This software looks for patterns in the data. Nonrelated events can take place and resulting behavior is detected and revealed. If a restaurant chain were using one of these data engines, it could identify an increase in the sales of certain menu items based on time of day, weather, geo-location, or time of year. That’s a very simple example, but it’s totally relevant.

As it relates to social media, every advertiser (including you) has access to these data through their application programming interface (API). Now I know this sounds pretty geeky, but it really isn’t. Let me use Facebook again as an example to show you what you do with this.

Suppose you live in Phoenix, AZ. Your market is high school and college, sports-related events—specifically, inter-school rivalries. To get the population (number) of prospects to reach here, you simply need to use the Facebook Ad Manager to make your selections. You’ll need to know the names of all the high schools and colleges in Phoenix, as well as all of the competing schools that are part of the rivalries. You will also need to know the city names of the surrounding cities—Scottsdale, Mesa, etc.

You simply enter these names into the target search box, separated by commas. For more advanced searches you can use Boolean logic (and, or, not) to help you to narrow down even more. You’ll notice that as you type in the tag criteria, the size of your potential market changes right before your eyes. The more you put in, the more targeted the potential, but also the smaller the population. I would much rather have a very highly targeted, relevant, potential list than a general list that will not convert effectively.

In our example, you’ll get a list of everyone who’s identified themselves as living in one of the Phoenix-area cities, high schools, or colleges, and who has something to do with sports-rivalry-related events. By using the and Boolean, you can get very, very specific between schools. Depending on your niche or area of specialization, you can actually target to a unit of one.

Interestingly, potential job seekers are using this technique to dial in Facebook ads targeted to the CEO or president of a specific company. Think about it. Couldn’t you do the same thing for companies with which you want to do business? You could target key personnel within the company well in advance of your initial contact with them. You’re after the “I’ve seen you around!” effect. This is a level of familiarity deliberately calculated in advance.

All of these dialed-in search criteria get you a highly targeted group for ad and content delivery. Here is how it would work. In our example, you make rivalry T-shirts. You have a fan page to that effect. If you know a rivalry match is coming up in football, you would narrow your search down to football from all sports. Your ad would only show for the two schools in the rivalry. Your ad would be a provocative, controversial campaign with a Like This button. You could alternate two versions between the two schools. Like This for School A and Like This for School B. Each Like adds a Like to your rivalry fan page. Pretty soon, you have thousands of Likes for your page and what you do.

In marketing, we call this kind of targeting granular—as in a grain of sand. The more granular you can get and the more precise your messaging, the higher the conversion. You’re after creating a huge list of Likes, shares, and followers. It’s getting easier and easier to find exactly who your ideal customer or client is, and social media is the absolute best way of doing it. The potential is unlimited.

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