Social Engagement: Can you scale it enough to hack growth?
In my previous post, I went over ways to increase email open rates with contextual social engagement. Although the post received a great response, there were lots of questions about whether social can be used as a reliable, scalable means of growth. The basic gist of them all: without an army of social media interns to “contextually engage” loads of people around the clock, can social really be scaled to hack growth? The answer is yes, social marketing scales and scales growth as long as you focus on high-impact, feasible tactics. Instructions for three very simple hacks any marketer can do (for no expense but the cost of their time) follow.
Scalable Tactic 1: Use Hashtags to Join Local Conversations
Staying close to your audience is important. However, if you want to stay close when your audience moves physically, you’ll realize that being a nomadic marketer gets very expensive. Besides that, if you attend everything from consumer electronic shows to startup marathons, you’ll thin your message (not to mention your stamina) as you try to attend every last networking event across the country. A solution lies in the geographically neutral, comfortably remote hashtag. Hashtags are your free backdoor ticket to the conversation stream of any social or industry event. With all the events that your audience could be attending, from #CES2012 to #StartupWeekend, hashtags make it possible for you to participate in conference conversations–even simultaneously–without leaving the office or spending any money . The only cost is the time you spend tweeting directly at the hashtag. (Pro tip: Always make sure you’re contributing something of value. Always.)
At Simple Story Videos, we engaged the #StartupWeekend hashtag and were able to remind and inform our audience about our brand. Queries ranging from price promotions to best brand story of the weekend poured into the hashtag, which gave us many perfect opportunities to connect by tweeting answers and, when it seemed apropos, follow on questions. Of course, there’s no need to wait for a query in your wheel-house. If you want to start the conversation yourself, asking open-ended questions that allow attendees to engage quickly is a rarely-fails technique. You can drill down with respondents to maintain your connections after the conference is over.
Scalable Tactic 2: Leverage Social Influencers
It goes without saying that quality is better than quantity in the social realm. When your goal is to develop an efficient outreach system, simply casting a wide net and hoping for the best isn’t the solution. You can’t afford to waste your efforts targeting people who can’t help spread your message. Instead, focus on selecting individuals that have deep social footprints and very politely, very subtly enlisting them to spread your content . It is important to note that while your goal is to spread your message and grow your audience, you’re not going to get very far without offering something of value. There is no magic solution for identifying what content an influencer will deem valuable (sorry) so get creative and focus on offering something that’s funny, helpful, relevant, or interesting. After you’ve got something to share, use tools like Rapportive and Klout to find top influencers within organizations, identify their most-used social media sites, and engage them accordingly.
After selecting your influencers, the next step is scaling your messaging with personalized content. At Simple Story Videos, we found that giving influencers something worth sharing is the best way to scale message distribution. An example of this is the way JibJab literally leaves holes for their audience to fill in to animated videos. By the time someone is done customizing a video on their platform, something of value has already been created. JibJab leverages their target’s networks by reaching and exposing their brand throughout the user’s network. The JibJab approach is aspirational for most marketers. If that’s the case for you, ask simple questions instead. Your questions don’t have to be worthy of Larry King either; light questions can be very engaging. If you find yourself lost for material, channel your old yearbook’s “most likely to…” superlative awards. Those are usually funny and simple enough to spur influencers’ sharing.
At Simple Story Videos, we targeted specific companies’ employees with funny tweets and encouraged them to share. This hack is easy, free, and scalable, and the returns are consistently good. For us, engaging high-level employees with Klout scores above 55 led to engagement and retweeting more than 50% of the time.
Scalable Tactic 3: Ask and Answer Questions (that lots of people read)
Initiating questions to individuals in the physical world is a great personal experience, but it isn’t scalable. Spamming followers and bombarding feeds isn’t an option; so a clever solution is asking questions in forums where anyone from the community of potential customers and interested people can answer. This requires much less effort than individual queries and helps establish credibility in your industry too. Using sites like Quora and LinkedIn discussion groups can be tremendous for added long-tail web traffic. Posting questions where brands and their employees can flex their knowledge and personality leads to a new traffic stream solely from the question page. If you’ve already written the content for a blog post, white paper or anything else, you can use that to inform your answer, and include a link to that piece for more information. My colleague at Spinankr answers questions this way from time-to-time, and said the traffic from the posts is both highly converting and persistent, with some answers pulling 5X more traffic each month than they had before being included in Quora answers.
Quora answer sharing works another way too. It can encourage potential customers to write the best possible answer and share their contribution. At SSV, we experienced multiple leads directly related to the answers shared from our questions on Quora. This solution’s broad reach allows for your potential customers to exchange personal answers and experiences worth sharing. Giving the microphone is a scalable way to get original content across. Similar to the validated learning model regarding lean startups, you can tailor your message to what your audience really wants to hear in a scalable way.
See? Social Can Scale to Scale Growth
Whether it is joining the conversation of a tech conference across the country, targeting a CEO’s Twitter account, or even asking about industry best practices or answering questions on Quora, scaling your social engagements for growth doesn’t require an intern army. Staying genuine with thought provoking questions and passing the microphone to your audience are easy ways to introduce yourselves in a large-scale, value-adding manner to hack growth.