I had a chance to be on a CEO Trust social media panel last night with Joe Meyer, the CEO of HopStop. Embarrassing as it is to say, I wasn’t familiar with HopStop because they haven’t rolled out their service in Southern California (coming soon, L.A.!), and also because I rarely have a chance to take public transportation in the US or Canada (or Europe, where HopStop is also growing). But if you live in a major metropolitan area with a robust public transportation system, I’m assuming that you already use HopStop (and if you haven’t then you should!) because it provides a great way to help you get from any Point A to any Point B via public transit.
Joe’s introduction to his company and how they use social media was eloquent, effective, and very easy to understand. For an audience eager to figure out how they can be better implement social media internally, Joe’s advice was bang on. Below is a summary of his main points to provide you all with his advice as well. As you read this, make sure to check out HopStop’s presence and give them a shoutout on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp.
1. How HopStop Got Started Using Social Media
HopStop is a service that has grown via word-of-mouth without any traditional marketing. Because their target demographic is the 18-to-39 year old age group, and because many of these people are active in social media, they noticed one day that a lot of people were talking about them on Facebook and Twitter. It was natural for them, then, to establish an outpost on these social platforms to better facilitate and guide the conversations. Recently they did a keyword search on Yelp and noticed that there were many people commenting about their service there, so soon thereafter they established a presence there as well. Now they are seeing their brand come up in conversations on Trip Advisor, so they foresee launching their presence there in the near future.
Conclusion: Do a keyword search on your brand, company, product, or even competitor’s name to ascertain if it makes sense to have a presence on that social media site.
2. If You’re Not Using It, You’re Not Going to Be Successful at It
There was some discussion on the panel as to who within your company should be your social media point person, but Joe was quick to point out that if you’re not a user of social media, and are still debating whether or not you should be using such services, then chances are your company is not going to be successful at leveraging such platforms.
Conclusion: If no one in your company is a proficient or active user of social media, then hire someone who is and let them tell you what should be done.
While there was also some heated discussion on the topic of ROI and social media, it was clear that HopStop views being involved on Facebook and Twitter as a natural extension of their business, i.e. having a social presence is as much of a must-have as having a website. Do we still question the ROI of a website? Social media doesn’t need to take up a lot of resources but it can have significant benefits for your company similar to those I outline below for HopStop, especially with the potential for viral word-of-mouth marketing that social media enables. Note: HopStop’s traditional marketing budget is zero; instead they rely on SEO as well as online and offline word-of-mouth.
Conclusion: You need to be where your customers are, and if they’re talking about your brand or service on social media platforms then you need to be there to facilitate and respond to such dialogue.
4. Engage in Conversation
A social media presence first and foremost allows HopStop to get the word about their company’s new product releases. Rather than blasting the world with press releases about new product offerings, HopStop regularly updates their Facebook Page and tweet about such upgrades on their Twitter account in order to update their fans on anything new about their service. While many companies still use social channels for broadcasting, HopStop uses such messaging to actively engage in 1-on-1 conversations with it’s users as a means of keeping their fans up-to-date in a refreshing and personable style.
Conclusion: Don’t just establish a social media presence: Engage with your fans.
5. Facilitate Conversation with and Amongst Users
People were already talking about HopStop offline (i.e., friends telling friends about the service), but with the advent of social media that conversation is now becoming as much of an online discussion as it is an offline one. Doesn’t it make sense, then, for a company such as HopStop to establish an outpost on the large social platforms to further encourage users to discuss the service? HopStop thinks so. So in addition to thinking about social media as way to engage in conversation with your customers, companies should also facilitate conversation on such platforms so that their users can share all of the great things about what the company has to offer. And there is no better place to do this than on a Facebook Page.
Conclusion: Your social media presence isn’t just about you. Make it easy for your fans to engage with each other.
6. Get Important Feedback
By engaging with users and facilitating conversation with and amongst users, a great deal of things can be learned about your users and how they use your products and services. Not all of the conversations are going to be positive 100% of the time, and that’s the point: It allows your company to keep a finger on the pulse of any issues or pain points that your users are having and hence it helps you to further improve your offering. The feedback can also be invaluable in that ideas for new services or growth opportunities are often brought forth by users who are talking about your company on Facebook and Twitter.
Conclusion: Don’t be afraid of the conversations about your company in social media. Embrace them for the opportunities that they may present (and jump into such conversation to elicit even more feedback from users who are willing to share it).
7. Recirculate Traffic
Joe mentioned that on Twitter, HopStop often shares general information about public transportation and mapping, with many tweeted articles also being ones in which HopStop is mentioned. Re-circulating traffic from Twitter to another site (and then back to your website) is a common tactic used in social media, but the important thing to remember is to share relevant information about your industry in which your users are genuinely interested. In doing so, your fans are more likely to tune-in to your messaging, thus significantly increasing the chances that when you talk about your product they’ll be listening. And when they visit your website they’ll be actively engaged.
Conclusion: Sharing useful and pertinent 3rd party information about your industry on Facebook and Twitter will help your company to become a thought-leader in your particular industry and hence a trusted source of information for users.
Social media doesn’t stop with your social presence. Now that your company is active in social media, have you optimized your own website for your social presence? One of the easiest ways to do this, which HopStop has done, is to integrate their website with Facebook using the Facebook Connect API. There are many different ways to leverage the Facebook Social Graph, Levis being a great example of showing how many Facebook Likes each of their products have. HopStop also allows it’s user to share their directions with friends via a Facebook share button. Allowing your users to sign-in to your website through Facebook Connect and providing them with the social media tools to share the information that they find on your site are two easy ways for companies to further embrace social media.
Conclusion: Social media does not exist in a vacuum and neither should your website. Integrate it with social and reap the potential benefits.
What do you think about the way HopStop uses Facebook and Twitter as explained above? Any important points that you would like to add to the conversation?