Social media has become a proven path to building a community of followers around your business. Marketing via YouTube, Facebook and other social media outlets can be a huge driver of new customers as well as referrals from "marketing apostles" who identify with you and who feel personally invested in your future success.
If you do it right, of course.
There aren't many people out there who harness the power of social media community-building better than Alex Ikonn. In 2010, he, his wife Mimi and her sister Leyla started Luxy Hair to sell high-quality hair extensions to women. As early fans of social media, Mimi and Leyla began creating videos on YouTube showing how to use the hair extensions and offering other styling tips.
That one move turbo-charged the company's growth. Today, Luxy Hair has a community of almost 3 million YouTube subscribers, their videos have been viewed more than 350 million times, and they have become known as the go-to experts for hair-care advice on the Internet.
Here's the formula Alex Ikonn developed to guide their social media success--and that you can use in your business (regardless of what you're selling) to build a community of happy, loyal, and repeat customers.
Quality (Q) + Value (V) + Consistency (C) + Authenticity (A) = Massive Social Media Community (MSMC)
Let's look at each component in detail.
1. Quality. This doesn't automatically mean your videos need to have a high-end, super-professional look with movie-quality lighting and so on. Indeed, the opposite might be the better way to go. "On YouTube, the more you overproduce your videos and make them look like TV, the less they work," says Alex.
Instead, go for a look that's too high- or low-brow. The reason: People who come to social media outlets like YouTube want to see something real and genuine, not slick and sales-y. The more your audience feels like you're relatable and one of them, the more they're likely to listen to you, follow you and buy from you.
Caveat: That doesn't mean you can just pump up low-quality content. You still need to make your videos well organized and compelling. Just don't worry if you don't come across like a TV news anchorman--that's not your goal.
2. Value. The content you deliver has to be valuable to your viewers/customers. Provide them with tips, advice, insights or strategies that could really make their lives better. In Luxy Hair's case, their content focused entirely on hair styling tutorials (how to emulate the looks of various celebrities, for example) that really resonated with their target market.
Important: Don't be in a huge rush to monetize each interaction by pushing your product. Instead, offer valuable, education-focused content with no sales strings attached and with no expectation of getting anything in return from viewers. Over time--less time than you might think--viewers will become paying customers. People who are interested will purchase, especially when you bring value into their lives.
What's more, when their friends are in need of what you sell, they'll tell them all about you and send them your way. "When our subscribers' friends are looking for what to do with their hair, our subscribers will tell them to check us out and how great we are. It's the value we offer without conditions that really has driven our business," says Alex.
3. Consistency. Without this piece of the formula, the rest won't matter. You can't create a few videos and then stop because they're not immediately causing sales to soar. And you can't send out new videos haphazardly every few months. You need to have a plan in place to communicate consistently with your audience.
If people know what they can expect from you--like a new how-to video every Wednesday--they'll be more likely to engage and stick with you over time. If they don't, they'll start to look right past you and forget you exist. "I suggest doing one video or podcast or blog each week, minimum, and then trying to expand from there as you get good at it," says Alex. "When you demonstrate a consistent pattern of providing value, you'll gain a bigger, more devoted audience that leads to more sales."
4. Authenticity. YouTube and other social media outlets are fast becoming more popular than traditional sources for news and advice, because these outlets let people connect with other people who seem more real. That means your social media presence needs to be authentic--you must demonstrated that you truly care about what you're talking about, and talk about it in a way that feels honest to viewers. "If you are able to really show your real self as a person, you'll connect more deeply with more people," says Alex. "My advice is to not hide any bloopers or flaws in your videos. Leave them in--you'll be seen as a genuine person who is relatable, and that's what will help drive more business to you."
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