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Your business is savvy. You have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google+ page, even a Pinterest board, all well-stocked with relevant content, optimized for the particular platform upon which they appear. In this imaginary scenario, your social media efforts are making hay, but beating the competition means getting creative. With your loftiest goals in mind and your competitors at your heels, here are five ways to lead the pack.

1. Use Google+ Hangouts

Google+ may not be the most populated social network on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in features. In fact, its built in video-chat capability can be extremely beneficial for businesses looking to enhance engagement and deliver quality content. The question is, how do you use it effectively?
Two benefits in particular play to the advantage of your business. The first is accessibility. Hangouts are accessible from desktop computers, mobile phones, even tablets, which means that compelling Q&A you’re delivering doesn’t have to be shoehorned into a busy schedule or late night.
The second is the face-to-face interaction. Short of meeting with customers and engaging in focus groups, Hangout is the easiest way to put a face on your company and engage in lively discussion. By delivering valuable content to attendees and encouraging a lively back-and-forth, you can build your reputation as an authority while building brand evangelists in the process.

2. Tap Into Breaking News

This strategy, in particular, requires some clear rules. When breaking news stories hit, they are frequently tragic, filled with charged emotions and sensitive constitutions. Marketing your product in the wake of a disaster or pandering for PR will be viewed negatively by the public, and rightfully so. However, there’s another strategy that allows you to contribute meaningfully to the conversation without appearing tacky.
Every business has a niche; a body of knowledge that sets them apart from their competitors or from other sectors of the market. For example, the New York Public Library used their plethora of information to depict the legacy of Elizabeth Taylor upon her death. In so doing, they honored the death of a public treasure, tastefully, while encouraging interested users to view their collections for more of the story. Informing a concerned public or honoring a fallen hero is an excellent way to make your firm relevant, and add meaning to the conversation when news events break.

3. Turn Purchases Into Marketing Collateral

The rise of sharing culture has had some fascinating implications. Among them, the rise of “unboxing” videos, demonstrate the enthusiasm consumers can exhibit when particularly excited about or satisfied with a purchase. And while you can’t generate this kind of organic content, there is an alternative that taps the same idea.
A purchase can and should be a special occasion, so make it one. Finally purchasing that item you’ve coveted after much wait is an exciting experience, and channeling that excitement into sharing activity on Facebook and Twitter is a great way to turn buyers into brand evangelists. Simply add social networking buttons on a splash screen after the transaction is complete, and consider using some clever language to preload the message. Doing so takes the hassle out of the action, and facilitates valuable social traffic.

4. Encourage User Generated Content

The strength of social networking lies in its ability to engage current and potential customers in enthusiasm-generating ways. Quick customer service response times and earnest replies to product complaints are great ways to demonstrate that you have a human face. But what about the face of your customers?
Warby Parker, an eyeglass maker of growing acclaim, took this concept and ran with it by tapping user-generated content to increase social traffic. Their innovative “try-on” campaign allows users to take pictures of themselves with trial pairs and publish them on social media for feedback. Not only does this spread brand awareness beyond the company’s immediate network, it encourages participation in the marketing conversation, leading to higher sales and a fresh new look.

5. Publicize In-Person Events

But why settle for social media engagement? While Facebook comments and retweets have their own value, using social networks to draw customers into the “engagement funnel” can help turn viewers into converts.
The key lies in generating content and activity that generates further activity. Calendar invites to in-person events, coupled with photos of the event preparation, Q&A’s with keynote speakers, and other activities help generate buzz among participants and give non-attendees something to envy. Not to mention the fact that in-person events are the most effective form of marketing for B2B businesses.
A healthy social media campaign is a staple of marketing efforts these days, but truly standing out means getting creative. Consider leveraging the tools and techniques offered here, and elevate your social media game. With the potential to engage customers, generate sales, and improve brand image, it’s easy to understand why more businesses are getting creative.

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