Build Real Engagement By Turning Your Community Into Content Creators in 5 Easy Steps

Every day I talk to folks in every realm of marketing: traditional, social media, and everything in between. Everyone has their take on how to use social media to get new business, but one question that almost always comes up, is “how do I get people to engage with my brand on Facebook, after the initial ‘Like’?“ It’s a tough question, and while the answer is unique to each company or organization, we found an interesting approach that doesn’t require a lot of time or money, and leverages today’s critical marketing currency—content.

“How do I know it will work for my brand?”

To illustrate it, we’ll use a client (we’ll keep the name confidential), who we helped develop a solution that resulted in dramatic growth. When we first engaged the client they had approximately 400 social connections, and we grew that number to 5,000 almost over night, with little effort by them.

So, where do you start? As with any marketing initiative (Facebook is just one more channel), you need to have a well-planned, thought out approach:

  1. Define your objectives.
    Know what you’re looking to accomplish. Sales growth? Brand buzz? Social engagement? Make sure you—and your stakeholders—know what you’re looking to get out of the effort. In this case, a new shoe company was looking to develop a strong following on social media. They had recently developed ground-breaking technology allowing the wearer to customize the support of their shoe throughout the day. Without a huge budget to devote to marketing, they wanted to build a passionate community that would support the brand on the launch of their new product. Knowing what they were looking to accomplish helped to define the parameters around the effort, and created clear and strong objectives.
  2. Define your customer.
    In any marketing effort, you need a clear understanding of who your customer is. There are a million blogs and books out there on how to do this well. Just make sure you do it. And remember, you are generally not your customer. In our client’s case, the customers were woman ages 30 – 55 with active lifestyles. This helped us with the next step.
  3. Understand where your customers live—online.
    Some folks live in blogs, others on Twitter. Some may spend all day on Facebook or Pinterest. Understanding what social channels your customers spend their time on is critical to getting your message to them. In our case, Pinterest was really starting to blow up, and Facebook and blogs played heavily into the mix.
  4. Figure out what is unique about your particular product, service or offering.
    You want to leverage this as the central point of your engagement. In this case, the client had a customizable shoe in which the wearer could change throughout the day. This key differentiator helped us come up with the concept—customize your own shoe online.
  5. Create a unique program that allows your users to create relevant content for their communities.
    What does this mean? You need to create an environment where your customers are empowered and have an investment in creating content involving your brand. If you’re able to leverage their inherent need to express themselves, it’s all the more engaging. For example, you could:
    a) have them take a photo with your product and upload it to their Facebook profile
    b) have them create a video and tag it to your page
    c) have them provide a testimonial on your page and share it to their social channels

Regardless, empower your community to create quality content and give them easy access to sharing it.

Turn your community into content creators.

In our client’s case, we developed a concept around designing your own shoe. As people were able to customize their shoe in real life, we wanted them to be able to customize their shoe online. How better to engage users than to let them “play” with your product before buying it? We invited our target audience via email campaigns to the company’s Facebook page. WITHOUT requiring them to “like” the page, users could begin designing their own shoes immediately. They were able to design as many shoes as they wanted, and when the design was finished, they had the ability to share pictures of the shoes with their networks on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs and email. We took engagement to the next level by allowing community members of the artists to vote on the shoes if they liked them. People voting could then enter the contest and create their own shoes, invite their friends, and get more people to vote, and so on. Lastly, we were able to keep the engagement going, new content continued to be created. People who liked the page then came back again and again, to create new shoes, to vote, to share…to ENGAGE. This was the key to kicking off ongoing Facebook engagement. People had a reason to come back and engage in a way that was organic and natural.

At the end of the campaign, the person who received the most votes on their shoe had their custom designed shoe produced by the company.

Why did this work?

We didn’t require anyone to like the page. They naturally liked the page, so that when updates were made, they were kept in the loop. We put the user in a position where they were able to create content (fun and creative pictures of shoes). We made it easy to share with their networks, easy to vote, and easy to join. All of these came together to create an environment that helped our client grow their community and brand advocates.

Start building real engagement.

Your campaign can be a success like this one, if you do as we did:

  • We had clearly defined objectives;
  • We knew who the customer was;
  • We knew what social channels they spent time on;
  • We had a plan that tied it all together;
  • We created a way for community members to creatively create and share content.

How can you leverage your product or service to create some form of ongoing engagement where your customers and community members create and share content for you?