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The adoption by the Boston Red Sox to twitter contests to score new followers has gotten me thinking about real time, location-based instaoffers. (Yup, just made up a term and a word).The latest by the Boston sports franchise is #tweetmyseat, offering the first tweeter to share his/her location along with a photo of the batter a gift basket. Cool concept, and I’m all over this when I hit Fenway on Sunday (ssh, don’t tell Mom)..but I’m curious if these schemes will offer long-term follower loyalty.

In a similar vein, @BostonTweet offers “find it” contests, sharing a picture of a gift certificate at a location and offering it up to his 20,000+ followers. They’re infrequent and random. Local Social‘s followed suit and used the planted gift card concept to drive followers of UBurger, G’vanni’s, and others to their locations to hunt down freebies.

Are these brands seeing loyalty as a result of these giveaways? Or is this more a viable strategy to drum up new interest rapidly?

We’re seeing a closer-knit brand network as a result of these promotions, and a quick surge in (inter)activity on their online feeds. But to really drive awareness and spread the word about our brands, we’re going to need to leverage some kind of cross-network promotional strategy. We’re working on it. Stay tuned.

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As a way to strengthen our business and value add to clients, we’ve been mulling over what exactly makes us quality social media marketers; what skills, traits, and experience do we possess that make us successful? As we consider expansion and to provide you with some helpful tips on how to break into social successfully, here are a few competencies this mythical Social Media “Consultant” or “Expert” (note I didn’t say “Guru” or “Ninja”– enough of that already!) should possess:

  • A good writer.  Seems like everybody’s start up blog is championing the merits of those who can write, and therefore, communicate. My recent read, Rework, even goes so far as to say it makes sense to hire people who possess basic competencies such as the ability to write well over bringing on individuals to fit an “inside the box” job description. Why does your social expert need to write well? No brainer, right? Words are his/her ammo to post content to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums, wherever, and it’s certainly embarrassing to get a tweet like this. More than someone who can contract words properly, your social media marketer is first and foremost a writer who can 1) maintain a consistent brand voice while still adding personality, 2)modify content to fit various character limits in a sensible way, 3)be comfortable writing in longer form (i.e. blogs) but understand the demand for “one stop shop” quick posts à la Twitter’s  micro blog.
  • Organized. I was that girl in high school who made solid plans for the upcoming weekend on Monday to lock in my calendar, and completed first drafts of English papers ahead of the due date. I’m still that girl who booked a B&B in Newport(have a look-see! looks delightful, doesn’t it) for the end of July. I’m also now the girl who balances multiple clients’ social media channels and has set times to check in for each client, receives and reviews daily brand Google Alerts, and checks in at the end of each week with clients for weekly summary reports.  Find someone who’s constantly meeting (and exceeding!) deadlines, since managing social is a round-the-clock responsibility and requires someone who can schedule this time and balance it among other duties.
  • Passionate about your brand. A couple points here. I’m looking for a full-time gig, and I do not apply to brands hiring in my area of interest (social media) but whose brand doesn’t excite me(sorry, Carbonite). Nothing against this brand, or any other that wouldn’t prompt me to leap out of bed to get to work every morning, but I’m so much more productive for my clients because I’ve selected ones that speak to my interests– dining out, fitness, and pets, for example. I believe in their missions, and can work well with the owners and management teams involved. Marketing is, after all, a collaborative effort. That entry-level receptionist who sends you random emails about industry events, that barista who’s in the know about other locally owned spots, or the account coordinator who’s sharing articles on the competition to stay up to speed? Those are the individuals to seek out and work in some extra responsibility making your brand known.
  • A quick (and thoughtful!) decision maker. Social is a job that doesn’t keep business hours, and any good employee or consultant is aware of this fact and is plugged in to your brand during off hours. When your store is closed or the executives have taken off for the long weekend, this person is still monitoring brand mentions and responding to inquiries. Find someone with whom you trust decisions and can think for him/herself. Surrendering complete control of your branding can be a scary thing, but the right individual will answer those tough questions and think on the fly.

Any other qualities we missed? What makes you successful as a social media marketer, or what are the traits that led you to hire someone for that role?

 

This evening, I had a conversation with a client who noted that a response I’d made to a fan through their Facebook fan page used the pronoun “I,” and my client was concerned readers would think she was the one who’d had the experience. I explained that shouldn’t be a problem, since this business, like many, isn’t branded to a specific individual. So, it got me thinking about why I manage social networks with a bit of a personal touch.

Genuinity. Readers like seeing that their source of news about a particular brand is genuinely invested and involved. I recently felt it appropriate to @ mention a designer jeans manufacturer with an obscure product question because I’d noticed semi-personal tweets coming from their twitter handle…stuff like, “x is playing on office radio today,” or “this vacation is much-needed!” I thought, this person (or maybe people, you never know!) is real, and maybe s/he has time to help me out with something. These little updates made this particular brand (@7FAM, if you were curious) more personable, so I felt comfortable reaching out.

