To sell effectively you have to know your audience. This holds true if you’re selling face to face or if you’re reaching out to send messages to future customers via social media. If you don’t now know your audience you need to research and learn. Let’s take the mystery of how to use social media for marketing by applying all the knowledge we know already of how to sell our offering.
When I’m in a sales environment, I keep my antennae up. I’m listening. I’m probing trying to find out what matters most to the person I’m talking to. I’m noting body language. If I hear something of interest I probe for further details trying to understand the issue so I can be helpful and informative. Only once I know the person; know the problems they face do I then start delivering messages. There’s no point selling them on an increase in revenue when they’re hoping for a reduction in costs.
It is also only then I decide how to deliver the message in a way the audience will understand. It’s the same for social media.
You have to understand your audience; understand what matters to them; which social media they are most receptive to; before you transfer the knowledge you have.
There is a reason why multimedia messages like Power Point or video on the web work. Because all of us learn differently. Some of us are audio learners (we can remember what we hear) some of us are better visual learners. One of my children is a tactile learner, she memorizes wonderfully when she copies and rewrites her notes. You have to figure out if your audience is reading tweets or trusting their friends’ status line postings. Are they getting their information from their favorite bloggers or are they trying to gain consensus from what all their friends think. What is their optimal method of information capture?
Forester has done a study categorizing the different types of participants within social networks. Recently they augmented the list with a new category. Think about which category you fall into and then you can begin to think about what categories your audience (your prospects or future customers) fall into. You also have to think about who the players are on social networks that can help you; that can influence buyers on your behalf. Let’s face it; some messages motivate your audience to get passionate and want to share (which is the essence of viral marketing and even social networking to begin with).
Forester groups consumers participating in social networks into the following categories:
- Creators are the types who publish a blog and web pages; they upload videos and music. They write articles and stories and post them.
- Conversationalists (the new category this year) update status lines on Facebook and post updates on Twitter.
- Critics post ratings and reviews, they comment on other people’s blogs, they contribute to on-line forums, and contribute to wikis.
- Collectors use RSS feeds to stay up on what’s happening out there, they vote on web sites, they add tags to web pages.
- Joiners (finally a category that doesn’t start with a “C”!) merely maintain a profile on a social networking site and visit sites.
- Spectators read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos, read forums, read ratings and tweets.
- And there is a small bucket of Inactives.
24% are Creators, 33% are Conversationalists, and 37% are Critics. Joiners and Spectators are 59% and 70% respectively. (Note: people can qualify for more than one category) Obviously a select few are influencing the population. While the majority sit back and glean the messages posted (and reposted) by others.
We know these social media participants are a valuable and largely populated group.
- Nielsen Online tells us that social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular online activity ahead of email, member communities are visited by 67% of the global online population. The time they spend on social networks is growing 3 times more than the overall internet rate, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time.
- There are 350 million active Facebook users. Half of active users log on every day. If Facebook were a country it would be the eighth most populated ahead of Japan and Russia.
- LinkedIn hit the 50 million member mark and adds members at a rate of about one per second. It has gone from about 3.6 million unique monthly visitors a year ago to 7.7 million. Their first million members took 477 days in 2003. The last million members took only 12 days.
- Eleven percent of online adults use Twitter or update their status online. Worldwide visitors to Twitter approached 10 million last February up 700% from the year prior.
- Out of all the social networks, Facebook is number one. MySpace is second, twitter third. LinkedIn is fifth, Classmates seventh.
Seventy three percent of social networking users from the Baby Boomer generation are on Facebook (40% on MySpace, 13% on Twitter and LinkedIn). An almost like number of social network using Generation Xers are on Facebook (76%) and 57% are on MySpace, 18% on Twitter, 13% are on LinkedIn. From amongst Generations Y folks who are on social networks 65% are on Facebook, 75% are on MySpace. So the Gen Y & Z folks are lurking on MySpace more than Facebook (the only groups doing this) while they ar barely on LinkedIn. Obviously they’re spending more time listening to the latest music than job hunting. Crazy, no good, mixed up kids today. (Just kidding.)
If you’re in business you know the Pareto Principle or what’s commonly called the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of your customers account for 80 percent of your business (or the converse…that 80% of your customers account for 20% of your revenue). Take it a step further within social networking influencers: from amongst that 20% is a 1% group of people who are movers and shakers. These are the people who are discovering new, exciting things and reposting the links; bookmarking on Digg. Finding this narrow niche of folks lets you reach many more buyers amongst your audience.
It has been noted the top 10 Diggers, from a population of approximately 450,000 registered Digg users, were responsible for an astonishing 30% of front-page stories (alternatively, the top 100 Diggers were responsible for over 55% of front-page stories). You have to figure out how to appeal to this one percent!
The great things about social networking and the transfer of knowledge is that for the most part, it ignores boundaries. Your message can transcend any given group. Your message can travel outside of the company, outside of the group of people who you went to high school with, outside of your industry.
We’re straying outside of the social part of social networks now. It’s a tough question trying to decide if the people on Facebook or Twitter at work are working or goofing off. We’re getting these messages at our desks on a computer during the day, in the den on our laptops at night, or “on the go” from our smart phones. The messages are traveling in real time thanks to our newfound mobility.
There are positive effects of social networking on internal collaboration; on sharing of important information; from the transfer of knowledge. If you’re going to deliver a message, think about your audience. What do they need to hear in order to motivate them to buy? What will be interesting enough for your audience to want to share?
One of the best methods for social media audience research is for you to get involved as a participant. You don’t necessarily have to become one of Forester’s “Creators” nor even a “Conversationalist” (although that might be a desirable goal and may come in time). Take your expertise on your topic and dive in. Using our car dealer as an example again…you know cars and what car buyers are interested in. You know these things intuitively. Stop thinking like a car dealer and start thinking like a car buyer.
So look at social networks with a car buyer’s eye. Go to the sites car buyers would be interested in and start reading. Note the buzz. Learn from the general sites about the specific ones. In other words, go to Facebook and find out what car buyers are talking about. Find out what specific automotive sites they go to for their research. Find out what social networks they like to hang out at to talk cars. Discover which automotive bloggers are respected; who gets read; who gets reposted.
Other examples, if you run a charity, think like a donor (or if it’s a big charity I guess you should think like a philanthropist). If you run a painting business think like a designer or a home owner.
Two things will happen from this research: 1. You’ll learn how to best communicate with your audience. You’ll learn what social media to focus your energies on. You’ll learn what messages resonate. The ultimate achievement in this pursuit will be when YOU become a well know industry expert who benevolently answers questions and shares expertise. Your messages will be appreciated and honored without you even trying to sell anything. All from being a good listener and observer. And 2. You will reduce the “fear of the unknown” factor associated with your social media marketing plan.