Whether you’re a small merchant or a big box outlet like Walmart, utilizing social channels to connect with your existing and potential consumers is something not to be overlooked, even if social media is a small piece in your marketing puzzle. Social Media is an invaluable platform for building relationships, cultivating brand evangelists, measuring tonality and understanding what makes your consumers tick.

1. Be an Expert

Ask yourself how you can best support your customers, not with a sale or offer but instead with content that defines your brand in your respective space. As an example, let’s say you’re selling beauty products. Turning to YouTube to produce rich media that highlights application tips on makeup or hair could be a win for making your products go viral. Similarly, starting a quality blog may also garner you seriously positive results, a move that may position your brand as the “go-to people” in the space. Just remember, it’s important to blur the lines between selling and high-quality information.

2. Join Live Chats & Hangouts

Hangouts within Google+ can assist you in humanizing your brand by meeting and interacting with potential consumers face-to-face within video chats. And, other than just ‘hanging out’, using this platform, brands can additionally host live webinars and record, another type of quality content to convert consumers through useful information.Look for live Twitter chats and Facebook/LinkedIn groups relevant to your niche, it’s a great way to join conversations and show-off your expert skills in real time. The Twitter community has a slew of ongoing weekly chats such as #AtomicChat and #MediaChat. These chats generally use a Q&A format to encourage participants to offer up their field of expertise.

Google+ Communities

Google+ for business can assist companies looking to connect with communities, it can also to gain more exposure through Google search. For anyone that’s new to Google+, the easiest way to get started is to join a few ‘Communities’, or utilize trending hashtags to comment, interact and begin building your understanding of the platform. In addition to the new (and awesome) Google+ Communities feature, brands can now interact with any post even those outside the circle limitations, another business-friendly update.

3. Create Quality Content

Social media is really no different than any other form of human interaction. Imagine yourself at a social gathering: when socializing, you wouldn’t spend the entire time talking about yourself, you’d ask questions and exchange ideas with others – keep this in mind while publishing content & posts.Unless you’re already fully devoted to a brand, there’s nothing more annoying than being bombarded with sales pitches while engaging with your friends via social channels.

Whole Foods on Pinterest

The first step in plunging into planning your social strategies is to understand what your brand stands for, its personality, and what type of quality content will resonate with the people you’re trying to connect with. Try a mix of articles, content and images that best represent the messages you’re trying to convey; consumers should get a sense of your brand personality, reflected within your Pinterest boards, tweets, pages and by the interactions within the social web.

4. Reward Super Fans

Why should your consumers “like” or follow your brand? What benefit is there for consistently responding to your posts?

One of your social goals should be to amplify your product or service to the friends and family of your current fanbase, so identifying passionate audience members is critical. Facebook applications like Booshaka can give you insight into which fans find your content compelling, as well as who is liking, commenting and creating stories surrounding the material you’re publishing. It’s basically a leaderboard that gamifies a Facebook fanpage and ranks individuals. This app will help you to reward the right people and put your brand evangelists front and centre. Bookshaka is free, however there are some goodies for purchasing such as the ability to award prizes (virtual and physical) and more powerful analytics and metrics ($9 to $249 per month).

Super Fans Ninja Turtles

Simply rewarding a Facebook fan for engaging doesn’t require an application like Bookshaka. This can be done in public on your timeline, or by sending them a message from your personal Facebook account with a thank you or a special offer. Developing Facebook Offers exclusively for your ‘super fans’ creates value for “liking” your page, in turn, helping you to monetize the audience you’ve been working hard to build.

5. Contests & Promotions

Contests, if done correctly, can strengthen the bond between existing fans and assist you in growing a community. Designing a campaign that drives entrants to create user-generated content (UGC) that promotes your key messaging can essentially get your consumers to market for you using rich media. A brand that pulled this off successfully is Dove. The folks at Dove created a campaign last year (Dove Close-up challenge) to market their Dove Visible Care Body Wash, and asked their fans to explain (on video) why they’re ready for a close-up. This caused women across the US to produce mini commercials for Dove within the world’s most popular video platform YouTube. How’s that for smart marketing?

On Facebook, since the change to their terms of service, all contests and promotions must now be administered through an application, which can be expensive if you’re without in-house developers. Enter Wildfire and Shortstack. Both services enable brands to create gated promotions on Facebook, meaning that in order to get an exclusive offer, users will be required to “like” your page.

The folks at Wildfire (owned by Google) create outstanding designs and templates for smokin’ promotions, however it may end up running you over 5k for a high-end option. Shortstack is a lot more cost effective, its starter plan can be purchased at a rate of $30 a month for a healthy number of options to spearhead your philanthropic campaign, sweepstakes, video contest, picture voting promotion etc. If you don’t have a solid base of brand evangelists our advice would be to make the promotion as easy as possible, with very few barriers to overcome. In saying that, try a short ideation contest prior to jumping head first into video unless there’s a thriving community.

We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for building relationships and growing fanbases, please drop us a line or connect with us on Facebook & Twitter 

The CountMeIn team assists brands and retailers in monetizing their fans and followers through an easy-to-use solution for creating branded storefronts. For consumers, it’s a fun shopping experience that enables them to promote products they want and love, with the added benefit of collaborating on gifts electronically with friends and family, across multiple platforms.

Google Images Credit: US.123