Social media is ubiquitous these days.  From people in the street talking about their facebook profile or their number of twitter followers or how they received news first that Charlie Sheen has officially lost the plot, despite him ‘winning’ everything in life.

Despite the entertainment factor, social media is a powerful tool for business and I’m not talking big businesses.  In a recent survey conducted by Millward Brown in conjunction with World Federation of Advertisers (see the SlideShare presentation at the bottom of this post), found that smaller social media sites (owned by SMEs) achieve higher fan ratings in comparison to larger social media sites.

The report showed that the five basic expectations from fans are (1) regular posts, (2) trustworthy brand news, (3) new product information, (4) contests and (5) special offers.

Here’s our take on it from the perspective of some of our clients and social media sites we use in the office.

1. Regular posts

When you’ve built a fan base on facebook or a twitter following, those people expect to be engaged with, they expect to engage with fellow fans and at times expect to have their views & comments challenged.  Whether it’s hourly, daily or weekly is dependent upon the receptiveness of your community.  This requires testing and monitoring until you find the right balance.

The content that you use should be engaging and relevant to your fan base.  It doesn’t mean it should be 100% of your own product information.  Add comments which will get responses, open-ended questions to initiate conversation is a good place to start.

2. Trustworthy brand news

Authentic brand news gives your page a sense of credibility and worth.  It gives your fans the ability to consume up-to-date relevant content.  Outside of your own business news, insert links to articles, links to credible news & information sites, links to video channels and photo sites, podcasts and webinars, ensuring you are crediting sources.

Build your page by liking businesses within your sector, and Government pages, and other SMB pages to give fans an added value.  The Visit Young facebook page has liked several different business and organisations.  The Visit Young page will then cross promote news between each of the pages.  As a user I’m getting news from Visit Young and information on different festivals and events, outdoor movie listings, hotels.

3. New product information

As a fan you do expect special treatment for following a brand.  They want new information which acts as social currency; they would like to boast to their friends knowing they’ve received exclusive information before them or the wider market.

Kicks entertainment who holds the Foreshore and Warehouse music festivals in Canberra will announce all new event information on tickets, artists, employment opportunities, photos through their facebook page first.

Another example from a larger business is NIKE ID.  Not only do they release new product information but those products are designed and voted by the public and in return professional athletes will wear the apparel.

4. Contests

The rise of social media is not without the content creation by fans and followers across the globe.  We all love creating and being recognised for it.   Grill’d a franchise burger restaurant currently has a contest targeting students to win a scholarship.  Students have to highlight why Grill’d should support their studies.  In return students are creating new and innovative product ideas.  This may or may not be used but to have your idea recognised is a win in itself.

The We love the Gong facebook page recently ran a competition to give away tickets to a Roller Derby.  They required fans to come up a creative Roller Derby alias.

Crust Pizza a gourmet pizza outlet incorporates the Crust free pizza Friday.   Followers on twitter will tweet that comment for a chance to win a free pizza

5. Special offers

Incorporating special offers for your fans and followers is an easy win.  It’s a nice way to acknowledge them for being the brand advocates that you love.  A good example is Bums up modern cloth nappies.  Previously they’ve encouraged their fan base to help the page reach a number of fans by asking them to personally promote amongst their network of friends and family.  In return the company offers more prize packs and competitions to enter.

Clearly contacts, an online retailer for contact lenses and glasses, use exclusive facebook deals for their fans.  To track ROI they use a unique coupon code, to allow them to track back to the facebook promotion.

You don’t need to apply these tactics in unison or following a sequential order.  You could use a couple of points once and maybe applying another down the track.  It is about testing and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Of course there are plenty of other ways to get your fan ratings up – What works best foryou?

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