How To Use Social Media For Advertising

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Advertising and marketing go hand-in-hand while being two very different areas of business. While marketing works to position the company for success, advertising is done with the goal in mind of getting the brand out there and promoting specific announcements, products, or services. Social media can be effectively used for advertising, and has been in the past to some success. Unfortunately, many companies try to use social media as a single-purpose tool instead of seeing the whole picture. Here are some tips on how to use social media for advertising:

Don’t Advertise Directly

This seems like a complete counter to what many advertising executives have grown to know for decades. Explaining social media to someone that has been in advertising for a long time can be a difficult process, but the facts are undeniable.

Try to position your advertisement in a way that reflects the community you’re trying to grab. For example, several major car companies were quick to jump on board Empire Avenue, a virtual social stock market game. They could have told everyone about their new vehicles and how they could get you from point A to point B, but they didn’t. Instead, they invested in members of the community and carried on a conversation about the people they were speaking to, not their products. By doing so, each of these companies achieved an advertising value worth its weight in gold as each and every person they interacted with was left with a new appreciation for the brand.

People expect TV commercials to tell them about how great something is, or position it in a way that makes it look cool. Social media is a community and a direct ad is akin to a person with a giant sign screaming at the top of their lungs that you should try a product. Sometimes, it’s what you don’t say that matters most.

Create Something Entertaining

One of the most successful advertising campaigns in history came in the form of a man in a towel, standing in his bathroom answering questions in a humorous way. The Old Spice commercials were a hit on TV for their entertainment value and unique style of humor, but the real splash came when they took the campaign to the social space and started making videos on the fly to respond to questions and comments from their community. Their videos on YouTube achieved viral attention almost instantly, and what started as a good television campaign ended as a great social media campaign.

As to the previous point made about direct advertising, not one of the social media ads directly promoted their products. In fact, he hardly mentioned the brand name at all. People know what brand your message represents in social media by the user/page name and the discussion around them.

Build on What Works

If you find something that appears to be creating buzz, build on it. Generating positive community response is one of the best ways to kick off or accelerate a campaign. Be careful not to overdo it, though as people tend to recognize when the gimmick has past its prime faster than you may think. In cases of viral YouTube videos, sequels or attempted reconstructions of the magic often fall flat and fail miserably.

If something you say or do generates a lot of attention, focus on what made that happen and work from there rather than repeating the same thing exactly the same way over and over again.

Be Genuine

Being genuine with your message is essential and sits at the core of any successful campaign. Don’t bother with covering up problems or smoothing over everything with a glossy finish. You’re a company that has something to sell, and they know that. Put that aside for a moment and forget everything you know about advertising to this point.

If you’re not genuine in your message, no one will be interested in hearing it. Saying you’re the best and everyone needs your product is fine when you’re on television or a billboard, but in the realm of social media it’s connections with the community that matter more than any slogan or motto ever will. Connect with them, show concern for their problems when they express them and take actions to resolve them, publicly.

Be Quick

Passing everything through a legal team takes time, and causes you to lose the effectiveness of the message. If a point is raised in your community and you don’t address it right away, you’ve already dropped the ball. Waiting sometimes two weeks for a team of layers to approve everything you say and do is like tying your feet together when you’re trying to run a marathon. Don’t be left behind.

For that matter, try not to let anything get past you if at all possible. Social media is easier to scale than you realize and even large companies are beginning to find that out. No, you can’t respond to each and every person that asks you a question on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. You can make an effort to address enough of them to show you care about what they have to say. Just because you may not be able to reach all of them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Be Open

Being open and being genuine go hand-in-hand. If someone relays a negative experience with your brand, product, or service, address it publicly and make an honest attempt to resolve the issue. Sometimes, just saying your sorry is enough to change their opinion and settle what might otherwise be a public relations nightmare while it’s still small. This goes along with being quick, as well.

You might even need to take that extra step to provide customer satisfaction and ask them for a second chance, on the house. Too often companies take the road of not rewarding people for giving them a bad name. Taking the high road and asking for a second chance gives the impression that your company really cares and is willing to go that extra mile to make sure their customers are happy. Believe me, this speaks volumes about a company’s character and has a much greater impact in the long-term than yet another post about how great your product is.

Interact with the Audience

If any of the previous points didn’t drive in the importance of interaction, let me be absolutely clear on this. Interacting with people, no matter who they are, is key to a successful social media campaign. Social networks aren’t supposed to be one-way megaphones that allow you to shout slogans at a large number of people. If you want to spread your message through social media, do it by interacting with people in your community. After all, that’s what you’re building here.

Television isn’t a community. Audience members may yell at their screens from time to time but they don’t expect a response. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social networks are intended to give everyone a voice about practically everything. If someone spends enough thought and energy into mentioning your brand or reaching out to you, give them the courtesy of a response. As an individual, I don’t have any personal relationship with any brands I see on television. I do, however, form a bond with companies and individuals I interact with online.

Utilize All of Your Available Tools

If there is one thing social media has brought to the table, it’s a powerful set of tools that can help you gauge your effectiveness and extend your reach. For example, Ping.fm is a great way to make updates to multiple networks at once. URL shortening sites like Bit.ly allow you to not only cram a long url into a small space, but see detailed statistics on how many people are responding to the link, where they’re from, and what they’re saying about it.

Facebook has fan pages available so you can create a centralized hub for your brand and connect more directly with people interested in hearing more while breaking free of that 5,000 friend barrier present on normal profiles.

If a new network pops up, join it quickly and make an impact while the space is fresh. Being an early adopter has its advantages as you are capable of becoming easily recognized and better positioned as a small pool of people grows in to a mature social network.

Empower Your Community to be Your Evangelists

Empowering your community members is one of the best ways to gain what essentially counts as free advertising. Sometimes people just enjoy a particular product or service and want to tell their friends about it. Don’t stop them from doing so, and give them the platform to let their voice be heard.

If someone has something to say about your product or service on Twitter, retweet it and thank them for their feedback. You may even want to keep them in mind for a future YouTube campaign or offer them a chance to test an upcoming product or service before it’s released to the general public. If you think their positive feedback is handy now, wait until you launch the next big thing and they’ve got the chance to show it to the world.

Recognize your potential evangelists and make sure they know you’re appreciative of their efforts.

Learn What Your Customers Want

At to points made previously, social media isn’t a one-way conversation. Take time to listen to your customers and make sure their feedback is received. Sometimes, the best ideas come from your community. Think of a social network as a kind of focus group with a much broader range of experience and interests. Bouncing ideas to your community is a good way to let them know their opinion matters and save your research team a lot of time and expense trying to determine what people want. In many cases, your customers will be more than happy to lend their honest opinions, as long as you’re willing to hear them.

This post is part of a series of social media “How To” articles. Links to other parts of this series are below:
How to Use Social Media for Business
How to Use Social Media for Marketing
How to Use Social Media for Advertising
How to Use Social Media for Sales
How to Use Social Media for Recruiting
How to Use Social Media for Recruitment
How to Use Social Media for Learning
How to Use Social Media for Job Search
How to Use Social Media for Health and Wellness
How to Use Social Media for Businesses