You've come to the right place. This article highlights nine companies (big and small) that have transformed their online presence by implementing innovative social media marketing.
You're sure to find inspiration for your social media efforts here.
Look at the tactics these companies employ and don't concentrate too much on the target audience. It doesn't matter whom you're targeting—these tactics will work for just about any business… so let's dive in!
#1: Martell Home Builders
Martell Home Builders is an Atlantic Canadian custom homebuilder. In the past, Martell relied heavily on realtors to keep their business moving forward. However, once they embraced social media, they were able to create a direct-to-consumer model where they were no longer reliant on a middleman to bring them business.
Martell started a content creation and blogging strategy to focus on their homebuyers' needs. With topics such as “14 Must-Have Tools for New Homeowners” and “Home Staging Tips & Techniques,” Martell was able to grab the attention of homebuyers. Today, about 86% of all their leads come directly from consumers.
Notice in the image below the placement of their email capture box as well as their social media channel buttons. Prime placement of both components (above the fold and in the right sidebar) is the key to grabbing attention and encouraging interaction.
Note: Studies show that more people subscribe to blogs by email than RSS feed readers. Martell's call to action—”Get the blog sent to your inbox. Enter your email”—is a smart move to capture leads while promising value in the form of new blog updates.
Martell also takes advantage of geolocation technology by mounting GPS tracking devices on their contractors' vehicles, making it easy for their customers to always know where their contractor is when on the job. This eases the customer's mind and allows Martell to extend even greater customer service.
With innovative strategies, Martell has made the homebuilding experience social. One great strategy is their use of photo galleries of the clients' homes being built. Not only can the homebuyer watch the progress in pictures, but also they can share their excitement with their family and friends on social networks. This is not only a great experience for their clients, but Martell is able to gain excellent social proof and even more visibility online via these photos as seen below.
Martell also uses the Facebook Like box, as seen below. This widget is dynamically updated; pulling content right from their Facebook page each time someone visits their site. The Like box is great social proof. It shows how many people have Liked your page and also shows faces of your Facebook fans.
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The benefit of having this widget is that people can become your fan without leaving your company website. This encourages viewers to stay on your site longer and allows you to increase your fan base from your own website.
Tip: Think outside the box, like Martell did by allowing their clients to see where their contractors were at all times while on the job and by giving access to photos of their homes being built. By providing real-time, socially connected customer service, you're able to create even more trust with your clients.
Zappos is an online retailer that sells shoes, clothing and accessories. They're known for the enormous emphasis they put on creating real relationships with their fans and customers.
Notice their Facebook custom welcome tab below. Their catchy saying, “Let's be in a Like-Like relationship,” shows they treat their potential fans as equals, solidifying their relationships even more.
One great strategy they've employed is to first ask for the Like and then ask their new fans to join their email list. Once you click their Like button, the custom tab changes and you then see the opportunity to sign up for their email list and interact with their products, as seen in the image below. By waiting until after the fan clicks the Like button, Zappos is proving they care about building relationships with their fans first.
In addition, Zappos uses a strategy often called “fans-only content” where they reveal content only after someone has become a fan, such as the fashion images in the illustration above. Once you click the Like button, you get instant access to exclusive content, videos and special promotions.
They've also included comment widgets, as seen below, on their custom welcome tab where you can post about their products and your comments will post to your profile or page, telling all your friends or fans what you like most about Zappos. Great social proof!
One of the best engagement strategies I've seen on Facebook is Zappos' “Fan of the Week” contest. They encourage fans to send in their photos with the Zappos box and other fans get to vote on the best photo of the week. What's great is that Zappos highlights the fan of the week by putting him or her in their wall image photo for all to see. As seen below, this is definitely about putting your customers first!
Tip: Brainstorm ways you can use social media to make your fans the stars. The more you spotlight your fans and followers on your social media channels, the more often they'll engage with you and come back for more. Remember, you don't have to be a billion-dollar company to model what Zappos is doing on their Facebook page. You can take their best strategies, tweak them to fit your unique needs and make them work for your business.
Giantnerd is a company that sells outdoor equipment for outdoor activities like hiking, biking and snowboarding. This company represents one of the best examples of social media integration seen online today. Their emphasis is on giving their customers the most value possible while becoming friends with them in the process.
As seen in the images below, Giantnerd has integrated social media into almost every aspect of their website. They've created a social network on their site that's completely different from other social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Their one-click process to join their network makes it easy and fast to join the group and they incentivize new membership by offering a discount to all new members with their “Nerds save 5%” promotion.
