Social media surgery events are free to attend and supported by the Manchester Digital Development agency (@MDDA on Twitter). Sessions are held each month on a particular social media related topic which is discussed with an expert panel, with open Q&A at the end. The event organiser Chi-Chi Ekweozor (@realfreshtv) also posts a live blog documenting the discussions, which can be accessed at the time and after the event.
I attended my first surgery as a panel member last night and it gave me further insight into the issues that companies face in trying to engage with social media. There is too much hype around the big 4 social media channels (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and LinkedIn) to ignore them, whether you work for a multi-national or a SME. From the discussions that took place last night, and from others I’ve had on and off line with people from a variety of sectors, a common mistake is to concentrate on the tool, rather than the marketing strategy that you require it for. Don’t say to yourself “I need to get a Twitter account!” say to yourself “Right, I need to engage with customers – which social media channels will enable me to do this most effectively?”.
One of the attendees last night was from North Star Delicatessen. You can see from the live blog the events-related advice that was offered by the panel. To take them as an example for a wider social media strategy, the goal here would be to share the fact that they create great food. They could do this using:
Facebook – set up a business page to gain ‘likes’ <followers> and then communicate with this audience. Add photos of food, competitions and invite people to comment on their experiences at the deli.
Twitter – repost Facebook content, tweet regularly about what’s going on at the deli (new menu, placing orders, offer ad hoc discounts during quiet periods) and follow/retweet twitter account that relate to their customer base.
Youtube – post how to videos to build an online following (how to make hummous, how to pit an olive, etc, etc). Promote these videos via Facebook and Twitter followers.
Over time this type of content will create a buzz around the brand that will ultimately lead to conversions. It won’t be a quick process necessarily, but it will build long term customer relationships by avoiding the urge to push your own objectives onto the audience (i.e. ‘buy this’) and instead offering useful and interesting content.
Ian Pettigrew, chair from last night and @KingfisherCoach on Twitter, also took a few videos and posted them here. Adrian Slatcher from the MDDA, @adrianslatcher, and Fran Holden from Manchester-based digital recruitment agency Orchard, @francisaholden were also on the panel.
If you’re based in the Northwest and have an interest in social media, whether experienced or finding your feet, you should definitely check out the next Social Media Surgery Manchester. Hashtag on Twitter is #mansms.