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How Social Media Can Actually Work

William Faulkner once said that writing a novel is like trying to build a henhouse in a hurricane. Navigating the burgeoning nebula of social media—and actually leveraging it in your company’s favor—can feel the same way. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are powerful channels, and some great new companies will emerge by making the most of these opportunities.

The key to using them effectively is to remember that these channels are not strictly marketing tools; they are communication tools. Communication is an exchange, a two-way street that requires listening skills as much as it does sharing. Effective communication will help you unlock a more honest, more enthusiastic, and ultimately more loyal customer base. The question is: to use social media successfully to help your brand grow, will you step outside your communication comfort zone and really listen to what your customers say?

Here are a few tips to help you get started:1. Ask provocative questions. There is a lot of noise out in the social media space. If you want to have an impact in these channels, you have to be relevant. Do this by asking provocative questions. For example, ask your Twitter followers about all the things that you do poorly. Customers enjoy the desire to hear tough, honest feedback.

2. Spend as much time listening and responding as you do talking. Be a good date! Many companies use social media a lot like traditional "interruption-advertising." Customers don’t like it, and it’s not particularly effective. Show your appreciation for your customers by listening to what they tell you through social media and then by responding to their comments. In terms of product development, listen to their suggestions and feedback, aggregate the opinions, and then make more informed decisions about strategy.

3. Complement self-promoting with promoting others. Read an interesting tweet by someone else? Re-tweet from your corporate Twitter page. It will help propagate an interesting idea, and you’ll pop up on the original tweeter’s radar. Same goes for blogs. Take a moment on your own blog to introduce a peer’s post, then link back to his or her work. Paying it forward builds authenticity with your listeners and followers.

4. Blend the personal and the professional. Most of your customers use social media for personal reasons, so it’s inaccurate to think that businesses are always totally welcome players in the social media world. Consumers are savvy; they want a well-balanced mix of salesmanship and personality. Find a happy medium between promoting your product and bringing variety to your social media efforts. The more interesting it is for you, the more likely it will be interesting to your customers.

Andy Dunn

CEO and Co-Founder


New York

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