Also, Giantnerd has incorporated the Like button on their site and they promise their fans exclusive deals and promotions when they click Like and join their Facebook community. Since adding the Like button, their average order has increased by 50%! That's a pretty impressive social media ROI, to say the least!
Also, when potential customers are researching products on the site, Giantnerd provides multiple social methods to get feedback from other social buyers. One example is their WikiNerdia, as seen below. Similar to Wikipedia, viewers can check out all of the different products, including descriptions and photos, and their customers can edit the information as well, making the experience interactive.
With WikiNerdia, potential customers can also ask product questions and the nerd community comes on board to answer the questions. What's genius about this is that they let their customers sell for them by giving them the tools to answer questions that potential customers post on the site. People tend to trust their friends and other consumers more than they trust the brand. Giantnerd benefits from their fan engagement by allowing customers to answer product questions for them, thus increasing brand trust for potential customers. Brilliant!
Tip: Let your customers be your salesforce. Think of multiple opportunities for your customers to tell others about you. Social sharing buttons, exclusive social communities and real-time engagement opportunities are all great ways to turn your existing customers into word-of-mouth advocates.
#4: Ford Motor Company
Ford has brought the social experience to the forefront of their marketing efforts.
Each time they add a new blog post, they pull in the image, headline of the post and the comments from readers onto the front page of their website. Those new to the site or those browsing for a new car get to experience the company and its culture from a social viewpoint right from the start.
Their blog, The Ford Story, is also unique. In the image below you can see their innovative layout where viewers can start reading the comments before they read the article, putting their fans' and followers' viewpoints first. Introducing your blog and your readers' comments to new viewers sets a welcoming and friendly first impression for any company.
Notice the placement of the Stories button in the image below. Ford takes the social sharing component to the next level by not only asking their customers for their Ford stories, but also asking their community to share ideas that are in popular categories like Safety or Personalization.
Ford uses this as a way to get new ideas for their next generation of cars. These ideas are not taken lightly; Ford has used many of these innovations to advance the technology of their cars. They do a great job of involving their fans and customers into their company growth.
Also, photos are always a great way to attract new viewers and draw in existing audiences. In the image below Ford has added a Flickr widget to show off some of their latest photos, making their site more interactive and fun. (One little-known fact is that Flickr is a fantastic tool for search engine optimization. When you load your photos onto Flickr, you can tag them and optimize the descriptions.)
Tip: Encourage your customers to share their stories and ideas and make it easy to do so on your site. Also, make it easy for readers to interact with and share your content by adding more opportunities to comment on your blog and sharing buttons to encourage social sharing.
#5: Convince & Convert
Convince & Convert is a social media strategy firm with clients across North America. Its founder, Jay Baer, is a social media expert and co-author of the new book titled The Now Revolution.
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To say the least, Jay knows a thing or two about making a website social. One smart strategy he uses is placing a link to all of his comments at the top of each blog post. This tactic is a smart social proof mechanism.
Most people only show their comments when you're on the abstract of the blog post. However, when you showcase your comment numbers near the top of all posts, others can see how many readers before them have interacted with your post, making it more appealing to them and more likely they too will follow suit and read the post.
Jay also includes social share buttons in strategic locations on his site. He includes them at the top of each post (as seen in the image above) and he includes them at the end of each post as seen below. To get more people to share your content, provide more opportunities via social share buttons in numerous places throughout your site.
Since Jay is targeting businesses, he knows his audience is likely connecting differently than the masses when it comes to networking. He found that by adding the LinkedIn Share button to his site, he was able to dramatically increase the amount of traffic to his site from LinkedIn. In the image above you can see that for Jay, this button outperforms the Facebook Share button because his community is actively engaged on LinkedIn. It's important to understand where your audience is spending time.
Tip: Give your readers every opportunity to share your content with their networks. Expert marketer Brian Solis calls this “an audience with an audience of audiences.” If you want to expand your message, make it as simple as possible for your readers to share with their audiences.
Cree is a business-to-business company that sells energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, industrial LED lighting. When you think of social media marketing, you wouldn't think that an industrial lighting company that sells LEDs to grocery stores would be shining; however, Cree is extremely social-savvy.
As you can see in the image below, Cree knows how to make their customers' experiences fun, social and interactive. In their “Cries for Help” section, they encourage companies to showcase their terrible lighting on their site. It's a fun way to make light (no pun intended!) of their bad lighting situations in their offices.
In addition, Cree provides valuable content to pique their audience's attention. With articles such as “What happens if a baby holds a Cree light bulb?”, they're able to speak to their audience in a way that grabs their attention and gets them involved. Great content is the key to a happy audience.
