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PRSA: Beyond friends and followers: Next steps for social media

Originally published by Public Relations Society of America

By now, we all accept the importance of social media strategy. We have our Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels. We hold meetings on how to attract friends and followers.

Meanwhile, our audience is pushing forward with new types of interactions, reshaping their expectations once again. We need to stay focused on emerging trends to keep pace with the rapid evolution of social media.

Here are a few tips to think about as you plan your next moves.

  • No news is good news. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that post company news feeds are not using the mediums to their fullest potential.

  • Remember, the people following your brand probably don’t need to be sold on the product. While reposting news may generate some comments, relying upon this type of interaction will cause your supporters to lose interest. Facebook makes it easy for fans to hide content that they find boring, and it only takes a few seconds to “unfollow” someone on Twitter.

  • Instead of news feeds, consider sharing the content in ways that provoke dialogue. Phrase updates as questions and rework news headlines as calls to action.

  • Don’t add to the noise, filter it. E-mails, tweets, Facebook notifications — sometimes it seems like information overload. We all feel it, including our audience. Even though they may seem to effortlessly sift through our content, the reality is that no one has time to read everything. This has led to an increased need — and appreciation — for trusted sources that can filter the noise.

  • You can provide a welcome relief to weary users by positioning your brand’s social media presence as a resource for useful information. Share only the most interesting stories about your profession and special offers that are actionable and helpful. In other words, act more like a well-informed friend than an advertisement.

  • Let your fans contribute. There’s a valuable source of creativity and fresh ideas hidden within your brand supporters. They want to contribute — if you’ll let them.

  • Have you considered asking your fans for input on your next campaign or product design? It might fly in the face of tradition, but letting the public participate in these activities could re-energize your organization.

  • After all, these are people who care enough about your brand to publicly show their support. It’s safe to assume that they have something to contribute.

  • New networks, new opportunities. Mobile, location-based social networks are rapidly gaining popularity and opening the door for all kinds of new interactions with customers. Foursquare, a service that allows people to “check in” to businesses and other locations in real time, has taken word-of-mouth communications to a new level.

Many brands are now offering special perks for their most frequent visitor — called the “mayor” — and others who check in. Once they’ve arrived, customers might tell their friends about the products that they buy thanks to a new service called Blippy that links merchant accounts to broadcast members’ purchases to the world. And soon, people who are in close proximity to your location will instantly be aware of this information through an emerging technology called “augmented reality,” which can display the exact location of comments and purchases as users scan their surrounding area with a mobile phone camera.

By incorporating a few of these tactics into your social media strategy, you’ll see more than an increase in friends and followers. You’ll begin to see new levels of interaction with your audience and new opportunities for your organization.

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