In a digital age, marketers need to build a cohesive social media marketing strategy that captures all levels of customers – from passive browsers to frequent buyers. As a result of social technologies, consumers now have a lot more voice in shaping brands. Prosumers have emerged as a vital category of consumers that require additional cultivation, as they are dedicated brand advocates and have a wider reach than the average social consumer.
Alvin Toffler coined the term “prosumer” in his 1980 book The Third Wave as a way to define a customer who blurs the line between a “consumer” and “producer.” Prosumers are enthusiastic early adopters and often live digitally-connected lifestyles. They are frequently online, often through multiple devices, and spend a larger portion of their discretionary income on entertainment. While prosumers represent a niche community of brand ambassadors, they are significant group for marketers to start catering to because this group can generate a lot of social buzz.
Prosumers are valuable brand advocates
In the current social media landscape, customers are encouraged to engage with their favorite brands and businesses through social media, mobile apps and contests. However, few companies have figured out the best strategy to influence these social customers. Prosumers enjoy being part of the R&D process and want to shape the products that they buy. As we’ve seen with NikeiD - letting consumers design their own shoes – or Zazzle – giving consumers the opportunity to be a product designer – consumer-generated content is a valuable method of engaging fans. These types of programs let every customer be a researcher, designer or product developer, giving them the sense that they are part of an elite group of brand loyalists.
Co-creation with prosumers
Instead of resisting prosumers, marketers need to find opportunities to facilitate prosumer activities by giving them better tools to shape and interact with the products they love. Once given the correct tools to be a social media brand advocate, prosumers can be a profitable and innovation-driving community. Brands can use prosumers for ideation, such as the best slogan for an ad campaign or whether certain styles will be a hit next fall.
But how can consumers interact with brands online? The obvious answer would be social media – which many business are already using to communicate with their brand advocates – but few are doing it in a way that provides a meaningful back-and-forth experience for their customers. Marketers will have to shape their communication strategies around co-creation, skill-building and productivity. Providing a venue for consumers to upload their own content and share their brand experiences with their extended network is an essential method to make prosumers feel a personal connection with brands.
In an age where social media and brand image are irrevocably linked, brands and businesses need methods of managing their social media brand activists. In social business, the most loyal fans aren’t just supporting brands, they define a brand.
As a result of social technologies, fans now have a global voice – and a platform to share their interests, product ideas and feedback. When it comes to how businesses plan their marketing spending, it makes sense to pay attention to what their customers are saying about their brand and to reward them for their loyalty.
The most important customers that marketers struggle to cultivate are their social brand ambassadors. These are fans that are highly influential on social media, and often follow the brand across several social media platforms. There are three levels of brand ambassadors:
- Brand browsers: these are customers who occasionally visit their favorite brand’s Facebook page and may even like a few articles or photos. They are at the first level of engagement and need extra encouragement to keep coming back.
- Brand loyalists: These social media butterflies “like” every Facebook post and even follow brands across several social media channels. They are likely to frequently visit their favorite brands’ social networks, but don’t add their own content or share with their extended networks.
- Brand accelerators: These loyal customers are extremely valuable to brands because they refer products or promotions across several social channels. They are also highly influential fans and can influence their network.
How can brands and businesses move their customers up the brand ambassador value chain? Here are some key tips to turning passive social media users into loyal brand accelerators.
1. Identify your “brand superstars”: Who are your most vocal and dedicated social brand ambassadors? As a recent study by Forrester Research of the value of Facebook fans has shown, Facebook is a valuable channel for ambassador cultivation: Facebook fans are significantly more likely to purchase, engage with and recommend brands that they “like”.
2. Build a community: Most marketers already know that creating a Facebook page for their fans to congregate is a social media marketing must have. However, occasionally posting updates doesn’t equal community outreach. Facebook should be the platform to launch a brand advocacy program and engage customers one-on-one.
3. Ideation – By providing interesting ways for customers to interact with brands through a series of ideation, trivia and customer feedback activities, businesses can learn valuable insights from their fans.
4. Engagement: For most marketers, “engagement” is the magic word when it comes to their social media marketing campaign. Providing relevant and interesting content for your customers to share identifies brands as thought leaders and proves that they’re not trying to hound Facebook “likes”.
5. Encourage sharing: To build an effective social campaign, brands need to locate their brand accelerators and reward them for their loyalty. Providing coupons or special promotions as rewards for sharing content and engagement encourages fans to continue their relationship with the brand.
Each of these five aspects is extremely effective in moving fans from passive visitors to highly influential brand accelerators.
By Natham Brumby
Nathan Brumby is CEO of Australian company Deputy.com, which helps companies become more efficient by running daily business operations in the cloud.
These days it’s less a case of social media for your business and more a case of social media in your business.
It could be that social networking in the business world will far outstrip the time we spend on social media. We will run team projects, talk to customers, collaborate, and make decisions as if we live in a permanent social universe. There will be no blur between life and work.
