Social media outlets provide organizations with a way to interact with their customers and also build brand awareness.
Photo credit: (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Nan Palmero)
Marketing for the security industry has always had its challenges. After all, what company really wants to talk extensively about its security? Talk with any marketing, public relations or media person in the industry and he or she will tell you that one of the most difficult things is to get end-users to talk openly about their security systems. Now, add social media to the marketing mix. We are talking about Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all the other social platforms vying for attention these days. Social media is meant to be just that – "social." It is meant to frequently and openly communicate about a company, its products, solutions, people, events and expertise. So, it might seem that social media and the reticent world of security are not a good fit, but it would be a mistake for any tech-savvy company today to ignore its potential marketing power.
Social media is a way of showing your customers, investors, vendors and employees just who you are. It gives them a peek behind the scene, builds brand awareness and sets your company up as an industry leader. To do this, it should provide frequently updated information on the company and its industry. It is a way to add another dimension to your online presence by starting conversations and allowing people to interact with you and your brand.
To see why social media makes marketing sense you only have to look at the numbers:
- Facebook is now used by one in every 13 people on earth, with over 250 million of them (over 50 percent) logging in every day.
- 22 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a public blog.
- Americans spent nearly a quarter of their 2010 online time visiting social networking sites and blogs.
- Over 90 percent of business-to-business (B2B) buyers are already using social media tools to research and execute purchases.
With all of this in mind, we started working with a large security systems integrator to help the company expand its digital media presence and take advantage of new marketing platforms such as Twitter, company and consumer blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn. The company has consumer and commercial divisions so we helped tackle both business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B campaigns. We worked with the support of a very strong internal digital team and other digital agencies. Each member of the team brought its own expertise to the table. As a public relations and communications specialist, our expertise was providing solid content for the social media efforts.
One of the first things we implemented was a consumer blog. The goal was to attract people to the blog site with strong informative content on safety and security. We did that by providing a daily safety tip and three or four safety and security blogs per week. Our articles were meant to be non-commercial. The point was to provide people with good information that would lead them to the blog site where they would also find information on company products and services. This blog site very quickly became a lead generation tool with a high page ranking. The site also won awards including a Stevie from the American Business Awards.
We also started a B2B blog site for this client. The goal was to get a solid site up and running quickly and without a lot of development costs. We decided to use WordPress to put together this site because it is easy to use, offers a number of different templates and is pretty versatile. We were able to pull together a good-looking site, fairly quickly and with minimal development help. The blog concentrated on providing two to four blogs a week on topics within the integrator's expertise. Again, these were meant to be informational and non-commercial, although we did also include information on company events and white papers. The point was to provide people with what they want online – information without sales and marketing jargon. The blog built a solid following during its first six months and by the end of its first year was getting more visits than the company's three top B2B website pages.
Some tips to keep in mind when developing a blog:
- Good strong informational content is a must.
- If you are using ghostwriters, make sure they know the security industry well enough to write intelligently about it.
- Use photos and video whenever possible. This makes your content more appealing and more likely to be read.
The B2C Facebook we started for this company began with about 50 "likes" for the page. They used to be called "fans," but some Facebook users objected, saying it was too strong of a word. And you have to admit liking something is a little more non- committal than being a fan. As you would imagine, our original 50 "likes" were comprised mainly of employees, vendors and others with a strong relationship to the company. Our goal was to grow interest in the page, increase its 'likes" and brand awareness and ultimately increase sales. We did that by posting interesting related content to the page.
Every company Facebook page needs a focus or theme. For our consumer security audience, we stayed with the topics of home and personal safety and security. The majority of our content was informative and non-commercial but we did slip in some more commercial material using fun and interesting Facebook posts. We found that in the Facebook world people like to interact, so we often asked simple, quick and easy-to-answer questions. The point was to have fun, be entertaining and informative. We found interesting home safety and security material on the web and posted it with links to articles or videos. For example, we would post a link to a video piece about home burglars being caught on camera.
By the end of our first year we had more than 10,000 "likes" on the page. One of our most successful campaigns was during the December holidays when we allowed Facebook users to come to the page and vote for one of three charities. We had $10,000 to give away and we gave it to the charities based on the percentage of votes they each received. This campaign was a great success. It increased "likes" and impressions substantially. Once again it gave people a way to interact with the page and let them feel like they were part of the holiday-giving process.
