Within a company’s communications plan are defined strategies, messages, and marketing and public relations tactics for reaching specific and targeted audiences. Much like a direct mail postcard, a press release, or an advertisement, social media is a tactic. The tactic of social media engagement can be employed to establish an expertise in a single area, or a niche in a certain vertical market. When working to demonstrating credibility via social media, it is referred to as building “social authority”. One of the principal, key components in successful use of leveraging social media for business is building social authority.
Social Media and Business Communications
Employing the tools of social media should not replace traditional methods of communication with target audiences. Using these tools simply means reaching audiences in a space that is familiar for them, where they are present and engaged. When engaging with social media as a part of a communications plan, we carve out a space that enhances and amends these traditional methods.
Within a sales cycle (the time between customer initiation of the buying process and the point at which a final decision is made to purchase a product or service), social media plays a role in the information gathering process, customer’s perception of a brand, helping customers analyze their needs, and qualifying a product or service. Understanding how social media fits within the sales cycle helps explain why building social authority is a key component of the strategy behind social media engagement.
Without a strategy and objectives for reaching our target audiences, social media engagement becomes much less effective in supporting a business. The desired outcome is to influence perceptions and increase sales. Building social authority supports these outcomes by positioning a company or an individual as a reputable and valuable resource.
Carving Out Social Authority
Social authority can be developed as you establish an expertise in a field or area, and then become an “influencer” in that arena. With regard to social authority, make sure to be a genuine resource with authentic intentions. Share real knowledge and legitimate experience. When you employ these methods in an authentic manner, trust with your constituents online begins to develop naturally, just as it would in a traditional networking environment.
Increasingly, customers make purchase decisions based on the information they learn about you and your company online. Just as you establish a professional office and let people know how to find it very clearly, you should establish a professional profile online and let people know about you or your company very openly.
In thinking about building authority via social media engagement, the various platforms available (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) allow you to do various things. Some allow conversations to take place in the same way as a face-to-face conversation – creating a thought, sharing it out loud and engaging with the others in the room. Start with a strategy, begin a conversation, be genuine, and you will begin to increase your own influence through social media to meet your objectives.
Laura Powers, Vice President of Marketing at Furia Rubel Communications, is a marketing strategist with a history of developing award-winning campaigns that create continuity of brand, Web, print and promotion. Laura understands how design and image components fit within comprehensive marketing and public relations programs – building brands and their affinities. Laura regularly manages a broad range of marketing and promotion collateral including interactive websites, annual reports, company catalogs, product and service brochures, capabilities, brand identity and correlating pieces, ongoing quarterly newsletters and e-marketing newsletters.
Among her many accomplishments are the prestigious Communicator Award of Excellence from the International Academy of Visual Arts, the Web Marketing Association’s Legal Standard of Excellence WebAward and a Golden Web Award from the International Association of Web Masters and Designers. Laura frequently blogs on marketing and social media for ThePRLawyer.com and is a contributor to the National Law Review blog.