By Fraser Smeaton, co-founder and director of Morphsuits
1.Understand that Social media is better value than traditional advertising because of sharing. You could just buy adverts on social media and use them to sell your product. However, this is no better value than buying adverts anywhere. What makes social media powerful is that if the people you talk to are suitably inspired, encouraged or incentivised to do so, they can easily share your message with all their contacts at no extra cost to you. The holy grail of 'Going Viral'
2.Understand the concept of social capital. People only share things on social networks to create and project a certain image of themselves - their social capital. They will only engage with and share your product if it helps them build their social capital.
3.Understand your audience. Who are the people that are going to buy or be interested in your product. What image are they trying to project to their networks and why? What would help them project this image? Remember that people are different and what builds their capital is different. To a person passionate about the environment, being a fan of a Toyota Prius builds capital. The same thing to a Top Gear fan would destroy their capital.
4.Understand your product. What will your audience love about your product? Focus all that you do in Social Media around that. For Morphsuits it is the fun you have a parties so that is all we talk about.
5.Understand the different networks. Not all networks are the same. Facebook is for friends and Family. Twitter is for conversations with the wider world. Linked in is for work. Mumsnet is unsurprisingly for mums. The same person will project a different image on different networks. I worked with a innovative diesel generator company that understood that nobody would build their social capital on Facebook by liking generators, however within the selected groups of generator buyers on Linkedin the message spread like wildfire.
6. Advertise to get your message out to your audience. No matter how good your plan is, your message can't start to go viral on a network without telling people about it first. This is not about sending an invite all to your friends as they are very unlikely to be the audience that you are targeting. You need to be much more precise. Luckily, nearly all social networks allow you to advertise on their pages, this is how they make their money. All the usual options of location and demographics are available but the real value is in the detail. You can target people down to their job title or even their favourite footballer. This means you can focus right in on the audience you worked so hard to understand in Rule 3. This audience are the ones that will listen to your ads.
7. Provide tools & opportunities to help them build their social capital. You have worked hard to understand what it is about your product that your audience want to share now provide them with opportunities. If you are a luxury travel firm have a picture competition where the most decadent pic wins - suddenly you could have 1000 pictures, linked to your page, on news feeds all over Facebook showing the best of your product.
8.Keep them engaged and active Once you have built your community don't let it stagnate. The valuable sharing happens when people engage because that is what creates stories on news feeds and re tweets. Keep your fans interested with regular and relevant (this really isn't about sharing your new favourite song or youtube clip) updates, sneak peeks, competitions, discussions, Q&As with bosses...
9.Listen The social community that you have built are the people that really care about your brand or product. Make sure you listen to them. Their conversations, posts, pictures, tweets etc will give you hints on product development, customer service, what competitors are doing and a myriad of other points. This is all free and should not be wasted.
10. Ask them for help Don't stop at listening. People who care about a brand would love the chance to get involved. We have used our fans to help design new Morphsuits. Superjam asked their fans to go out to the shops and ask them to stock the product. Your fans don't need paid in cash to help. Often recognition is enough, although the odd freebie never hurts.
About The Author
Morphsuits www.morphsuits.com, is a 2009 start-up which is now turning over £4.4m and has been nominated for Ernst & Young's Emerging Entrepreneur award 2011.