Marketing with social networks is nothing new. The principles that make social advertising work are the same principles used to perpetuate a pro-active sales campaign:
You must be truthful in all things. Social networks are, well … social. With multiple people talking to each other, analyzing what you say and what you do, lies can be found very quickly and will come back to haunt you.
If you do not have what the customer is looking for, introduce them to another company who can make it happen. This will be explained later, but for now think of it as a little advertising for the competition will net you some influence when the user tells their friends about their wonderful experience with your company.
Building a rapport with the potential customer is better than making the sale. Social advertising is hard work. It takes a lot to be active on numerous social networks and to gain a reputation for being not only an expert, but also as a trusted source of services and products. If all you are interested in is a sale or the bottom line then you will have your eye on the wrong goal and may rush a sale before it is time.
Never disparage your competition. It shows a lack of professionalism. By slandering your competition to a customer, you signal to them that your service is not good enough to go toe to toe.
Avoid sales jargon and be direct in your communication. Sales pitches are becoming more and more worthless as time goes on. The human mind can only store so much and when it is inundated with tons of useless sales information it will tune it all out. Instead of using catch phrases and witticisms, use common language that establishes why your service or product will fulfill a need of the customer.
Make the customer feel good about themselves and their decision whether it is to buy from your or not. Just because you did not make the sales this time around does not mean the customer will have no future need for you. Building client customer relations through social networks is a long process. No sense in wasting all that time by ending things if they decide not to buy.
Never put yourself in a position to take away from your customers. A good sale is mutually beneficial to both parties. An agreement will only last as long as both sides are happy. You may say, Dave how is this possible in Web Hosting? It is true computers and networks fail, downtime can never really be eradicated, however if you have an outage you are taking away from your customer so give them something to fill in the gap. Common knowledge is giving them money back in some form. I have never been a fan of common knowledge. Give them peace of mind as well as money. Let them know what you are doing to resolve the problem, how you will prevent it in the future, and keep them updated at all times.
Finally, respect your customer and they will respect you. This is a catch all in all things you plan on doing with your ad campaign. If you target audience does not like spam, then do not send any. If your audience does not like being inundated with ads that embed sounds or music, then do not use it. When talking with a customer do not be quick to assume you know all of the answers. Listen to them and their needs. If they have a problem with your service do not be quick to defend your service, instead ask them why and if there is a way that it can be fixed. Social networks can not only be used to sell, but can be used as a free means of understanding what the customers want and how they want services to be delivered.
More than in any other form of advertising a social network campaign MUST be truthful. If you are not truthful you will get a mob of angry people attacking your headquarters with pitchforks and torches annihilating any chance you have of becoming truly successful. The Internet has a long memory and just about everything is reserved for posterity. Customers that complained years ago will come back to haunt you again and again.
If you want an excellent example on how to run your would-be social networking campaign, then take a page from the Progressive Auto Insurance playbook. Progressive found a way to make even losing battles win the war. Whether a customer buys from Progressive or buys from a competitor they will all be equally happy that Progressive looked out for their best interests. They will tell their friends that if they are looking at a car insurance provider they should just go to Progressive. Progressive gets an influx of visitors who use their tools. They will either buy from Progressive or not. Either way they will tell their friends about Progressive. Do not take my word for it though check the numbers. The online comparison rate campaign started in 1996. Between the years of 1996 and 2005, Progressive grew by an average of 17 percent each year. In more sizeable numbers, Progressive made $ 3.4 billion in 1996 and $ 14 billion in 2005.
Honesty and truth are valuable commodities.