Brogan: Outposts and Home Bases

If you think of your main website as your home base (be that a blog or a shopping site or a corporate site) and if you think of all the social networks as outposts, then you’re halfway to understanding one of the best ways to market online, in my not-so-humble estimation. The trick is this: knowing when to engage on the outpost and knowing when to drive people back to the home base.

The Old Days and Home Bases

In Web 1.0, it was all about getting people back to your site. Please click the banner. Please fill out the form. Please do something to give me more traffic at my primary website.

If you think about it, the real-world equivalent would be requiring you to drive to Japan to check out which TV you wanted, versus just popping into the local BestBuy.

That was the old days.

Outposts and Why They Matter

I spend a lot of my online time on places like Twitter and LinkedIn. I use these tools to understand my buyers, to listen for opportunities, and to seek out potential new business. I have found that by devoting more time to the outposts, I can sell from there into my home base, or into the product I’m intending to sell, without making people do a lot of jumping through hoops.

Part of how I do this is by using listening tools. We covered this already in my post on the importance of bigger ears. I use what I learn through listening to build business for myself or my clients at these outposts.

The benefit of spending time on outposts is that you can connect with people where they are. You can build relationships without making them run back to your site and interact on your terms. They are participants at a peer level on social networks like forums, or on Twitter or the like.

We’ll cover what you can do on these outposts, but first, a warning.

One Warning: Value Placement

I’ve told you that spending time on outposts like Twitter or YouTube or Facebook is a good way to reach people. You can build relationships that are valuable before the sale by using outposts to talk back and forth with people and to learn about them.

However, remember that these social networks are a bit like hotel rooms. No matter how you redecorate, you’re just renting them for a while. To put all your eggs into Facebook or LinkedIn or any social network is like telling someone your headquarters is in the Courtyard by Marriott down by the airport. It’s a bad plan at best, and dangerous to your revenue and growth at best.

Instead, visit via the outposts, and maintain your value at your home base. Meaning, if you’re shooting really useful educational videos, it’s okay to post them on YouTube, but you should promote them via your main site. If you’re making an offer on Facebook, you should have the same offer available at your site.

What to DO at the Outposts

Here’s a quick list of what you could/should do at the outposts:

  • Promote other people, like your customers. Raising up your customers is a great way to add value to your own brand by helping them. In fact, promote other people 12 times as often as you promote your own stuff (12:1).
  • Share the good stuff. Information is a currency on social networks. If you find a great article that would be useful to your typical buyers or clients, then post it and share it.
  • Show them the “behind the scenes” version of you and/or the company. People like the fact that you’re human and that you can be human on social networks. Be a little off-topic. Talk about the Red Sox or the great ribs you’re smoking or whatever you’re into. Don’t overshare (like talking about your new rash), but keep it to a point where people find you even more interesting.
  • Individualize your contact as much as you can. My friend, Mick Galuski, shares the week’s new comic books with me by sending me a photo of my most likely purchases. This way, he knows I’ll come in and buy. Can you do the same with your buyers?
  • Treat each network separately. Don’t post the same update to every social network. Treat them all individually, and interact with people individually there. It saves you time to link things together but you come off like a robot.

Warm Up for a Handoff

If your outposts presence on a place like Twitter is personable and warm, and you dump people from that onto your company’s main page and it’s cold and basic, then you’ve lost an opportunity. Why not make a special page for people who transition from your social presence onto your site. Something like, “Welcome Twitter Friends,” with a really personal message about how happy you are that they’ve visited, and make sure people can get a different (better?) level of attention from you when they visit via these social channels.

It’s totally free to make people feel like VIPs. It costs a little extra consideration, some time, and then a promise. Beyond that, you’ve got an even better chance of helping keep them loyal and wonderfully engaged with you.

So Get Rolling

If you’ve been playing along with this series at home, then this part, moving from your home base into the outposts, is definitely the step that’s probably the scariest, as well as the most useful to you. I recommend giving it a go. Put together your profiles, put some nice pictures in the avatar part, link the outpost accounts to your home base (or even better, to that warm handoff area we talked about above), and then see what you can learn by listening FIRST, and then making conversation happen out there.

And if you need help, just ask. That’s why I’m here.

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