From the book "Likeable Social Media" by Dave Kerpen

Social media sites and tools are ever-changing. But there are certain principles that remain timeless.
If you truly want to delight your customers and become a more likeable brand, here are six principles that I found to be absolutely indispensable:

#1: Listen first and never stop listening

As tempting as it may be to join the conversation, keep in mind that communication is 50% listening and 50% talking.
Your customers want to be heard and social media provides a channel that really allows you to listen on a large scale. Some (free) ways to listen on social media include:

  • Google Alerts
  • Technorati search blog
  • Twitter search
  • Facebook search
  • YouTube search
  • TweetBeep

For more advanced listeners with a higher volume of conversations to listen to, consider using paid listening platforms such as Meltwater Buzz, Parature, Radian 6, Sysomos and Vocus.
Remember to not just search for your brand name, but also for your competitors’ names and words and phrases that your customers use.

#2: Be authentic

As organizations grow large, they develop processes and models to enhance efficiency. Unfortunately those processes also make it difficult to be personal and authentic when dealing with customers.
Social media provides an opportunity to reverse this trend and actually ‘be human’ in dealing with customers. Some ways to be authentic include:

  • Be an “improv show,” not a musical—brands need to think less about putting on a show for their customers and instead focus on building an excellent team that is flexible, able to go with the flow, responsive and engaged.
  • Develop an authentic voice—consider what your brand or organization is all about. Think about how you can convert your mission statement or About Us page into a conversation piece. Let the world know your company’s personality while showing that you truly care about your customers.
  • Just be real—drop the PR-speak or legalese from your organization’s communication. If you sound robotic or scripted in your social media conversations, you’ll turn off customers. Let people hear your real, human voice in all of your interactions and they will trust you and even buy from you.

#3: Provide value—for free!

The more valuable content you can share with your fans and followers, the greater the trust and reputation you’ll build with them.
Share your expertise without expectation or marketing-speak and you’ll create an even better name for yourself. Some ways to provide free value include:

  • Start a blog to share resources, advice and tips that your prospects will find useful.
  • Write white papers to solve customers’ problems.
  • Create ‘how-to’ videos.

And don’t worry about giving away too much information. It’s rare that you could give away so much information that people could afford to do everything on their own. In any case, they’re not the experts, you are—and eventually they’ll need your expertise to help them solve their problems.

#4: Share stories (they’re your social currency)

Every brand has at least one story to tell. Social media (especially blogs and online video) allow you to share stories with your customers, prospects and the world. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How did your company get started?
  • How did you survive the toughest times?
  • What kind of funny or interesting things have happened involving your customers or staff over the years?
  • Which employees’ lives have changed as a result of working for you?
  • Which charitable organizations has your company or its staff supported?

Remember, stories humanize brands and make them ‘talk-able’ online and offline. And they can be told by anyone—customers, employees or management. They just need to be real.

#5: Admit when you screw up, and then leverage your mistakes

Being able to say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake goes a long way toward making up for your error. Companies are made up of people and everyone makes mistakes.
Here are some ways to say that you’re sorry:

  • Have the highest-ranking person (or another executive) at the organization say it through a brief online video.
  • Use the appropriate social media channel to respond quickly when a bad situation arises.
  • Don’t stop at “I’m sorry.” Apologize individually to each person’s complaint and continue to follow up.

By responding swiftly and showing that you care, you can take a serious mistake, turn it around and end up with an even stronger reputation than you had before!

#6: Consistently deliver excitement, surprise and delight

On social media, you’re not just competing with your real-life competitors; you’re competing with all of your customers’ friends and the brands they’re connected to.
So the way to stand out is to create as many “Wow!” moments as possible. Here are some ideas:

  • Provide unexpected value—try listening to conversations that are not necessarily about your company and then respond to questions not directly aimed at you. For example, Best Buy developed Twelpforce to answer people’s Twitter questions about electronic products.
  • Create situations to bring people closer to your brand and strengthen that emotional connection. For example, Cisco Networking Academy delights their Facebook audience by actually allowing select customers to become administrators of their fan page (they have over 260,000 fans!).
  • Sometimes a personal, unique response from a real person at a big company can really “wow” people, even more than the coolest contest or giveaway.
  • Use surprise conversations. When the New York City Department of Health created their “NYC Condom Campaign” in late 2009, they used Twitter to search for people talking about “going out partying” or “looking to hook up” and then surprised them by responding with funny tweets such as “Pick me up, I’ll keep you covered,” or “Don’t leave home without me.”

