You’ve likely heard by now that Google+ launched last week in super-secret beta form. They’ve twice, now, opened invites for a couple of hours and then closed them quickly because the demand is so high. So if you’re not in yet, don’t despair.
There are some things you need to be thinking about before you jump to the newest shiny penny.
The past couple of years have been focused on building community and engaging through Facebook and Twitter. But you don’t own those platforms, which means you don’t own your fans and followers.
This is why it’s so important to build community on a platform that you own. Sure, you need all the social tools and the content curation and the fun apps that make your stuff look cool, but they all should drive people back to something you own.
In this case: A database.
Following are 10 things to consider as you add the newest social network to your toolbox.
- Who are your customers, prospects and referral network? You have to know this. And you should be building a database of everyone’s email addresses. You can do this through blog subscriptions, newsletters, and registered content. Yes, you need to have Twitter and Facebook and (now) Google+. But you have to be driving those people back to something you own, where you can collect their data. We don’t know yet what or if Google will be providing businesses, in terms of data on its customers, so best to collect it yourself now.
- It’s hard work and you must be willing to do it. This doesn’t mean just on the social platforms. It means with content and building community and engaging your audiences and stroking their egos by commenting on and sharing their content.
- Your content had better be good. If it’s not all good, publish only that which is. If that means you only publish a blog once a week or a white paper once a quarter, so be it. If you’re charging for content, price it accordingly, but make sure it’s better than anything else in the industry. Find different ways to share your content. Things such as an Instagram feed of photos from work, a Tumblr blog of those photos, a podcast series of two-minute segments that help your audiences, or videos that show how your product works in the real world.
- Video. I mention video above, but there had better be tons. And it all needs to be on YouTube and then embedded on your blog and your website. We do this in the sidebar of Spin Sucks and on the home page of Arment Dietrich. It’s easily shared in about, oh, three seconds. Don’t worry about making it professional or snazzy (sorry, Tony Gnau!). Buy yourself an HD camera (I have a Flip, though they’re going to be extinct soon, and it cost me $150) and start shooting stuff. Even your phone will do. We do this on the home page of Payline Data and Payline Giving too!
- Access. As a consumer, how exciting is it when the CEO answers your email or allows you to voice your concerns? Steve Jobs (though not very good at it) does this and it blows people away. Granted, we’re not all Steve Jobs, but people want access. Maybe it’s once a week or once a month. Add the element of surprise and do something simple like answer the customer service line or return emails. It will go a lot further than any PR, advertising or marketing campaign.
- Virality. I’m not saying you can plan to make something viral, but you never know what is going to go viral, so you have to do a lot. What will spread (cough, a blog post about nothing, cough) is what you least expect, so don’t be afraid to put something out there that isn’t perfect. People like to know that we’re all human.
- It’s not about the numbers. It’s about making the web work for you 24/7. It’s about monetizing new products and services via the social platforms. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 followers or 100,000. If only 50 of those 100 or 100,000 buy, those are the 50 you need to engage. And let’s be real. Wouldn’t you rather have 50% of your followers to buy than less than 1%?
- The A-list sucks. You’re not a star. None of us is. Read Geoff Livingston’s guest post about this on Danny Brown’s blog. Think about it. Absorb it. And then do business just like you’ve always done . . . by treating your customers, prospects and advocates like human beings whose opinions matter to you.
- Add in some personal. No one likes to talk to the person at a cocktail reception who can only talk about work. The same goes online. I built a Tumblr blog of the recipes I create. People love this. It’s automatically shared on Twitter and I get as many, if not more, comments on that stuff as I do on all the business content I post. And I tweet maybe once a day; every other day most times.
- Grow from the bottom up. Just like in real life, we all have to start somewhere and that means the bottom, in most cases. You want to look like you’re all about your community; your customers, your prospects, your advocates, your influencers, your stakeholders and your employees. If you look like you’re in it only for the money or you’re only using the social tools to push your message, no one will care and no one certainly will give you any access to them, including an email address.
And, above all else, make sure one of your goals is to build your database. Don’t abuse it. Don’t spam people. Have it in cases such as moving your community to a new platform. Or for an emergency such as Twitter or Facebook dying.
A special thanks to Gini Dietrich for this blog post.
Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich Inc., a Chicago-based firm that uses non-traditional marketing in a digital world. Her column appears on Crain’s blog for Chicago entrepreneurs every Friday.
Follow Gini on Twitter: @ginidietrich.
You can follow Crain’s small business editor Ann Dwyer on Twitter, too: @AnnDwyer_Crains. Check out Crain’s Chicago Business on Facebook. And stay on top of Chicago business news with Crain’s free daily e-newsletters.
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