In his Sunday chat, Chris Brogan discussed the art of self-promotion and how to approach it gracefully. His points about self-promotion are well suited to expand the discussion to how a brand can join customer conversations successfully.
As social media has become an integral part of our campaigns and brand strategies, we marketers are breaking into conversations daily. In some cases we are interlopers and are quickly told to “keep out”, as if we walked into a teenager’s basement lair. In others, we are welcome, but have a significant hurdle to build trust. Lastly, there are the communities that we build for our brands and need to drive significant traffic to get the party started. These ideas roughly map to paid, earned, owned and shared media; but what’s interesting in relation to Brogan’s article is the tone and approach to engaging with customers where they are living.
Finding the Right Party
When you’re launching a new product, part of market research involves listening to social media to determine who the influencers are. But the challenge becomes how to break into their circle, share your new product and get them to talk about it. Brogan suggests starting with them, commenting on their work and adding your point of view where/when it’s most relevant.
We’ve all seen comments on blog posts or articles that are shameless plugs – don’t be that guy. Present yourself and your brand first as an interested party – e.g. ask good questions of the influencer and engage in discussion. Once you’ve established your point of view (channeling your brand positioning), you can introduce your product and how you’re different.
Making New Friends
As Brogan notes, it’s all about making connections and relationships, but how do you expand your reach? If the influencer is worth his/her salt, he/she will have a loyal following with similar interests. Reach out to others referencing a blog or tweet they also commented on or retweeted. Ask questions and seek their opinion on your new product or offer to allow them to try it for free.
Another way to break into this new group would be to ask the influencer if your company could write a guest post on his/her blog. Granted, you will need to play down the sales-speak and discuss your product broadly, perhaps even position the post as a thought-leadership piece that will allow you to build new relationships.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. Breaking into a new audience of potential customers is mostly about what you can do to help them. Sure, your product is solving a problem for them or filling a gap, but they aren’t necessarily looking for a pitch. Once you’ve started sharing educational and thought-provoking content, they will start looking to you as knowledgeable in this space. How can you help them find others with similar interests – in effect, how can you help them grow their network while expanding yours?
The trick here is maintain a thought-leader’s voice rather than presenting too much of a sales pitch. You need to keep your content on topic and helpful for the broader so as to drive a larger audience and network; however, you also need to ensure you’re driving to a call to action to reach your marketing goals. One way to do this is to close each blog post or article driving to branded collateral. This is subtle, yet still pushes for deeper engagement for those who read to the end of your piece.
Hosting the Party
Throughout this cycle, you’ve now established yourself as an influencer and are growing a sizable following. Do you host a party at your house, or do you rent space somewhere else and throw the party? To continue to grow your influence you need to be comfortable having discussions – or throwing parties – with your audience anywhere. To be successful, however, you need to understand the appropriate attire and how to conduct your brand regardless of where you’re interacting with your audience. You’ve earned their respect and trust, keep it by knowing when to tone down the sales pitch and when to invite them to contribute.
How are you establishing new relationships with prospects and customers and what are your tips for building your influence in your market?