Consistent Voice. I vary my tone, approach, and topics covered across client brands, but I maintain a consistent voice: brand-savvy, intelligent, up to date on current trends and topics (thanks Google alerts!) for all. Sure, the local burger joint is a bit more conversational, and I’ll tweet up my followers having a brew at the pub down the street, whereas I’ll keep things more buttoned up for a local non-profit, thanking readers for pointing me to relevant events. Using “I” in my posts slips in from time to time– tonight’s “I’ve taken my dog there for a few years,” for example, or, “I love Stone beer,” “I’m getting through the morning with some @Starbucks Indonesia blue…how are you coping through Monday?” Three posts that are “me” centric for three different brands. Content relevant to all of my clients is buzzing through my head– so I share it.

Avoid Sounding Corporate. Big corporations have done wonders for their social images and CRM. Starbucks is a great example here, and Skittles is another. These brands are gi-freaking-normous, but manage to engage on a daily level by reaching out to individuals to answer questions, resolve disputes, and even just shoot the breeze. No generic, “your time is important to us, please continue to hold” recordings on loop here. We’re still talking about a brand with a consistent message and voice, but at least one consumer-facing channel (twitter) is approachable to hoi polloi. What I’ve learned from these giant ‘Super Brands’ is whether you’re an army of one or one million, it never hurts to connect with your audience with a one-on-one perspective.

So. I’ll take those infamous “I”s out of posts for clients upon request, but did want to dig a little deeper into why  that personal touch is so crucial for all brands.

Which network’s check in feature offers the most value for your business?

Let’s keep it simple: you’re a burger joint and you want to increase social media traffic by offering a check in deal. You’ve decided to offer a free side of fries after 3 check-ins. So, a customer shows up, checks in, and repeats two times. On that third time, the offer is unlocked and can be redeemed with the next transaction. Great. So, we’ve engaged a customer, gotten him/her excited about a freebie, and encouraged two more visits. We’ve also got this person checking in at the location a minimum of three times. If s/he’s sharing those visits, let’s explore which network offers the best return for your business.

Facebook. Facebook rolled out the ‘Places’ feature for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and through their touch site. The complimentary business feature is Facebook Deals. Let’s consider for a minute: who are these users reaching when they use Places? These check ins post to their profiles as status updates– easily allowing a customizable commentary note alongside the location (“Best Burger in Boston!”) along with the option of adding photo content and tagging friends who are there too– whether or not they’re checking in or are even using a mobile application.

Pros here: customizable status updates allow users to interject some personality– inclining them to use this network for the check in and also to make the post a bit more ‘read-worthy’. Other location-based services push updates to Facebook anyway; they’re offering a way to contain it within their network. I’d assume even the “check in wary” are likely to try the Facebook option, since they’ve likely got a Facebook account already.

The reach: Rather than blacklist this as a con, I’ll just offer up the data: sharing a Place check in will reach only that user’s network. Facebook statistics state the average user has 130 friends. Additionally, I’m not convinced individuals have the ability to sway the purchasing decisions of their friends as much as they would be able to inspire their more anonymous networks (Twitter, for example. Followers accrue based on keywords, interests, and links shared, making that network the most “professional” in the consumer buying sense*).

Foursquare. Foursquare is entirely built around the concept of checking in. I’m inspired to check in when a business is offering something worthwhile (i.e. Live Nation’s $10 off a ticket purchase when I checked in at the House of Blues- done!), but since I don’t have an existing Foursquare network, I’m not super inclined to build one.

Pros here: For your business, I’d say Foursquare is the most buzzed-about check in service, since that’s what it was built for. Kind of works under the “keep it simple” principle– if you want to stick with a network that isn’t likely to offer other end-user components, go with this one.

The reach: It’s no secret that the maximum amount of connections/friends one can have is 6,000. So we’ll limit the reach there. Couldn’t dig up any good stats on the average user’s network size. My general bias is this is a new network (albeit with 6.5 million users and growing), and most people connect to friends they’re already linked with on Facebook. Foursquare will push to Facebook or Twitter, though. These updates are not user-customizable.

Yelp. Yelp added check ins to the canon of available functions on its mobile application last November. I wax poetic about it here. To summarize that post, Yelp check in offers work similarly to the other networks.

Pros here: Yelp offers an interesting package, since all content is tied to the main function of the site, which are user reviews of local businesses. The site prompts users to review businesses where they’ve checked in.

The reach: Similar to Foursquare, Yelp allows users to push check ins to Facebook and Twitter. Again, these posts can’t be customized– but I foresee that coming. Additionally, the mobile application gathers data on users checking in (and leaving Quick Tips)– users are ranked on a weekly basis for these contributions.

At the end of the day, we’re going to recommend Yelp to our clients, since they’re continuing to evolve their customer product and have moved into the check in space. Facebook has a similar strength going for it, but my concern is the limit of reach. Yelp connects users with other users through rankings, and also allows sharing with Facebook itself, and Twitter. They’ve established themselves as a “business conscious” network since 2005.

*I’ve opened a can of worms by implicitly championing Twitter as the right network for individuals to use persuasive buying power. More on that to come.

 

 

Hi. Local Social is Boston’s newest answer to the need of a small business to get involved in social media marketing. We’re the arms, legs, and typing hands businesses use to connect with customers in real time.

You can think of us as a boutique PR firm, a promotions team, a marketing consultant, a right-hand (wo)man, or all of the above. Armed with social media tools, we’re here to use them to help our clients find and retain new customers by engaging them in conversation. We like to chat, tweet, post, and write. Join us as we share a thought or two on social media marketing trends and best practices.