Leveraging Social Media for PR and SEO

Not long ago, I was invited to a bloggers evening for chocolate.  Most who know me well, know that my passion for chocolate has made me as discerning as some are for wine.  I can taste a chocolate and discern whether the bean is mixed origin, over-roasted, has added veggie oil, too much sugar, etc. I am passionate about chocolate.

I was invited to this chocolate tasting evening by PR firm Splendid who did a fabulous job with promoting Galler chocolate through Facebook.  They leveraged Facebook to promote something everyone loves but is also a very competitive environment.  The first push was a simple free giveaway and then they followed up with contests pushing the various products they were promoting.  The initial free chocolate bar giveaway created tremendous buzz and went viral.  They then followed up with other offers and promotions and engaged their audience.  Just like Splendid, there are several steps anybody should take in order to leverage social media effectively.  These generic steps can be used for almost any business.

First and foremost, ensure you have a well optimised web presence that fully explains your product offering to the audience you are targeting.  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find a website for a company and there being nothing or it is all for a foreign country.

Make sure your product is up to scratch.  If you have doubts though, get the products right first, then go for the big push.  To push a poor product on to the market risks irreparable brand damage.  If you aren’t sure, don’t do it.

Accept the criticism along with the compliments.  Don’t alienate someone just because they don’t think your product is the bees knees.  If it is food based, everyone has different tastes.  If it is a service, your staff may have had an off day. If it is something else, you may not have been aware of the issue before launch and so take it on the chin, accept the comments and explain how you are going to fix it.  Use this as valuable consumer testing.

When you launch and create a social media page, ENGAGE.  The worst thing would be to create a fan page on Facebook and never talk to the people.  The reason Splendid did such a great job was because they engaged their audience and kept the buzz going.  Follow their example and ensure you don’t spam but alert fans when new contests go live, new discount codes are issues, new products are released or new services have gone live.

Fulfil your promises and deliver within expectations.  If you say you are giving away a free product, ensure you fulfil your promise.  Try and make sure the department responsible for getting the product to the fans ensures delivery right down to making sure the product arrives intact.  It will damage your brand if something sent  is destroyed in the post or never arrives.  China, glass, and other delicate items may do better being given way at an event rather than through the post.

Consider offline as much as online.  Many social media sites have real life gatherings that can number in the hundreds.  By sponsoring them you can get great buzz for your product and the goodwill generated will last far beyond the event.  These people are online and blogging or twittering or otherwise engaging right where you need to be.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  In the excitement of going live and out through social media, assumptions on take-up need to be made early on for stock or service levels to be committed to.  If, or rather when, these are exceeded due to the viral nature of social media, have a contingency plan in place to handle it.  End dates to offers, limited quantity warnings or sponsorship of events with capped attendance numbers can help.  Don’t promise the world and deliver Slough.

Make sure that when offers end and the main push ends you continue to engage.  The way to create brand advocates who will carry your message far and wide is through brand advocates so always remember them.  Offer them special incentives and if any reputation management needs to be handled in the future, you’ll have a group who will already be out there on the front lines, fighting for you.

Ultimately, social media and Facebook are not the traditional push media most companies are used to.  They require engagement as a pre-requisite.  Don’t use them as a way to broadcast your message but rather as a method of engagement.  Remember – just say no to social media spam.

Follow me on Twitter – @JudithLewis

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