Customers are a great group to build your community with, but they aren't the only community you should be thinking about. In the rush to dive into social media, many businesses don't recognize all of the routes they might take or the opportunities that are actually before them. Here are three ways you can benefit from using social media without ever engaging your customers.
Improve Your Industry
Relationships are the bridges that connect us to new insights and opportunities. While customers can teach you many things about the direction your business should be headed, your competition undoubtedly has valuable insights as well. By breaking down the walls isolating you from them, you'll find that not only can you make friends within your industry, but you can actually do a lot to help each other. When you take the initiative to interact with other members of your industry, the whole industry benefits.
Bring Talent to Your Doorstep
Being known as a great company to work for can go a long ways. Fundamentally, every company relies on the people they hire. When you build a community around your employees and future employees, hiring talented, motivated, and all-around awesome employees becomes substantially easier. Despite the economic challenges lately, great employees have choices about where they want to work. Building a community around employees and recruits makes it more likely they'll choose to work with you.
But, having a reputation for being a great employer does more than attract talent; it also enhances the image of your brand in the eyes of your customers. Most people don't like work, but when they hear that your employees are actually enjoying it, they recognize something different, valuable, and human about your brand.
Become A Publisher
If you're publishing quality content, the chances are you're building a community around it. These content-driven communities have a very distinct benefit: they bring in revenue. You may choose to sell the community's attention to advertisers, or you may choose to create a side business aimed at the community you've developed (e.g. 37 Signals or Coudal Partners). Either way, you'll often find that the effort it takes to become a publisher is well worth the benefits of the community you build.
Ultimately, the foundation for your community-building efforts should be an authentic and useful message. This way, no matter who you're building your relationships with, you'll find them helping you accomplish your objectives -- no coercion required.
Don't make the mistake of assuming your customers are the only people worth reaching out to. If you take a moment to look around, you'll likely find opportunities to benefit from communities all around you.
Thanks to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogging platforms like Blogger and Wordpress, publishing content is now easier than ever. This has had larger ramifications than an explosion in the number of personal blogs or a storm of Facebook note-writing and status-updating. More and more people are not only acting as miniature publishers, they are taking on the publisher mindset.
The increase in blogs and other social media has led to an abundance of places for advertisers to infiltrate the everyday experience. But, contrary to the popularly negative view of advertisers cluttering the internet, many bloggers and other online publishers are welcoming advertisers with open arms. The increasingly large number of places to publish content and advertisements means that advertisers now have other options besides the main stream media; however, what's equally powerful is that these new small media publishers are starting to catch on as well.
As more and more individuals begin to view their work, play, and daily activities as content to be published, brands will be faced with an increasingly noisy space in which to make their voice heard. In order for brands to be successful in this environment they will need to either become publishers themselves and create content that rises above the average joe, or become exceptional at building relationships with the growing number of publishers populating today's media environment.
Recently we just launched a new website for a company called Vocalocity. During the process we pitched them on the idea of communicating their message with a series of slow motion videos that would be featured on their website.
We were lucky enough to have Trey Lyda on site documenting the madness, so if you've ever wondered what a slow motion video shoot looks like. Here ya go:
The website came out awesome as well (so check it out): http://www.vocalocity.com/
It seems like there's something new on the internet everyday. The phrase "have you seen this?" was never used as much as it is today. It's a time full of exciting things. But, in the midst of these new services, many of them failing, it's hard not to be cynical about online trends. "It's dead" or "It's a fad" reflects how many people feel about any online phenomenon. But, even when something has seen it's last good use, or is really just a fad, it still contributes to the big picture.
Services like Twitter, Digg, and Sidewiki may or may not establish a lasting presence on the web. Then again, neither did many of the search engines that paved the way for Google.
Passing trends and failed businesses hold valuable lessons. Not every service lasts, but the ideas they introduce are the foundation for future innovation.
I'm always fascinated by how people express their entrepreneurial vision, and recently I came across a great example from the TV personality, Alton Brown.
Alton Brown got started like most entrepreneurs. He didn't like something and thought he could do it better. In his case, the object of his scorn was cooking shows. To Alton, cooking shows were boring and didn't teach the scientific foundations of cooking. So he started thinking about doing his own cooking show.
The first thing he did was define his vision. He wrote down three names: Julia Child, Mr. Wizard & Monty Python. His show would be part Cooking Show, part Science Class and part Sketch Comedy Show.
This simple, concrete vision allowed him to create some of the most unique television around. There's power in creating a simple vision that's easily communicated and understood. Forget the sky high mission statements and take a lesson from Alton Brown, if you can't communicate your vision in a simple statement, there's a good chance that it won't be fulfilled.
The agency-client relationship is a fragile thing. Like any relationship, the best is brought out when both parties understand what they can do to bring out the best in the other party. With that in mind, here are some tips that will help search engine optimization (SEO) agencies and their clients have more harmonious relationships.
- Listen to your agency, and follow their expertise. Ask questions, but, when in doubt, trust. If you can't trust them, you shouldn't pay them.
- Get involved. Most clients wouldn't tell a traditional agency "We want a television campaign. Do what you want to make it good. Run it wherever you want, and spend however much you want to get it done." The same goes for SEO. Just like many other forms of marketing, SEO campaigns require that the client is engaged in the process from start to finish.
- Focus on the objectives. The goal of SEO isn't to rank for certain terms, or even to drive traffic. The goal is to make companies more successful through improved visibility. For most clients that means an increase in sales, but for many it may mean something different such as brand awareness or thought leadership. If you don't define success before you start, losing sight of the real goal is all too easy.
- Communicate. Your clients will trust you more and give you better feedback. Better communication is also the only way to rid SEO of the cloud of mystery that many clients perceive to hang over it .
- Respect your client. Whether you disagree about certain objectives and tactics, or if you are just having a hard time communicating, remember that they are the ones paying you. Remember the dentist who lectured you on oral hygiene or the insurance agent on safe driving? Haven't you ever thought, wait, I'm paying you. There's a place for educating the client, just remember to do it in a way that makes them glad to hear from you.
- Do your research. If you don't understand your client inside and out, how can you be successful? You may be able to make technical recommendations without understanding their industry, but when you start getting creative with content and off-the-page strategies, you'll be lost in the dark.
These are just a few of the things that agencies and their clients can do to help each other. I've written them specifically with SEO in mind, but many of them can be adjusted to fit a variety of services that agencies provide. What do you think? What are some of the best ways clients and agencies can have more harmonious and effective relationships?
picture courtesy of Danny Hammontree