Businesses are usually at the forefront of online marketing. But when it comes to utilising social platforms, there's a lot they could learn from humble bloggers.
In this post, I look at some social promotional tactics that mega-brands could benefit from, if only they could carry them off.
Competitions have always been a popular way of promoting a product, but there are now more ways than ever of launching a giveaway.
Offering free samples on sign-up is a great way to build your email database, giving you a list of interested potential customers to target with future special offers and advertising mailers.
Direct competitions can have a similar effect, helping to build your Twitter followers and Facebook ‘likers’ - but be careful of the rules of whichever social network you choose. On Facebook, for example, it is no longer acceptable to use the 'like' button as a method of competition entry.
Finally, think about teaming up with a popular blogger in your particular industry area. They're often happy to run a competition or giveaway that's of interest to your readers and, in turn, you reach a new readership.
Remember to back up whatever approach you take with an engaging general social media campaign, to keep new readers interested in what your brand has to offer.
It's easy to think that bloggers can only be found on their blog. Often, this is far from being the case.
Many cross-post their latest blog entries on to their Facebook profiles, and tweet links to them to their Twitter followers.
Others submit their blogs and articles to social discovery sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon.
In principle, the more platforms your blog posts are advertised across, the wider your potential audience, so make sure your articles are appearing to all the relevant social network users you can find, and you have more chance of building your community.
Making a name for yourself
As your community grows, you have the chance to start encouraging your followers to agree with your brand's own guiding principles.
Individual bloggers do this by encouraging debate, and then presenting their arguments in their posts and comments; this also helps readers to feel that their opinions matter to you.
As a brand, you need to be careful that you do not seem too interested in your own agenda. You should be genuinely keen to engage with your customers and take a true interest in the feedback they provide.
One unique aspect of social media is that any negative comments can be swiftly dealt with. This helps to ensure there is no negative word of mouth going round about your brand, and lets you know the areas in which you can improve.
The Holy Grail of modern-day social networking is 'going viral', finding that one elusive piece of content so original or entertaining that people will bookmark it, like it, retweet it and generally share it with everyone in their social sphere.
However, people are getting savvier, and big brands can no longer rely on shelling out for a special-effects-laden clip designed to look like a home movie.
Instead, go lo-fi and focus on the things nobody but you can give in detail: behind-the-scenes video clips and blog posts, sneak previews of upcoming products and special offers, and how-to articles showing how to put your products to better use.
On social networks, many people just want to seem useful to their friends, so competitions, offers and interesting content are all in with a good chance of gaining decent exposure outside of your immediate follower count.