Over the past 5 years, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of businesses in real estate, medical, education, dining, and hospitality, to help them creatively, strategically grow their business in cost effective ways. One of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business is by cultivating your fan base on social media. Using social media effectively requires good strategy and nurturing, and is not done overnight. I evaluate the best methods and strategies – using real examples – to build your customer base and successfully grow your business.
Most businesses I talk to on a daily basis struggle with 2 main issues when it comes to social media. The first is making customers so happy that they evangelize their love for the business via social media channels. The second is building enough of an active, engaged fan base to strengthen their brand and stand out against competitors.
When your business achieves both organic customer evangelists and a growing, active fan base, you will have a stronger, sustainable business and brand. This does not happen overnight. It requires consistent nurturing, tinkering and a deep understanding of your customer. Dedicate enough time and your efforts will grow and iterate on itself over time to achieve the results you imagined.
Here are strategies to get your customers talking about you and gaining an active following on social media channels:
1.) Seasonal Customer Content
Depending on the season, get your customers to participate in content creation. It’s always fun to incorporate holidays, seasons, any excuse to have fun or even throw a party! It’s also nice to remember your customer’s birthdays and send them a happy birthday tweet or message on their wall.
For Father’s Day, you can run a story contest where entrants can share their fondest memory with their father or the best advice they ever received from their father. For 4th of July, have customers share their holiday photos, with a prize for the photo with the most likes. Or for Halloween, have a best pet’s costume photo contest. People love any excuse to take a photo of their pet!
Michael Kors did a great job of this over the 4th of July weekend, around their “Selma” purse, generating great content from their fans:
From ball games to bonfires, show us how you and Selma spent the long weekend. #JetSetSelma
— Michael Kors (@MichaelKors) July 6, 2014
2.) Event Hashtags
If you throw an event or have any regular promotions (i.e. Taco Tuesdays or Wednesdays 10% off) you can create a hashtag specifically for the event. Events like parties or grand openings are very picture-worthy, so creating a hashtag that can link individual photos back to your business could add to the hype around the event and your business. Regular promotions are a great way to exchange social content for discounts and hashtags are a great reminder. Hashtags allow you to “socialize” events and promos to tap into the power of word-of-mouth growth. Here is an example of how Sephora promoted their #GrandOpening:
3.) Highlight Customer Stories and Testimonials
Every business has special experiences with their customers. Whether they are stories told by you or via the voice of your customers, be sure to share them on social media channels.
If you do not already conduct customer service surveys, you should. Treat negative feedback as gold, as this will help you have a business that is perfectly tailored to your customer’s needs. For positive feedback, ask customers to share their story via social media channels. Showcase different facets of your business and show potential customers what they can expect when they do business with you.
Here’s an example from Culver City Toyota that streamed onto their Enplug displays:
— Jillian Barberie (@askjillian) May 16, 2014
4.) Prompts (Fill in the Blank)
Many people can’t help but give their 2 cents when asked a question. You can ask a prompt or fill in the blank that will get your customers talking about you. For example, if you have a coffee shop, you can have a prompt “My favorite order at Café Joes is _____________” Or, “My plans for the weekend are _________” Or, My favorite flavor is ___________ because ________” You will likely be surprised and delighted by your responses! Here is a great example of prompts in action:
Fill in the blank. My first pair of Canvas Classics were the color ________________. — TOMS (@TOMS) July 2, 2014
Think of prizes that are within budget, but enticing enough to get customers to participate in your contest. They can range from goodie bags with your branded products, to a gift card, movie tickets, Disneyland tickets, to an exotic travel destination! You can ask for promotional content. For example, ask your customers to make a 1 minute commercial and the most liked, retweeted, or favorited commercial wins. Or best product photo. Or it could be the best new logo or T-shirt design. Or it could be as simple as a customer sharing their fondest memory with your business.
Here is a great example of a contest:
— TaylorMade Golf (@TaylorMadeGolf) July 6, 2014
6.) Emotional Content (Funny & Inspirational)
You should know your customers very well. You should know them well enough that you know what they would find funny or inspirational. Share photos, sayings or quotes that tickle their funny bone or pull at their heart strings. You want to excite and delight them so much that they follow your social channels. Here is an example for emotional content:
— Fallon Tonight (@FallonTonight) July 15, 2014
7.) Interesting Photos, Statistics and Articles
By using an interesting photo, statistic, or intro to an article as a hook, you can create engaging content that your demographic of customers will find interesting and want to share with their social networks. You can share vintage photos on a regular basis; for example, throwback Tuesday’s #tbtuesdays with images of the first pie that was baked in your oven, or a photo of Babe Ruth hitting a homerun on his birthday if your business is sports-related. Think about your industry and your business and what you customers will want to view, read and most importantly, share.
This T-shirt company gets very impressive shares and likes for their Facebook content:
Always keep in mind your ideal customer profile. Ask yourself, who are my customers? What do they care about? Would they read this? Would they find this entertaining or compelling? How can I intrigue my customer base in a way that is worth gaining their audience and their time?
Cultivate your community and fan base over time through creative content. Doing so consistently will reap great rewards for your business.