Also, Cree knows the value of social proof. When you become part of their environmental movement, you get to display a badge on your site that says, “Take the pledge. I joined the LED lighting revolution.” This is a great way to build community with your audience and get great viral exposure for your company.
In this image you can see they also do a great job of including their social media channel buttons on their site. When you see the Facebook Like box and their Twitter and YouTube buttons, it's easy to see that Cree is truly changing the way B2B does business today.
Tip: Remember that you're not selling to other businesses or to “consumers,” but instead you're always selling to real people whose buying decisions are driven by emotion. Speak to that emotional side, as Cree has done by infusing the hot buttons of bad lighting in the workplace and people's passion for environmentally friendly products. Find your cause and use it in your messages and share it on your channels.
#7: Emmy's Closet
Emmy's Closet is an online store that sells accessories for children. They're a great example of infusing social media with ecommerce.
Emmy's Closet is an extension of the popular arts and crafts ecommerce site, Etsy.com. On the site they use an application created by Etsy that allows you to browse and purchase directly through Facebook (see the image below).
They've also included social share buttons so fans can share their favorite items on their Facebook profile with their friends and their friends can then click through and buy products via Etsy as well. The share buttons create a viral buying experience. In the image below, you can see how easy it is to share favorite items with your Facebook audience.
Emmy's Closet knows that Facebook commerce is on the rise. With over 500 million people on Facebook, it makes sense that many of them like to conduct their entire shopping experience on Facebook, including the actual purchase.
Emmy's Closet also does a great job of branding their company to their social experience. Notice in the images below, they've created social buttons to reflect their brand, thus personalizing the social experience.
Tip: Experiment with ecommerce and product sharing apps on Facebook. For a great article on Facebook apps, check out the Top 75 Apps for Enhancing Your Facebook Page.
#8: San Chez Bistro
San Chez Bistro is a tapas bistro and restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Just like Martell Home Builders, they've taken social media and infused it with the needs and preferences of their local audience. San Chez encourages their patrons to use Twitter to reserve a seat at their restaurant. They call it “Tweet-Ahead Seating” and it's a great use of social media local marketing. Once you tweet your interest in a reservation, the online hostess tweets you back with a message similar to this: “Great, you're on the list. See you in a little while.”
With the number of smartphones on the rise, San Chez knows they can reach even more potential customers if they make access to their restaurant easy and quick. By combining smartphone capabilities, social media and local marketing, they were able to create an extremely successful marketing campaign online.
In addition, San Chez Bistro utilizes Foursquare to gain even greater viral visibility. Foursquare, one of the top location-based services out there today, allows people to check in with their mobile devices and let all their friends know where they're currently spending time. It's fun for the fan and powerful exposure for the physical business.
Notice below how San Chez Bistro has customized their Foursquare page, making it easy for patrons to see the incentive for checking in.
Tip: If you're a local business, consider customizing your Foursquare page and adding an incentive for social media check-ins. It's great exposure for you and makes your patrons' experience in your establishment more fun and interactive.
Cranium, a game by Hasbro, takes board games to the next level by including fun activities like drawing, singing, acting and trivia questions.
To make their experience more social, Cranium does a great job of using content from the game to engage with their fans. They often post factoids that can be found in their game, such as the one about Einstein's theory below. They know their audience well and therefore know that these fun factoids will attract them.
Also, Cranium has brought the experience of playing their game to their social networks. They've developed an app that encourages fun via fan engagement. For example, as seen in the image below, the app asks fans “Which one of these characters are you? Take our little quiz” and fans interact with the app and then are told which character best fits their personality.
Cranium is also clever with their use of video. Again, in the spirit of bringing the experience of playing their game to their social channels, they use video to get their fans to play along. For example, in the video they have someone humming a song, and you have to guess what song she's humming. It's put together in a way to make the experience interactive and fun.
In the image above you can see that the use of video on your Facebook page is smart because when you upload your video, you get an embed code. You can take that embed code and place the video on your website, your blog or anywhere outside of Facebook. When you do this, the Facebook video automatically brings the Like button with it. Therefore, if somebody's surfing the web, they find your video and they're not yet a fan, they can become a fan of your Facebook page right from the video just by clicking that Like button.
Also, if somebody shares your video on their Facebook page and a bunch of their friends see it, they too can become a fan of your page while they're watching the video, without actually leaving the video. This is a great way to virally grow your Facebook fan base.
Tip: Create experiences on your social channels. How can you tailor your programs or product experiences to get your fans engaged and interested? Think of ways to spread your message by getting people to interact with you in fun and interesting ways via great content, apps, videos and quizzes.
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Now it's your turn. Did you see some great ideas and tactics that might change your social media strategy? Leave your comments in the box below.
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