When we first launched We Are Social in Singapore back in 2011, we faced a challenge that many businesses will recognise. That is "How do we build awareness and intent with almost zero marketing budget?"
However, less than three years later, our B2B marketing activities have delivered millions of interactions, and we’ve grown to become a multi-million dollar business — all despite zero media spend. So how did we do it?
Our strategy is simple: give something before you ask for anything.
We understand that most of our potential clients need to demonstrate the business case for social to their organisations, and many still need to educate their teams – and themselves – on social media best practice.
To address these needs, we’ve launched a series of free resources designed to help them succeed: from reports containing all the social, digital and mobile statistics they might need to justify their proposals, to training resources and guides on effective social marketing.
This means we’ve been able to help potential clients before they’ve even or asked us for help; in other words, we’ve delivered an effective and engaging ‘product sample’.
So how can you adopt a similarly powerful strategy?
1. Make people’s lives easier
All the content we develop is designed to help potential clients save time, effort, stress, and even money. Sometimes that’s simply a case of curating all the statistics they need to justify their marketing plans.
Other times, it’s about helping them to introduce social media best practice to their organisation, as we’ve done with resources like our Making Friends and Influencing People guide.
We’ve also produced a range of ‘how-to’ guides that help clients deepen their own skills in critical areas like Crisis Management:
Tip: Use content to deliver the core of your brand experience before your prospects have even met you.
2. Make things people will reuse
Every time we go to a conference, we notice that presenters re-use other people’s content in their slides. However, most social media data on the internet gets shared in long infographics.
Many of these are beautifully designed and contain lots of valuable data, but they’re difficult to use in presentations ‘as-is’. We offer a solution to this by producing assets that are easily copy-pasted into new presentations, reports, and blogs.
It’s not just about the information we share, though; the aesthetics of our content also play a big role, and we spend a lot of time ensuring our reports are clear, consistent, and visually distinctive.
This ‘recyclable’ approach has been a key component of our success: now, every time we go to a conference, we notice presenters re-using some of our slides exactly as we published them — together with our branding.
This re-use doesn’t just drive brand awareness either; it’s also establishing powerful advocacy.
Tip: create resources that people can re-share to achieve their own goals.
3. Focus on the audience, not yourself
Instead of focusing on sales materials that promote our immediate needs, we’ve consistently produced marketing assets that we know will help other people to achieve their goals.
By providing resources that help other people and organisations to engage their own audiences, we’ve driven extensive third-party sharing and word of mouth; two-thirds of our 3 million+ SlideShare views have come from third-party embeds, many on highly respected news sites and industry blogs.
Numerous influencers have also used our content to engage their own audiences, extending the reach and impact of our reports, and driving valuable third-party endorsement.
Tip: don’t promote your brand; promote what your brand stands for.
4. Convert content into conversation
We didn’t spend any money on media to promote our content, but it didn’t ‘go viral’ on its own either.
Our success grew from the wealth of content we created for a variety of different channels and contexts, as well as the conversations we nurtured around these assets.
SlideShare sits at the heart of our strategy; it’s the ideal platform for hosting our ‘recyclable’ content, and it offers impressive embedding options too.
We extend these SlideShare presentations with our own blog content, which allows us to tell a richer story or to offer deeper analysis.
Once we’ve published these core assets, we promote them by taking ‘snippets’ of content – e.g. individual slides or catchy soundbites – to use as conversation starters on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
We then actively nurture the resulting conversations: we participate in Q&A sessions, create one-off pieces of content for influencers and active participants, and re-share third-party content that builds on our own:
As part of this, we also use daily social media listening to identify the people who mention, share, or use our content in their own social posts, and wherever relevant, we engage those people in further conversation around their interests and agendas.
Tip: actively engage people in conversations around your content to drive propagation and amplification.
5. Raise as many questions as you answer
Of course, answering potential clients’ needs for free isn’t a sustainable business model, and we had to convert engagement into action in order to succeed.
We’ve done this by empowering clients to progress on to bigger, more valuable questions.
By providing them with the answers to ‘introductory’ questions like “what’s the social penetration in Indonesia?”, we’ve been rewarded with a rich and steady stream of inbound enquiries from clients who want to know how to take advantage of the opportunities these initial answers reveal.
The resulting conversations have allowed us to position ourselves as an added-value partner, not just a vendor.
Tip: use your answers to introduce higher-value questions.
Over to you
While it might be tempting to think that it’s easier for a social marketing agency to succeed at social marketing, there’s no reason why you can’t adopt exactly the same principles for your own brand.
The trick is to identify what kinds of content will add the greatest value to your audience before you ask them for anything in return, and make sure that they can find that content in the right places and at the right times.
The writer is Simon Kemp, regional managing partner, Asia, We are Social.