How to break through social media clutter

Filed under Columns

By Suzanne Ross

Guest columnist

Suzanne Ross offers advice on growing your business.

Market leadership strategist Suzanne Ross is president of the Aerie Co. in Evanston. Photo courtesy of Aerie Co.

Just because you can talk doesn’t mean you have something of value to say.

Everywhere and anywhere you go, people are talking – face-to-face, by phone, email, text, on social networks, at work, home, in stores and within virtual worlds. While the Internet and social media didn’t invent communication among people, new technology has given nearly everyone a voice by creating far more and widespread opportunities for discussion and idea- and opinion-sharing.

Instead of quenching the thirst for knowledge in and of itself, the information age created a perpetual overload that has led to a desire to do more than just “know” something. We now want a chance to discuss to make information more useful and relevant. Never before has it been so important for companies to participate in the conversation. The era of traditionally pushing your product or service onto your customers is over. Today’s prospects become customers when you engage their attention and trust through a true dialogue.

As the platform for communicating continues to expand, how do you share your story and enchant customers so they will come back for more? Think like a market leader and focus on the following to communicate the most relevant message with impact and break through the clutter:

Get clarity. Your company, product or service will flounder if you haven’t explicitly identified what problem you’re trying to solve, who your customers are and how you uniquely fill their unmet needs. Without this insight, others define you. Be clear about your value and results by showing how you are different, trustworthy and can deliver. That’s the basis of an effective and compelling brand.

Become more conversation-worthy. Communication is more than just the exchange of words. You’ll get noticed as engaged and informed if you listen closely to what’s being discussed by your customers and industry influencers so you can share something of value. Offer relevant insights, information and resources rather than forging ahead with an agenda that’s product and service focused. Speak online and offline like you would talk to real people in professional situations. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, but think before you speak. Consider open-ended topics or “content” that let the discussions flow. A great conversation is one where you invite response and encourage comments so you can learn more and create opportunities to maintain a connection.

Communicate with impact. Regardless of your current comfort with social media, it has been very useful in helping people get to the point (thanks to 140 character limits on Twitter, status updates, etc.). However, whether your objective is to promote a product or service, express your opinion or report on current events, you need a compelling message to reach your audience. Once you’ve adopted a conversation-worthy mindset, say what you mean as simply as possible.  Leverage the unique insights of the online world to discover specific words or topics of interest to your customers and then share your content via social media and other marketing channels to get discovered and build your market leadership. Reply to comments in a timely manner, when a response is appropriate. Beyond an attention-grabbing headline, where possible use storytelling techniques.

Become a content engineer. Everybody seems to be competing for our attention. Those that get noticed are the ones with rich, interesting resources and points of view that treat customer pains. The beauty of all the new communication channels is the endless ways to extend the reach of your message and marketing activities. Be proactive and plan ahead on the content you can share, such as information, insights and tools. Take an active role in discussions and prevent others from defining your value. You can broaden the conversation by citing others who are talking and perhaps blogging about the same topic as well as allowing your content to be shared or syndicated. Your credibility and influence builds as others spread out and talk about that information, which leads back to you in the form of links, exposure, leads and business.

Suzanne Ross, a market leadership strategist and president of The Aerie Co. in Evanston, collaborates with organizations and executives to identify and communicate their value. Ross also is a frequent speaker on communicating value, customer engagement and branding.

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