Ask yourself how you can create conversations and situations that make people smile, while generating surprise. Remember, if you can truly reward your fans and followers, you’ll be able to energize a huge group of online advocates.

Are you using video marketing for your business?

Here are a collection of tips from the social media examiner to make your video marketing easier…

Are you using videos to market your business? Are you wondering how to get started? Do you need some ideas to improve your videos? We asked our writers to share their best tips on how to make video marketing easy for you. How to Get Started Creating Videos #1: Try video now My biggest tip […] Read the rest of this article…

For You LinkedIn Fans…(and if you’re not you should be.)

  • Linkedin has more than doubled in size (OVER 100 Million Members) in the past year with one user added every single second!
  • Executives from ALL Fortune 500 Companies are registered on Linkedin!
  • 45% of linkedin’s members are considered the major-decision makers for their companies.  (Twitter & Facebook account for only 24-29%!)
  • Linkedin holds the record for the Highest Average Household Income over all other Social Networking sites at over $109,000 per member!
  • There are no distractions!  On Linkedin, you’ll only find high-caliber individuals with a business mindset, focused on networking for results!
  • With the IPO of Linkedin – It’s now valued at over 6 Billion Dollars and Interest and awareness is at an all time high.

Two books to learn more about LinkedIn – Linked Working  and LinkedIn Master Strategies by Lewis Howe

21 Ways Non-Profits Can Leverage Social Media

social media how toLike their for-profit brethren, many non-profits understand that using social media can help them reach and engage their audience, create momentum and build community.
However, there’s uncertainty around how to create a sustainable social media campaign, although the tools are plentiful and often free.
Here are 21 ways non-profits can leverage social media:

#1: Use a blog to tell your story

Treat your blog like the digital printing press that it is. Use text, photos and videos to tell stories of the people you’ve helped, those who are still suffering and the impact you’re having on the community or the world.

United Way blog story

Engage your audience with storytelling on your blog.

#2: Make sure your stories are shareable

Use tools like the retweet button, Facebook like button, and Share This to allow your blog visitors to quickly share your story with their networks.

#3: Make it easy to subscribe to your stories

Make your RSS feed impossible to miss by putting it “above the fold” and highlighting it. Since RSS isn’t as widely adopted as it could be, make sure you use a third-party RSS feed provider with RSS to email options like Feedburner, Feedblitz or AWeber.

#4: Use video to tell your story

Videos of volunteers building a house or driving a school bus to collect school supply donations can be incredibly persuasive. Be sure to leverage YouTube’s Nonprofit Program that offers such benefits as call-to-action overlays, listing on the nonprofit channels and the ability to drive fundraising through a Google Checkout “Donate” button.

Donate links can be embedded right in your videos.

#5: Create a Facebook page for your non-profit

Organizations doing good works are infinitely more “likeable” than traditional businesses, so get involved with the half-billion–plus people currently using Facebook. Make your page more engaging by including a custom-designed, branded landing page that includes photos and video. Make sure your wall is set to show posts not just from your organization, but also from your fans so they’ll be more likely to engage you.
For more detailed information on tricking out your Facebook page, read How to Customize Your Facebook Page Using Static FBML.

#6: Get into the Facebook news feed

“The future of Facebook is the feed,” says social media consultant Jaica Kinsman. In other words, people may not visit your page every day, but they may see your news in their news feed. Getting people to like or comment on your Facebook content improves the chances that more people will see it in their feed, an algorithm referred to as “EdgeRank.” TechCrunch goes into more detail about Facebook’s EdgeRank here.

#7: Post photos or videos, and “tag” volunteers

You can take photos of fundraisers, blood drives and bean suppers (popular here in Maine!), post them to your Facebook page and tag volunteers to thank them for their help. This will draw attention to their good work and spread your message to their friends. Use this strategy judiciously. This can also work on Flickr, but it doesn’t have the same reach as Facebook.

Tagging volunteers shares their contribution with their friends.

