Such social media channels as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are a cheap source of bonus visibility for your marketing messages, right?
If you believe that, you're missing the point.
I'm frequently asked to critique the way businesses use social channels, and I nearly always discover the same mistakes: Marketers post boring, homogenized, self-absorbed messages that fail to meet the needs and address the culture of the audience. Using Facebook as an extension of PRNewswire ignores the unique value of Facebook.
The key to making social networks work for you is to speak the language of the audience, invite discussion and get people to share what they learn. Let's look at an example of how this might work in a b-to-b context.
Let's say your company makes video systems for physical surveillance. You've just announced a new release that incorporates some exciting biometric and image recognition technology. You've got a whitepaper and a webinar that explain how the technology works, and you're ready to give away a system to some lucky contest winner.
- On Facebook, the tone is informal and often playful. Post a video of an actual surveillance tape that demonstrates image recognition technology. Ask people about the strangest thing they've ever seen on a surveillance camera, or invite them to link to examples of funny security cam videos. Perhaps you can hack together a little demo that gives people a virtual retina scan via a webcam. Or prepare a short demo video that shows what goes on behind the scenes of a retina scan.
- In contrast, go to LinkedIn to find groups of professionals who work in physical security. Join and start a discussion about the merits—and the risks—of biometric security. Include a link to a technology explainer on your site. Ask provocative questions; controversy gets people talking. Respond to questions and concerns people raise, remembering that criticism is just as useful as praise. Come back next week and post a new question on a related topic. Always ask for response. Link to further information on your site.
- On Twitter, you're dealing with a drive-by audience, so give people a reason to visit your Twitter home page. Create a series of themed tweets around a topic like “10 myths about biometric security” or “10 funny things seen on a surveillance camera.” Each tweet should link to a different landing page on your site.
You can also use Facebook and Twitter to create an Internet scavenger hunt that challenges people to answer trivia questions or find video scenes. For example, challenge people to find a video of a person getting stuck in a revolving door or falling into a swimming pool (this will you give some ideas).
One lucky person who completes the scavenger hunt gets a surveillance system.
Are some of these ideas silly? You bet. But the point is to attract attention, encourage sharing, build search engine visibility and get people to follow or “like” you. Plant the seeds of discussion using the language of the audience.
And by the way, be sure to end your posts to social networks with a question mark whenever possible. They're called “social” networks for a reason.
Paul Gillin is an Internet marketing consultant and the author of three books about social media. He also writes the New Channels column in