Social Media, which has proven to be a very powerful way for brands to build authentic connections with their audience, is going through a metamorphosis – from posting promotions on your Facebook page to becoming publishers of quality content. Social Media 1.0 was about the quest to acquire fans on Facebook at any cost and in any way. It turned out that most of those fans were neither brand advocates nor prospective customers. That was phase 1. These first set of experiments were filled with missteps, but generated a lot of good learning as well.
Social Media 2.0 is about building a highly engaged community of advocates and influencers with quality and relevant content. Fueling Social Media 2.0 is the rise of image-centric networks such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram that consumers participate in publically. The Web is changing from a collection of text and links to a hyper-visual web, turning into a web of tangible things and objects. Because images are easy to produce, consume, share and collect, they democratize influence and breed a new tribe of highly engaged brand advocates and influential users. Users don’t have to be celebrities to cast influence: They just have to have taste. And taste is intent.
Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Polyvore, Houzz, Vine and WeHeartIt are the newest breed of visual, public and interest-based networks that are ripe for community building. Proactive, two-way, meaningful interactions are the way to build brand equity on these networks. After consulting with a number of marketers, Piqora has come up with some specific ways social marketers can put this strategy into action.
1. Educate yourself on the visual web: There are substantial differences in the way users behave on these networks and what drives the popularity of content. For example, Pinterest is about collecting linked images that already exist on the web and is good for driving traffic and sales, while Instagram is a network where users are posting original photos expressing their lifestyle and sometimes incorporating brands into those original photos. Select the network(s) that fit with your brand and business model.
2. Pay attention to long tail networks: While Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are the big 3 visual networks, examine Weheartit, Polyvore, Houzz, theFancy and even yahoo groups or forums. Polyvore is a great fashion centric social network. Select long-tail networks based on how big they are for your vertical.
3. Understand how to engage and market across the visual web: For Pinterest, optimize your website for pinning and reuse top trending website pins on your profile boards. You should also repin content from influential pinners on Pinterest. Use Instagram to source lifestyle branded content to enrich and augment your brand’s website. You should also know the right hashtags to use for your Instagram posts.
4. Realize these networks are interconnected: These visual networks are very tight-knit and interconnected; content from one network spills over to others and spreads even further. Curated images are pinned on to Pinterest, spread via repins, and then show up on Tumblr where they spread via reblogs. Users upload photos on Instagram, those photos spread via hashtags and then spread via reblogs on Tumblr. 11% of all the Pinterest pins are from Tumblr. WeHeartIt (another visual network) is the top referred domain on Tumblr. Even the intra-network virility is extremely high for visual networks: 80% of all pins are repins on Pinterest, and 91+% of all the blogs are reblogs on Tumblr.
5. Build authentic communities: Really engage with your audience’s content to show them you care. Know your advocates from average followers. Reward them by repining their pins, reblogging their tumblr posts or showcasing their Instagram photos on your Facebook tab. And know that building a community will take time but will yield long-term dividends. Having an engaged group of 10,000 semi-influential followers could mean a reach of 10 million users every time you post something.
6. Leverage organic interactions: Social Media 2.0 is about managing interactions that are mostly happening organically on these public networks. Unlike Facebook – where most of the engagement happens on brand’s posts – in Social Media 2.0 brands are being talked about whether or not they have already officially joined these visual networks. Savvy Social Media 2.0 marketers are reusing these organic conversations, hashtags and photos to tell an authentic story about their brand.
7. Use Analytics: Big Data and Social Analytics are emerging as the technology for marketers to understand these organic Social Media 2.0 interactions. The public and visual nature of these networks gives marketers the opportunity to mine this interest graph and turn it into intent. Big-data on public, visual networks is making it possible to know everything about a brand’s audience, fans and customers. It provides 360-degree intelligence about their product, category, and brand interests as well their competitor loyalty.
8. Advocates are just as important as Influencers: The public nature of Social Media 2.0 networks also means Advocates have become just as important as Influencers in driving reach and amplification. Advocates are users who are organically pinning from your website, repinning images, reblogging content, and hashtagging brand photos. Turning advocates into followers should be a brand’s #1 social media priority as it can yield multiples in lifetime value.
Social Media 2.0 is a lot more about learning from organic interactions and reusing those trending patterns in becoming better publishers of engaging content. It is about segmenting your Influencers and Advocates and building relationships with them by engaging with their content. Giving back to the audience and participating in a two-way conversation is the way to build and scale communities on the visual web.