IN-NW 2014 has come and gone, but the wisdom exchanged there is timeless. So in case you missed it, here are our top takeaways from Washington’s premier Social Media and Digital Marketing Conference.
1. Engagement is a two-way street.
“Likes” and unique visitors are substantial metrics, but the true measure of a company’s success is the formation of active communities around its content. In the digital age, hearing back from the customer is the norm—embrace that feedback and respond in kind. Define your engagement strategy as involving another person and then have meaningful conversations with your clientele. Those relationships are today’s most valuable currency.
2. Nurture your community.
Happy customers can become brand ambassadors, so don’t hesitate to empower their participation. Invite them to create content for you and reward the best submissions. The consumer’s allegiance to your brand will be that much stronger for it. Once a solid back and forth has been established with your contributors, you can begin to curate people, rather than content, to showcase your product.
3. Take a page from the comic books.
No one does brand ambassadorship like the comics industry. Once wooed, fans will practically take to the streets to promote this issue or that superhero movie, all backed by the credibility of their own experience. Replicating that kind product-consumer love is tough, but imitation of what comics do best is the first step: wide digital distribution, omni-channel marketing and innovative, transmedia storytelling.
4. Go LIVE.
In an age of fragmented audiences, nothing brings people together quite like watching live events. Whether it’s the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards, in the moment programming has tremendous potential to ignite online commentary—a phenomenon you can seize upon. De-mystify your brand and tell your story by inviting passionate users to chat with you, real-time. Use tools like Google Hangouts to create unscripted conversations with your audience. You never know what unexpected “Aha” moments will endear your next customer.
5. Create “you had to be there” experiences.
No online campaign can pack as much of an emotional punch as an in-person interaction. Invite your audience to experience something unique and memorable in the physical world and then let their personal social media channels do the talking. Your sponsorship won’t go unnoticed.
6. Leverage your partnerships.
Whether it’s with a company, a community or an individual, aligning your brand with another can strengthen the reach and impact of your message. Look for partners that already have an emotional connection to your target audience and know what assets you bring to the table. For an example, take a cue from Hilliard’s Beer and its “Joint Effort” ale campaign with Red Hook.
7. Visualize information.
Images rule the web, and so do short attention spans. Be mindful of both when communicating information to your audience. Infographics can be a great solution for putting hard data into an easy to comprehend and visually appealing context. But it takes much more than clip art and fancy typography. A good infographic is eye-catching, focuses on communicating a single message and only includes text that compliments the imagery, not the other way around.
8. Keep your social media authentic.
Pinpoint your voice and stick to it across all your platforms. The internet has no tolerance for posturing and if you don’t know where your message is coming from, it’ll flounder. As Director of the Communication Leadership graduate program Hanson Hosein says, there’s a fine line between authenticity and salesmanship—tread it carefully.
9. Don’t bully people into your digital space.
Let audience participation in your channels feel organic. Constant reminders to “Like,” share and follow your content can alienate visitors. If the content is top notch, customers won’t need your hand-holding to go further down the funnel.
10. Let your values do the talking.
Finally, every single message doesn’t have to be about the product. Tell the story of your values and vision to build up your brand identity. If you happen to educate your audience on an important topic along the way, the chances of them retaining and retelling the message are that much higher. For a perfect example of this, look no further than Chipotle’s viral farming advocacy ads and Cultivate festival.