Social capital, getting among the buzz, and what this all means

Please note, this post was written by Catherine Pryce before she left the company.

With so much jargon and terminology surrounding the ethos of social media, I felt I should take this opportunity to explain our objectives as a Digital Marketing Agency and how we want our clients to succeed in social spaces.

ROI is obviously the biggest goal for any client embarking on social media. While I am not going to skirt around this key point, this post is to illustrate the vast benefits of “good” social media and how this in the long run WILL aid your ROI, search engine rankings and overall kudos.

This naturally leads into the definition of ‘Social Capital’ or ‘Whuffie’ (to those of you that are familiar with Tara Hunts book The Whuffie Factor). Social capital is an ideal that suggests your online reputation is the new economy. It’s about being very publicly helpful, back scratching, so to speak, among the influential circles that you mix in online, as well as being the bigger person and engaging not only with your peers and followers, but your competition too.

On top of this, consider what you can give away for free that will enrich others, for example free ‘How to’ guides, videos, or an exclusive look at a new product. Make people feel special, important and that they are getting not only a stellar service from you, but a level of unique treatment. This will not only make you stand out but it encourages people to come back to your site, use you again and most importantly your fans will spread this message to their peers.

There is no price that you can put on word of mouth marketing. It is one of the most successful marketing methods so now that feedback, reviews, comments and tweets are an influential step for a potential customer to consider, the sentiment surrounding a brand needs to be positive and their attitude both transparent and helpful. Basically the more “Whuffie” you have the bigger part of the social pie you will acquire.

Wikipedia says: “Whuffie has replaced money, providing a motivation for people to do useful and creative things. A person’s Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation, and Whuffie is lost and gained according to a person’s favorable or unfavorable actions. The question is, who determines which actions are favorable or unfavorable? In Down and Out, the answer is public opinion.” Down and out was written by Cory Doctorow’s.

Insight into how people use social media platforms compliments good social capital. Research will reveal the best social spaces a brand should be active in and community mapping will help to identify not only these places (when married against the demographic break down of a target audience) but also the people, fans and evangelists that already have an influential reach to your potential customers. The way that social media is evolving suggests that in the future we will no longer have to find brands, they will find us. This is why it is of paramount importance to be in these relevant social spaces where people are spending time online, LISTENING to them and engaging with them.

A recent blog post by Brian Solis reiterates the importance of this when he revealed that “social media accounts for 18% of search information”. It has been suggested that there are seven steps a customer takes before that ‘back of the net moment’ happens and a transaction goes through. So, if as a brand you are with your customers at every step of the way, not only are you on hand with helpful advice in a variety of places, you also leave little option for a competitor to divert them because your wonderful social media efforts are also dominating the search engine results page (SERP). This is called ‘Universal Search’; where a range of content types and sources of information can be found in the search results. Big brands have been loosing out on unique traffic to their sites for the last three years and it is no coincidence that this has happened at the same time that social media has experienced a massive upward trajectory.

Becoming part of the buzz literally means to have a voice and opinion on what is trending at the moment on Google, Twitter, etc. How can this translate to your brand? Is it relevant? It’s surprising the slant you can give on a topic in the news. A blog does not always have to be about a shiny new product launch; we want our clients to become a voice of authority in the industry and therefore to have an opinion on some topical news is a great addition and will aid your chances to be ranked along with everyone else looking for and talking about a certain product. Don’t be reactive; be proactive and get in there first!

Finally, listening is a huge element of good social media practice. A Facebook fan page or Twitter stream is no use if all that you are doing is pushing products. Marketing and advertising has evolved to become, dare I say, slightly more civilised so if all you do is shout, people stop listening (translate this to ‘unfollows’ on Twitter or fans leaving your Facebook group and you get the idea).

There are many tools such as Tweetdeck and Addictomatic that can make listening really easy – you can respond immediately putting the product/service that people are asking for directly into their hands. Customer service is also advantageous if carried out in the public domain. If the conversation sours you can translate this to a private place. But overall it looks great to publicly resolve issues, you will become respected and your ‘Social Capital’ will go up a level.

Either way, you can not let the conversation go on whilst you bury your head in the sand. While the concept of social media being uncontrollable is daunting for some, it is happening, with or without you. So get involved.

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