It’s pretty safe to say that founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson knows a thing or two about business. It might be easy to peg Branson as a man irrevocably linked to his rise to stardom rather than his work now – but the thing is, he’s still going strong. Unlike so many titans of industry, he continues to change his personal and professional brand to reflect ever-moving industry practice – happy to learn as well as teach. One of the entrepreneurial scene’s staunchest advocates of social media, he is a great example of someone who understands its power, its limits and its opportunities. So what can start-ups learn from his use of the social media we engage in every day?
The value of engaging with users via social media was quickly accepted as part of the culture in the Virgin Group. Branson stated in a blog: “these channels were an amazing tool for reaching our customers and the public. One of the first things we learnt was that our new social media accounts gave us a real-time view of how we could improve. Through customers’ comments, we started learning about issues with our products and services more quickly than ever before.” Point being, it’s vital to take advantage of the immediacy of social media. If the value of it lies in instant communication, make sure that you react to your users’ input as quickly as possible and create a satisfying relationship where both parties feel the lies of contact are clear and simple.
The rapid growth of social networks, creating an ecosystem of interconnected billions across the planet, is something many corporations are still getting used to. It has created an economic environment where millions of peoples’ incomes are directly dependent on understanding and leveraging what knowledge they have of this online ecosystem. Many companies panic when trying to unravel how much power these channels can actually levy; assuming that the space of social media is a tangled mystery – but, of course, this isn’t the case. As with any relationship, really it’s all about communication. “Listen and respond thoughtfully,” Branson explains, “and you’ll be on your way.” Figure out what your users want to hear from you, and deliver it.
Listening and responding is certainly an important part of how you use social media. There are many examples of brands using these channels unwisely, sometimes insensitively, during disasters or media events. Donald Trump caused quite a storm during the US Presidential elections with his Twitter rants. Occasionally large companies can put out comments that are equally embarrassing for all concerned. It is one way to go viral, but it’s certainly not good. In this sense, it’s far better to build up a social media user base gradually, ironing out the kinks in your strategy as you grow. Many large companies found themselves with huge Twitter followings before they’d even figured out how to use the service; ultimately putting off customers and irritating previously engaged fans of the brand.
For people to engage with you on a deeper level they need to be learning something; reading and sharing the content you post, and linking that social experience with your brand. Research by Econsultancy and Outbrain shows that “businesses are turning into publishers.” Customers no longer simply expect a good service or product, they expect exemplary content, interaction and constant brand building. If interaction is currency then content underwrites these conversations. Combine the two and you will have a marketing strategy you can bank on. It might take a while to get to Branson’s 2.4 million Twitter followers, but the fight starts here.
By Benjamin Kerry
Benjamin Kerry is the Founder of Precise English with more than 10 years of experience in content creation and search engine optimisation for SME’s. He’s also a director of Desk Pop and can help you with anything relating to the online world, especially SEO Copywriting Services. Ben currently writes for several blogs and would love to write for more! Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute advice and information on SEO, content writing and online marketing.