WinSo, you’ve set up a Facebook page, you have a fully automated Twitter
account, and your LinkedIn profile is a shining example of professional
wonderment for all to behold.

You’ve formulated a strategy and set up
tools and processes, and you’re proudly showing off your amazing product
with a variety of exciting and innovative campaigns.

Not all social media campaigns will be successful, and the hardest part of any campaign is
actual engagement. Creating long-term relationships with customers,
creating brand evangelists for your business.

True interaction is the biggest stumbling block on the path to social
media success, but by instigating the right policy, it’s also one of the
easiest to overcome…

One of the big problems for brands engaging in social media, or indeed any campaign, is the tendency to create campaign silos. To be effective, you need to reconsider your online approach.

For example, you aren’t here to engage existing Facebook users. You are here to make people fans of you and your product, the networks themselves are merely access points to your brand. In order to really succeed, you need to create your own brand community.

No one will sign up to twitter just to follow you, but if they are already there they’ll be excited that you are as well. “Hey – Acme Road Cleaning Machinery is one of my best friends on Facebook, I’m so happy to find they’re on Twitter as well!”

Take time to study any online community. Not the tool itself. As an example, let’s look briefly at Digg.

The tool is the site itself, a basic content sharing set-up. Users submit material they like, and other users up or down vote it accordingly. The most popular content makes Digg’s frontpage and receives a corresponding traffic boost.

The community however, is the interlinked groups of friends on Digg that support and share each other’s content. Your social media strategy should not be to engage these existing communities, but rather to make them part of your own community.

In order to do so, you’ll need to have a full understanding of each point of contact within a network, points that can be identified by following a simple three-step procedure.

Find a bigger audience.

If you post a tweet with a link to your page, or create a #hashtag for an event, you have left a mark. Every time you @reply you are seen by everyone that follows you and the person you are talking to.

The more often you talk to people, the greater your footprint on Twitter. Your search ranking will increase correspondingly, as will your traffic, and the number of users willing to join your community.  Monitor all of these. In order to succeed you need to be constantly working to increase the size of your digital footprint.

Take things further.

Once you have people responding to public conversations, you need to strengthen your relationship. By privately contacting a user (for example by messaging them on Facebook or DM on Twitter), you’ll accomplish two things

  • You’ll be able to work out mutually beneficial collaborations with that user.
  • You’ll make them feel special.

This sounds facetious but is actually an invaluable method of recruiting people to your cause.

Imagine that you are a fifteen year old music fan. Your favourite singer sends you a direct, private email. How special does that make you feel? Not to mention well-disposed towards that person. Use the fan effect.

You’ll also want to attract popular users, who may well ignore direct messages as they’ll be receiving a lot of spam.

Instead follow their digital trail; find their URL from their Twitter page, follow that to their blog and leave a comment there. If there’s an email available then use it.

Make individuals realize that you’ve gone to the effort of researching their background before you contacted them and they’ll be far more likely to listen to you and respond positively.

Study popular sections and past successful campaigns launched on the digital network.

Take time out as often as possible to check items like Twitter’s trending topics. Install an Alexa toolbar or similar so you can keep an eye on hot web topics on a daily basis and start your day by reading the Digg and reddit frontpages.

Study the most popular items and see if you can create or adapt your content to fit those criteria.

Study popular group interests and see what kind of promotions have been popular with those groups in the past. Use aspects of those campaigns as a basis for your own promotions.

Combine these with steps one and two to inform your nascent audience of your campaign.

Laid out this way, you can see that the theory behind creating a community is fairly straightforward.

Study the rules of engagement for each separate network you utilize and engage existing user groups accordingly, and you can develop your own community and give your campaign a massive, lasting boost.