#8: Create a Facebook Group for your cause

Facebook Groups have some advantages over Fan pages, such as the ability to send emails to members. Although there’s some chance you might be diluting your non-profit brand, you could create a group around your cause, whether that cause is to end poverty, feed the homeless or support women’s rights worldwide.

#9: Use Facebook ads to raise awareness

Goodwill Industries of Northern New England used targeted Facebook ads using gender, age and location filters to affordably promote new store openings. Calvin Gilbert, who runs much of Goodwill NNE’s social media, reported that they used Facebook exclusively to promote the opening of a store in South Portland. The ad campaign netted them 929 new fans, 2,776 clicks to the Facebook page, and created a record turnout at the grand opening.

#10: Use Facebook Events and LinkedIn Events to spread the word

Events are easy to share and get further promotion as people RSVP.

These powerful social networks allow you to promote your events for free and make it easy for people to share events with friends and colleagues.

#11: Use Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places to promote your events

Alex Steed, a consultant to non-profits, recommends creating events on popular location-based apps and having volunteers check in as they arrive. This is a good idea for conferences, but also for things like clearing trails, purpose-driven marches and volunteer beach cleaning events.
For more advice on promoting your event, check out 12 Ways to Promote Your Event with Social Media.

#12: Go local with Twitter’s advanced search

Since many non-profits do their best work close to home, it’s important to listen to local conversations. Use the Advanced Search at Twitter to find, listen to, and engage with nearby “tweeple.” At a meeting with a non-profit organization last year, one of the board members told a story where someone he was following on Twitter was sharing how he was being unfairly evicted from his apartment. The board member reached out to him and got him the information he needed to avoid eviction.

#13: Start conversations around hashtags

If your audience is active on Twitter, start a conversation around a hashtag to get people talking, whether it’s #climatechange, #endhunger or #beatcancer.

#14: Ask for the retweet

Metrics show that when you end a tweet with “please RT!” you’re more likely to get people to retweet your message. Since most non-profits are cause-based, a “please retweet” request seems less self-serving. Still, use judiciously.

#15: Create a banner that stakeholders can add to their avatars

Twibbon

Let your followers carry your message forward with every tweet.

Whether adding a green tint to support democracy in Iraq, the yellow LIVESTRONG banners or ribbons of every color for every cause imaginable, people love to wear their causes on their sleeves or at least on their avatars. Services like Twibbon make it easy to jump into.

#16: Use Eventbrite to handle event registration and money collection

Although there are many event marketing tools out there, Eventbrite has one of the easiest-to-use interfaces out there, and has plenty of built-in social media sharing tools. They also offer a non-profit discount.

Eventbrite

Take advantage of Eventbrite’s non-profit discount and put the savings to good use!

#17: Find potential board members on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is full of successful entrepreneurs with non-profit board experience. Be sure to join local or cause-based LinkedIn Groups and start engaging with future board members now.

#18: Improve conversations and collaboration with a wiki

Many non-profits must overcome the challenge of an all-volunteer board whose members are spread out through the region or even throughout the country. Other non-profits struggle without a physical office space. By using a free or inexpensive wiki, board members can be kept up-to-date on changes and work collaboratively from remote spots.

#19: Put your presentations online with SlideShare

SlideShare

Your presentations can be viewed, shared and embedded through SlideShare.

If your organization puts on presentations to raise awareness and increase donations, make that work go further by posting your slides to SlideShare, the “YouTube of presentations.”

#20: Get more out of your photos with Flickr for Good

Flickr for Good

Get more out of Flickr for your non-profit with a free Pro account.

Flickr, the popular photo-sharing site, is donating 10,000 one-year Pro accounts to non-profits. You can learn more at their Flickr for Good page.

#21: Use Google Grants to drive traffic to your website, blog and other social media presences

Laura Quinn of Idealware recommends that non-profits apply for Google Grants, a program from Google that gives approved non-profits thousands of dollars of free sponsored ads in Google search results. She goes into more detail in How Non-Profits Can Promote Themselves Online.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you’ve been using social media to promote your non-profit or cause, please share your success with the non-profit community in the comments box below.

About the Author, Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks is president of Flyte New Media, a web design and Internet marketing company helping small businesses succeed with SEO, blogging, email marketing, social media and websites that sell. Other posts by Rich Brooks »