Lee Odden

5 Ways to Electrify Your Social Network

social networking

A typical situation for many marketers when it comes to social networks is this: Setup LinkedIn profile, check. Corporate LinkedIn page, check.  Facebook profile, check. Facebook Fan Page, check. Twitter account, check. Corporate blog, check. Check check check!

But where’s the buzz? Where are the fans, friends, followers, comments, links, traffic, search engine rankings? Where’s the customer engagement? And the most pressing question of all: What is all this social web participation doing for our company and our customers?

Showing up to the game doesn’t mean there will be an audience. This is as true with the social web as it is offline.  The problem that marketers have with attracting interested customers and growing their social networks often stems from approaching social participation tactically and without a plan.  Testing and experimentation is great, but if what you’re doing is something that has a cost and is to be accounted for, then you’d better have a plan and objectives.  How can you score without a goal?

Here are 5 tips to help business marketers energize and electrify social network development:

1. Decide to start

You must start by deciding what business objectives you intend on meeting as a result of social network involvement. Once you’ve clearly identified objectives, then you can create a strategy that outlines which tactics make the most sense to reach and engage your audience.

Common objectives for companies to develop online social networks include:

  • Create connections with those interested in the type of solutions you offer so you can better meet customer needs
  • Build out a channel of distribution for promoting content
  • Connect with existing customers, create a place for them to connect with each other
  • Initiate discussions around product for new ideas, enhancements, focus group
  • Extend reach to influentials in your market for publicity
  • Tap into active user base for content
  • Facilitate conversations about your products & services to aid in new customer acquisition and/or upgrades
  • Create a communication channel that reaches employees for internal PR
  • Build up the personal networks of executives for thought leadership with journalists, analysts and key bloggers

2. Know your customer

If marketers spend their time on the social networks dujour without really knowing where their customers are spending time, then of course there will be a disconnect between experience and expectations. Picking friends, at least initially, on social networks should be very intentional, not random. Understanding customer preferences towards information discovery, consumption and sharing along with which web sites they prefer is essential if a marketer wants to connect in a meaningful way.

3. Be real, be useful

There are a lot of buzzwords like “transparency” and “openness” that describe the need for marketers to be “genuine”. Oops that’s another.  To be real is being honesty in your intentions.  I’ve seem highly respected marketers make absolutely idiotic statements about transparency, taking it to the extreme.  Ignorance is bliss I suppose, but there’s not much money in it.

The core principles of understanding the needs of your customers and then finding a way to meet those needs in such a way that is helpful and that at the same time leads to product sales, need not be elusive.  Approaching a social network blatantly announcing that you’re a marketer and that you will be marketing so buy some product dammit, isn’t being transparent. It’s being stupid.

Identifying yourself as a representative of a brand, product or service and communicating your intentions both in words and helpful actions is what I mean by “be real, be useful”.  Those good deeds create trust and relationships.  They create word of mouth and a certain gravity of popularity for your brand with your own identity as the proxy.  Fans, friends and followers “happen” because the word gets out that your brand promise is meaningful and being followed through on.

Developing relationships can be hard work. People already know this through the relationships they have in daily life. Yet  it’s very common for corporate marketers to initiate online social networking efforts only to become disillusioned at the lack of immediate sales results.  It’s important that social web participation for a company become a part of what the company is, long term. Not an “add on” marketing tactic.

4. Recognize and reward

When developing an active social network, participants will demonstrate certain behaviors that are more desirable than others.  For example, standing up for the brand when a troll appears or mashing up content in a creative way.  They say people will work for a living but die for recognition. This is a key concept for electrifying your social networking efforts.  First, understand what behaviors you want to reward. Participate and identify those behaviors that will influence the kinds of outcomes you’re looking for. Recognition can be active and passive. Active recognition is to reach out and recognize specific behaviors publicly and/or privately.  Passive recognition is built into the social CRM system you’re using or the platform within which customers participate. An example would be points based systems that provide rewards or more access based on accumulating points for completing certain behaviors such as comments, ratings, contributed content, etc.  The key to “Recognize and Reward” is for the recognition to be deserved, genuine, relevant and consistent.

5. Monitor, measure, feedback loop

All the good intentions in the world won’t result in relationship and business growth from social networks unless there’s management of content and curation of interactions with the outcomes from participation. It can be as simple as noticing “5 of this” or “10 of that” tips blog posts yield 200% greater engagement scores (comments, retweets, inlinks, etc) than posts that focus on a single, general topic.

Web analytics along with social media monitoring and a CRM component can facilitate the feedback loop to know whether customers are responding in the ways that you’d hoped.  Simply focusing on fans/followers, comments or sales can leave out some of the essential pieces of why some efforts fail and others succeed. Social media monitoring tools are essential for upfront research, ongoing monitoring and after-action results measurement.

In the end, the steps to take for growing a social network for business must be rooted in an understanding of the customers and their needs combined with whatever it is you decide you’ll provide to meet those needs. Being useful by itself doesn’t turn an active network into achieved business goals. Provide opportunities for interested members of your social network to opt-in to a more commercial relationship when they’re ready.  That could be as simple as moving from a Facebook Fan to a Webinar participant or Email Newsletter subscriber. In some cases it might mean becoming a buyer of products/services.

If your business has successfully developed it’s social network presence, what have been some of the roadblocks you’ve overcome? What insights can you share on best connecting with networks and growing your business as a result?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar thomasnorthrop says

    Very interesting article and some very helpful hints. I think it all boils down to building a proper funnel. The funnel starts with building good relationships with people by providing excellent content and information that they are seeking. This builds trust. Once trust is built, then a free offer to a valuable related piece of information will enable the collection of contact details. From that point more relationship building and great content will enable expansion into product sales of related products. This type of funnel is proven to work very well and fits well into social media.