But this time, it will nurture, not crush us. The boom in social business software is clearly here, and the benefit for any company is obvious. Your teams communicate better with each other, silos are broken down, and your customers are more directly engaged via social tools that extend out to them.
For SMBs, social business will increase their agility and enable them to get to know their customers, allowing them to be more responsive, and scale up quickly by building a strong personable brand. In this new age of micro-entrepreneurship, the art of winning business is driven by your ability to make your offering connect with people on the web.
That means your own staff must connect more efficiently with each other. Indeed, big bets are now being placed on that future. Microsoft has made its move, reportedly splurging $1 billion to buy Yammer, an enterprise social networking platform that allows employees to connect, collaborate and share ideas. Experts say they will tack it onto their Office, Sharepoint, and Exchange mail software.
Businesses get social
Salesforce has also recently bought Buddy Media, which helps businesses run marketing and branding campaigns across social networks and other online destinations. And, software giant Oracle has just swallowed Collective Intent and Virtue, which will enable it to build a social relationship platform for businesses. As social has invaded our personal lives, so the corporate world follows.
This is not a technology story anymore, however. It’s about getting the most out of your human capital, and enabling the creative classes to get your business to innovate. After all, business is ultimately a people management challenge, and staff want to have a social system that makes it easier to get their tasks done. The challenge is to work out what you need to do to get a social business set up inside your company that benefits staff, and allows you to network better with current and new customers.
Products like Yammer allow organisations to offer staff Twitter and Facebook-like functionality in the workplace. They let employees set up profiles, blog, participate in forums and receive social stream updates about what their colleagues are doing.
The promise of these social tools is that they are more dynamic and creative than traditional tools, such as email. They can be integrated with other business applications.
Social and the cloud
The unique convergence of mobile devices, cloud computing and other technology platforms, is driving this revolution. They are also causing whole sectors to question what value they offer to their customers.
In her recent State of the Internet report, veteran US technology analyst Mary Meeker said the internet is now changing everything we do. Meeker calls it “the re-imagining of everything.”
This is being driven by faster connectivity, new devices, and beautiful web user interfaces. That re-imagination, Meeker points out, has changed the way we write, store and share information, take and file our photos, access our music, and of course, communicate. So why shouldn’t this creative unleashing provided by new technology make our work functions more fun and fulfilling?
The corporate world is aiming to achieve that. Definitions of social business are numerous, and new phrases such as the social enterprise, or social customer, are filling column inches in analyst reports. This time, the hype seems real, and the trend enduring.
“The social business is alive with energy and big ideas. You might call it a Renaissance of the Information Age,” said Dachis Group, an early leader in the social business consulting space. “After decades of mechanistic, de-humanising, process-oriented management dogma, progressive organisations are waking up to the disturbing truth that they’ve squeezed all the creativity out of their business. When companies embrace organic, passionate, socially savvy activities, they bloom.”
Communication and sharing
The foundation of a social business is an internal social platform for communication. A plethora of technology companies have sprung up to meet that opportunity. The social business movement is being enabled by the new lean web, as exemplified by the stripped back design chic of online storage offerings such as Dropbox, and Asana, a workflow software provider aiming to change the way people collaborate.
We all found that social networking made it easier to connect with our universe of friends. It makes sense that now we can communicate instantly via online tools, the workspace would also adopt these ways of being. The biggest impediment to business efficiency is email. It drowns us, wastes our time, delays decision-making, and doesn’t meet our communication needs.
Consultancy Magnet 360 has defined a social business as one that uses networked platforms to connect people, processes and systems in order to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time. Put simply, our work tasks and activities will flow to us like our social streams do.
As Magnet 360 point out, “traditionally, when businesspeople log into their tools and systems, they have to go find what they’re looking for. The social business lets important content and information find the user, based on their profile and preferences.
All about the conversation
In the social business world, individuals jump into conversations, communicate and swap ideas, creating an environment that is impossible to achieve via the static world of email. There is no latency, and social channels can create better interactions with customers and strategic allies.”
Furthermore, companies have spent large in previous generations to try and reach new customers and build a loyal audience. By creating social channels with those customers, businesses can get instant feedback, and improve their services.
This marks a shift away from old transactional systems that retain a distance between the company and its customer. Those days are in the past.
“By getting rid of outdated company policies and conservative hierarchy structures, a company can use social media tools to connect to its client base, bond its employees, and give its customers real people to talk to,” said Christoph Schmaltz, a consultant at Headshift, a unit of Dachis Group. Bottom line, people want to connect with other people, not companies.
The good news is that SMBs stand to win big, and grow faster than large monolithic organisations if they get it right. The lessons and behaviours on the consumer web are significant.
Many of us now use online news aggregation services to filter the information we want to get. We share and curate content on our personal social networks. We swap ideas and pose questions.
In the new attention economy, where everybody is shouting to get their message heard, we are now applying the same behaviour. We digest other people’s innovation and try to apply it to the way we present and sell our services. The web is the platform for us to disseminate our business message to new audiences and customers.