Some tips for a Facebook page:
- Let people interact with your page by asking them questions and encouraging participation.
- Keep posts short and informative.
- Do not ignore questions and complaints on Facebook. Make sure that you respond to everyone publicly when possible.
- Posting once or twice a day is plenty and some big name companies post only three or four times a week. Too many postings can annoy people and cost you "likes."
For this part of the social media campaign we developed three Twitter accounts. One was for the B2C community, one general one for the B2B market and a third for a specific niche market where our client had expertise and wanted to participate in and lead the online conversation.
The theme for the B2C account was similar to the Facebook B2C page. We stayed with security and safety tips and advice, but we also re-tweeted and talked to people on Twitter. When we got complaints about services or products we would quickly ask people to direct message us with their contact information, so that we could have a customer service representative contact them to resolve the situation.
For the B2B Twitter account we tried to be as informative as possible by not only tweeting about company news, but also industry news and events. We re-tweeted other security-related accounts and started conversations with them. The goal was to provide information that was valuable and worthy of a re-tweet. Again we were building brand awareness, but at the same time we were also showing the company's expertise and industry leadership.
Tips for using Twitter:
- Be informative – don't just talk about your company.
- Keep your tweets short enough that others can retweet them.
- Talk with people, ask questions and answer customer questions and complaints.
- Link tweets to company articles, blogs and events.
- Use hash tags (#) to help filter content and reach the right audience.
- Again, there is a fine line between too many tweets and not enough. If you have something to say tweeting is fine. If not, save the Twitter chatter for when you do.
Too many people think LinkedIn is just for people looking for a job. While that may often be true, many look to the site for business and industry information. LinkedIn groups have become a popular way for people to connect and share information and experience with others within a similar profession.
We made sure that we kept all of our client's SMEs' (Subject Matter Experts) LinkedIn pages up to date by adding expertise, biographical information, articles, whitepapers and information on media interviews. We also made sure that the SME LinkedIn profiles included the appropriate company Twitter and blog feeds. At the same time we researched LinkedIn groups that fit the expertise and background of the SMEs and made sure that they joined those groups. Any appropriate whitepapers, blogs or articles were posted as status updates and also posted to the appropriate group pages.
LinkedIn also offers applications that allow the sharing of documents, presentation slides and files with your connections. It is a great way to make sure that these materials are being shared with a targeted audience that has already shown an interest in you and/or your industry.
Tips for using LinkedIn
- Make sure you are using all of the applications offered.
- Twitter and blog feeds on LinkedIn help to continue to position SMEs as experts.
- Keep profiles updated – change out profile photos now and then.
We have talked a little about how to handle complaints on social media sites, but it is worth going into more depth because complaints are one of the main reason companies stay away from social media. Our B2B social sites had very few negative comments. It was the B2C sites that attracted more customer attention. Social media gives customers a very public way to voice their complaints. It can be scary to have a follower on Twitter post a complaint for everyone to see about a service call or a piece of equipment. What company wants to invite that type of interaction? But, there is another way to look at candid remarks by your customers. Getting direct information from your customers is incredibly valuable. It is information that you can act upon and use. It quickly points out areas that may need improvement or that are weak spots in your system. Being afraid of what your customers will say is like sticking your head in the sand. Social media is public relations and marketing, but it is also a valuable customer service tool. While the complaints are very public, so is your response. If you handle the complaints quickly and professionally your followers will notice. People don't expect perfection. They expect that every company will have some customer service issues. It is how you deal with those issues that really shows your commitment to your customers.
Tips for handling complaints:
- Acknowledge a complaint as quickly as possible. You might not have the right answer for the complaint, but you should comment on Facebook or Twitter as quickly as possible. Let the customer know you are working on an answer or invite them to contact you directly for more information.
- Have qualified customer service people on your social media team.
The social media program that we worked on was an integrated part of a total program that included traditional media and new media. These elements do not stand alone. They are most powerful when they are coordinated to work together. That said, it is also important not to over extend your resources. For most companies, taking on all of these elements at the same time could be overwhelming and end up sinking the entire digital campaign. Adding them one at a time and getting them established before adding another platform is usually the smart approach.
Social media harnesses the power of the Internet. It is where your customers and clients are, so naturally it is where you have to be also. It's not magic. It is just another and different way of communicating. It takes time and resources, but the benefits are there and they are measureable.