  2. Lee,

    Thanks for the post! I think we all can agree the biggest mistake people/businesses make are not asking themselves enough WHY questions? If you cannot answer “why should I become a fan of ________ on_______” how do you expect your followers to do the same? We also need to get away from treating fans as poker chips. Instead of using flash in the pan tactics to quickly boost our fan numbers (donate $1 to______ for every new fan, seems to be the favor of the month) we need to take care of our existing fans first. Once they feel our content is worthwhile and relevant they'll share it with their friends, so on, and so forth. Doing it this way ensures we’re building a community of quality followers not come and go online acquaintances. Also, remember being a part of someone else’s community first is the best way to drive traffic to what you're doing online. If others enjoy your knowledge and “expertise” they're going to want to see what you're up to.

    • Great point Jeff, about the need to focus on the community you have vs trying so hard to boost numbers. Being a participant is what helps companies understand the “unwritten rules” of social networks.

  3. I think your third point is one of the most important. Some business owners seem to forget this, or they don't want to take the time to be useful. But when we help each other, we really help ourselves. Of course, that shouldn't be our primary objective because our “genuineness” (there's that word again!) might be called into question. Keep it real! That's all I'm saying.

    • Bingo Terez, be real about intentions but be creative and smart about meeting the needs of community members. I like the give to get perspective I think you're sharing.

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  6. I think a lot of people get stuck at the first phase, seeing that as an end rather than a means. Many businesses have an “if you build it they will come” mentality, and forget the rest of the process. In reality it seems that if they come, you should keep building. This is where your fifth tip proves extremely important, because the feedback loop becomes the true growth of the network.

    • Hey Brian, it's the shiny object syndrome, chasing after what's new without a strategy or plan. For companies that stall because it's too difficult to get corporate approval for an overall strategy, it's perfectly fine to experiment and build a business case.

      Just a note, we appreciate your comments here and especially appreciate it when readers use their names or handles vs company names or keywords. Thx.

  7. Great post, electrifying the Social Network and building a relationship is the key to achieve success for marketing of any product. thank you for this quality info.

    • True, especially in this economy. If there's one thing companies should be investing in, it's relationships with their customers.

  8. My favourite line of this article: 'Showing up to the game doesn’t mean there will be an audience.' Because it is SO true and yet people expect to see results and get a buzz around their brand just by joining social networks. The problem is…pretty much everyone is now online, so you need to differentiate yourself from the rest as to actually stand out! That's why you need a strategy and creativity!

  9. Avatar steven johnson says

    Hey, Great post!

    In this day and age taking advantage of SEO and social network websites as effective marketing tools for your business is essential! Most businesses don’t fully understand the capabilities of these tools to improve traffic and exposure!

  10. Avatar Ashley Smith says

    Great post!
    Having a ‘buzzing social network’ certainly doesn’t do any harm!
    Buzzing networks done right (like in your 3rd point) not only generate traffic but also act as great ‘Social Proof’ givers too.

  11. Great post! Definitely agree that these are the steps businesses have to consider in order to create effective, successful and measurable social media initiatives / brand communities.

    I think one aspect of the strategy that is not included is content development and internal collaboration on building that content. Businesses need to leverage their internal experts and content providers in effort to build conversations around their offerings, brand, products, technology and business objectives. 

    This accompanied with your last step around measurement allows businesses to communicate and react in real time to the conversations that are occurring around the brand. It also will help in amplifying and making sure that the conversation follows your step 3 in being real and useful as it will be coming from the main internal sources.

    Using tools like Media Logic’s Zeitgiest and Coffee social media management tool, allows businesses to work in a socially enabled environment internally to develop content collaboratively and in real time.

  12. Avatar cleondann says

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  13. Thanks for the great tips, Lee! Completing the social profiles and updating them here and there simply isn't enough for a successful social media campaign. You must engage with your online community.

    Tessa Carroll

  14. You can write, you can post, you can promote, you can comment. In the end, it does not help if your targeted market seems to not be listening or interested. Sometimes it seems that the only people that are noticing are the people putting out the same message to the same tarket. The difficult component is to identify who your tarket really is and then go analog in the promotion efforts.

    • Stephen, you're inferring that digital is ineffective and that offline is the way to go. Since you're linking to a printing company, I suppose you're a little biased?

      Regardless, something worth considering is the difference between effectiveness of a channel and the competence/effectiveness of those implementing in that channel. i.e. I don't say basketball is a poor sport because I can't play it well.

  15. Lee, I was not saying that a digital approach is the wrong way to go. Yes, I am somewhat biased toward print but AlphaGraphics also works with companies in overall market planning, website design, SEO activities, SEM, Email marketing, Social Media and of course direct mail marketing. So we kind of get it. What I was trying to say is that a purely digital approach to growing a following does not work for everyone. Sometimes the market you are trying to approach needs to be trained to setup Twitter, to subscribe to a RSS feed, to use Facebook for something other than talking to high school friends. I know a lot of successful bloggers did not become as successful as they are by not writing books, by not going to industry conferences, by not speaking to groups and by not training their prospective targets on how to follow them digitally. If I thought that digital was ineffective, I would not be doing what I am doing to promote my business and would not be trying to teach my customers how to do it to promote their businesses.

  16. That is the exquisiteness of Social Networking and how we can utilize its power to get in touch with the world. Can you explain the active recognition? Is it learning system?

  17. Definitely agree about knowing your customers… Having 1,000 random followers is a lot less useful than having 50 who know you!

  18. Definitely agree about knowing your customers… Having 1,000 random followers is a lot less useful than having 50 who know you!

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