If your company hasn't learned to harness the power of the social media world yet, here's one reason you should: according to Google, nearly 60 per cent of people talk more online than they do in real life.
So where do you begin? There are plenty of avenues to take. Here are some ideas for putting your business into the spotlight, gleaned from a recent Ragan Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Host a Google+ Hangout On Air. What do Maroon 5, the Dalai Lama and President Obama all have in common? They've all hosted Google+ Hangout On Air sessions. It's a new spin on having conversations with your audience by allowing them to engage with your product and meet the people behind the brand. Disney, for example, premiered its "Lincoln" film trailer through the Hangout On Air feature. Here's how it works: log into your Google+ account, click Start Hangout and conduct an online video chat that streams the conversation live. Every Hangout on Air is automatically saved to your YouTube account. The most important thing to remember: practice beforehand, so you can nail things like lighting and sound.
Start an ambassador program. Your employees can be your best advocates or your worst enemies. Chances are, you'd like to go with the former. Many of them already use social media, so why not harness the energy of engaged employees into something useful? Start by creating a social media customer engagement policy and conduct training. Sprint does this in an entertaining and wildly successful way through its Social Media Ninjas program. They even have "black-belt" ninjas who tout the latest devices. Consider taking that a step further and recruit fans outside of your company as additional ambassadors.
Hold a contest on Pinterest. Pinterest offers a creative and meaningful way to connect with a huge audience –especially female customers ages 25 to 34 – many of whom spend loads of time on the site. By holding a contest, you can connect with a niche audience that was likely not paying attention to your company before, and it can give you insight as to the audience's needs and wants. TIP: Use curalate.com to measure your Pinterest presence. It finds images about your brand to help you measure your reach.
Tweet with gusto. For starters, let your personality shine through when tweeting. Start the conversation by asking your fans questions so they can generate colorful commentary. For example, Marvel asks its fans for thoughts on movie releases and games. And across the company's Twitter accounts, hashtags are sprinkled in. The handy little # symbol categorizes tweets by topic and can make a huge difference. Case in point: When the NBA held its slam-dunk contest this year, viewers were asked to vote for favourite dunks using #spriteslam as the hashtag. Likewise, #spriteslam was tweeted 50,000 times in the first two minutes it appeared on-screen. But be sure to check your hashtags ahead of time. The pithy phrase may already be in use, and it may not be in line with your branding. Likewise, have a fresh pair of eyes look over the hashtag. Susan Boyle's #Susanalbumparty was a PR disaster.
Listen to your fans. When Tasti D-Lite's technology and digital marketing exec noticed a fan tweeting about potentially buying from the dessert company later in the day, he offered her a Tasti D-Lite coupon and she continued to tweet about how pleased she was with this interaction. This took less than a few minutes to do, but think of how effective it was. Along the same lines, when a Phoenix Suns fan sent out a tweet and photo complaining about a bad seat at a Suns game, the Suns social media team offered the unhappy fan a special seat in a suite. His resulting tweets were positive and influenced his huge audience.
Publish killer content. What makes content good? It has to be engaging enough that people want to share it. Ask yourself is this relevant to my audience? Does it answer a question? Does it provide entertainment? Do you have share buttons next to your content to make it easy for your readers to share it with their friends? And remember, you don't have to generate all the content. Ask your audience members to guest blog, which will enable you to reach their audiences, too.
Develop a social media strategy. Of course, none of this makes sense if you don't have goals and long-term thinking in mind. Just like anything else, you don't want to throw your brand out into the social mediasphere all willy-nilly. Having a strategy will help you plan ahead for contests and such, and it helps you to shape your message. Keep in mind: any good social media strategy should address the good (contests and coupons) and the bad and the ugly (customer complaints).
Tom Cannon is the CEO and cofounder of BungoBox , an Orlando-based company that rents moving containers made of recycled plastic as an alternative to cardboard boxes. Founded in 2009, BungoBox now has 20-plus locations in the U.S. and Canada and plans to open 150 more franchise locations in the next five years as part of a steady and strategic growth strategy.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab , a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.