We are constantly redefining and fine tuning those messages and stories, and uploading fresh content to stay relevant and interesting. The only way to stay creative and stand out is to give social tools to your teams to allow that innovation to happen.
Republished with authors permission. View original article here
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“How do I get more fans?” I hear this a lot. I’ve written about how to get more followers a few times, so instead of the same old, I thought I’d address this to folks who are working on growing themselves to be a person who has something of a growing (or huge) platform and is trying to understand how to use social platforms to build something better/deeper/more. And there might be a good place to start. “WHY” are you seeking to get more fans? And do you really want fans?
What Are Fans?
I’m a fan. For instance, I’m a fan of Lorin and Bassnectar. By “fan,” I mean that I like his music, and appreciate some of the media he puts out. In the fan relationship, Lorin wants a few things from me:
- Support. And online, this means tweets and likes and things.
- Money. He would love it if I buy his records when they come out.
This is a really simple relationship. In the “fan” perspective, if I get the occasional @ reply from @bassnectar on Twitter, I feel that little “oooh! He spoke to me!” And that’s it. I don’t think that someday we’ll work on a track together. I don’t expect him to hang out with me at a concert. That’s it.
Why Community Members are WAY Cooler Than Fans
By comparison, I hung out with Sabrina at the annual PRSA event at the end of last year. We talked for a while. I got to hear what was going on in her world. I listened to some of the challenges of her role, and basically spent simple time with her. She then left her job, went to another organization, and convinced them I should keynote their May event. Thus, I got to see Sabrina again, hear about her father’s stories of Pakistan, and about her upcoming vacation. Hopefully, I added value to her event, too.
In my community are mentors, thinkers like Charlie Green, author of several bestselling books on consulting and leadership and generally smart guy, andTim Sanders, the original Lovecat, and someone who’s working on some really cool stuff that I’m proud to be learning about. I can follow them from afar, and I can dip in and talk with them personally when I have a need, and if they’re not too busy for me.
Communities are made up of multiple levels of peers. Sometimes the community I have the honor to serve hires me for something and other times, I hire it. I spent a day with Dr. Nick Morgan learning more about how to do better at speaking, and I learned so much that I’m still unpacking everything that came from that single day.
Thank goodness that I’m much more than a fan of these people, and I’m grateful that none of them are my fans.
What Does it Take to Nurture These Relationships?
A community-minded relationship requires that you think (always) in three dimensions:
- What do I offer that can help others?
- Who do I know that can help this person?
- How can I best work with this person?
To nurture those kinds of relationships requires more than a few considerations and preparations. Prepare for bullets:
- Keep the simplest of databases, even Evernote, to list names, contact info, and what people might need/want.
- Learn to make eye contact, and remember people’s names. Hard to be very personable or a community person if you’re bad with names. It takes practice, but it’s very doable.
- Do your damnedest to always find the time to spend a short while with any who linger. No, this doesn’t scale. Same with online. When you can, talk back and make connections, and talk about them and what they’re into.
- Open the circle to be inclusive. If you’ve ever met me in person at a conference, you’ve probably seen this one: when people come over, I just open the circle such that even more people can talk with each other. It’s the same online. Talk to the new folks just as much as you talk to those you’ve known a while. (Maybe more!)
- Always remember that you serve the community. It is never yourcommunity. If a roomful of people are wearing shirts with your face on it, you’re still the servant and the participant. Lead from the floor, and be inclusive in that leadership.
In most of these cases, those are both offline and online bits of advice. Here are some online bits in particular.
- You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you, but it’s wayimportant to reply back as often as possible to those who message you.
- Having a fan page is tricky. It means you’re accepting the concept of “fan.” But should you have one, try to let it be YOU populating it and doing the conversing. I’m proud of Deepak Choprah (who I’m trying to get for an interview on this subject) and Nikki Sixx, of all the odd pairings, for running their own presence on places like Google+. The difference is vast.
- Be where you can best support the experience. If you can’t manage to have a profile active and communicate back and forth on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Soundcloud, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever, then don’t. But be where you are. And make it the best possible experience you can make it.
- “Behind the scenes” is for fans. “Part of the story” is for participants in a community. Find ways to get people into the action.
- The more ways you can connect other people together at the peer level, the more it’s about your community and not you-worship.
- Check yourself frequently. Eat humility every single day. Every time you feel like you’re all that and a bag of chips, talk yourself back out of it. Go do something for people who need it more. Whatever. But never let yourself believe for a minute that you deserve a pedestal. That neverturns out well.
So, Get Fans If You Want
Or, make the world amazing by participating in a community of people you can care about and that you can admire, and who you can help whenever you can. Don’t build community around your book or your album. Build it around the bigger flag you fly, no matter what the current project is named. Make sure of that, because you’re going to have a next whatever, and if you’re lucky, people are going to remember you and the flag you fly, not the book title or album title or whatever.
And if you want more? Never fret that argument that it’s quality not quantity. You can have both. The more amazing people I meet in my travels, the more I know this to be true.
Republished with author’s permission from original post by Chris Brogan