Social Media — It Doesn’t Take Work To Make It Work
Social media can be an incredible tool for your business, providing you with more customer insight, direct communication channels and the ability to measure the effectiveness of these conversations very closely.
However, to many business owners and marketing professionals, the social media industry is a big question mark. Some are not sure if this media constitutes a new, largely underutilized advertising medium, or if it’s simply a variation of traditional online advertising. Others question how a serious brand could succeed in the sometimes unpredictable environments of popularized consumer-oriented online communities. And some are uncertain about creating campaigns for social media, perhaps mistakenly believing that it requires a radical change from their current marketing approach.
The result — most are not capitalizing on social media and the opportunities it provides for making high-quality connections with consumers. According to a recent report by market research firm Compete, Inc., more than 71 percent of consumers who use social media are more influenced by user-generated content when making purchasing decisions than by information from brand advertisers and marketers.
But as the impact of social media grows, participating could easily turn into a giant time suck without some sort of structure behind it. With that in mind, I’ve put together 5 key steps for getting your company’s social media marketing program off to a successful start.
Know Your Audience
Social media is a term we use when referring to tools that facilitate conversations and build communities. Before you or your company can participate in those conversations, you need to know what the conversation is about before you can determine how you can best contribute.
There are a wide variety of tools to make monitoring conversations easy. The difficult part is choosing keywords that will net the most desirable results.
These tools will get you started:
Alltop: This website gathers together the top posts from the top blogs out there in cyberspace. Because, it sorts these blogs into categories by topic, it’s serves as a great place to begin building your list of relevant blogs to read.
The key is to be as specific as possible so that your searches return fewer results more relevant to your brand. This will take some time, but once you’ve discovered which keywords achieve the results you’re looking for, you will discover a host of blogs, Twitter profiles and videos relevant to your industry. We’ll use those results later as we develop your social media strategy.
Know The Game
Social media platforms build communities of individuals, not companies. Once you have a sense of what those individuals are talking about, it’s time to identify key people inside your organization to participate.
Position Your Team
Three items people look for when having conversations with your company representatives; contacts who are experts in their area, who are passionate about their work and who have authority to act on the feedback they receive from the community. If you want to focus on the developing your company’s personality, then look to your marketing team. The same is true if you want to participate in social media platforms devoted to product development, customer service or package design. The key to your success is providing the proper training for these employees on social media participation.
Level The Playing Field
Make sure your company has a social media policy in place that offers guidelines to your employees on the appropriate way to engage in online conversations. A great resource for companies new to social media is Microsoft’s Channel 9 Doctrine.
Define Your Strategy
Social media is an umbrella term comprised of many different platforms. Instead of trying to participate in all of them, begin with one or two that seem to make the most sense. Having a specific strategy for engagement will help to determine how much time you or your employees will devote to social media, what will be the focus and of course, it will help to measure success.
Dennis McDonald an emerging technologies strategist posted How To Develop a Business-Aligned Social Media & Social Networking Strategy that’s worth a look.
Get In There
This is where the fun begins! Start leaving comments on blogs, set up a FaceBook profile, upload images to Flickr, building a community on Twitter or whatever else that strategy entails that helps further the dialogue and illustrates your company’s dedication to developing online relationships. It might also be useful for employees to create a social media calendar so that it’s easier to fit social networking into their schedule. You never know what might happen, you could be an overnight “household name”.
The Real World
As was said at the beginning, social media is simply a group of tools that help facilitate conversations and build communities, honestly there’s really no replacement for toe-to-toe interaction. Continue to use trade shows, traditional sales processes and other networking events as opportunities to build even stronger relationships with the members of your community. This could be in the form of an exclusive training session, an informal breakfast or even a group outing for your customers.
Tracking The Results
Unlike traditional campaigns, tracking social media success employs a different type of thinking.
Start by asking yourself questions like:
– Are we learning new info about our customers we didn’t know before?
– Are our customers learning something more about us?
– Were we able to engage our customers in deeper exchanges?
– Did our team gain a new arrow in its quiver for external feedback and reputation management?
We also recommend using tools from Google, Yahoo and Trendpedia that allow you to both track and graph topics as well as compare terms- to help benchmark your company against your others by running the exact same search and parameters before and after your engagement begins.
The potential payoff for companies participating in social media is enormous. Over the next two years, I’ll guarantee that there will be measurement tools in place that prove ROI from businesses engaging in social media. This method of conversing with your prospects and customers is growing by the day. Until that day we need to look at social media as an exciting new tool in our marketing toolbox that supports all the other tools we’re using in our business.