Seems like the answer to this should be pretty simple, considering the fact that you can’t turn a corner without a marketer throwing the term social media at you. But, alas, it is not.
First, let’s say what Social Media is *not*:
“But, Shanee, those are exactly what Social Media is, aren’t they?” Common misconception. What you need to remember is: Social Media is not the tools. I repeat. Social. Media. Is. Not. The. Tools.
“So, Shanee, what is it?”
Pretty simple, really. Social media is engaging an audience in a two-way conversation. If you are only pushing content out, regardless of the platform you’re using (Twitter, Facebook, etc), then it’s not social media. The tools are just vehicles for the conversations. I’m sure some people might be shaking their heads furiously at this, but to them I say, leave a comment and let the discussion begin.
“Why should I be doing social media?” I think a lot of companies’ answer to this now, is “because everyone in our industry is doing it, so we want to as well.” That’s really only half the reason, the other half is because your community, media, partners and analysts are already engaging online. (Of course, you should first confirm that this is actually the case, that these folks are online, see below for some first steps on how to do this and to get involved in social media). It’s like everyone’s at a party online, having a great time, they’re swapping stories and making new friends. You have the chance to attend that party and join in the fun–everyone’s really welcoming–or you can stay at home and watch The Hills.
“How do I start doing social media?” There’s no right answer to this, but I’ll give you a few easy steps to kick you off.
- 1. Set up some listening profiles. Use Google Alerts, Twitter search, RSS feeds, whatever. Just figure out what people are saying about you online. Get a sense of what people feel about you and where the hot spots for conversation are. The good, bad and ugly. (note, there are amazing premium tools that can also help you do this, but if you’re short on cash, don’t be afraid to do the legwork). If you see there’s a need for you to jump in, based on your findings, then move on to…
- What is our goal? (Increase sales? change perception? address FUD? get input on products?)
- Who are we trying to reach? (Customers? partners? analysts?)
- How will we measure success? (use your goal you outlined in bullet point #1 to decide what to measure)
- What internal resources are available to us? (Social media takes time, especially if you want to do it effectively. Figure out who can help and how much time they can dedicate. Budget’s of course something you’ll want to figure out as well)
2. Put together a plan. This is one of those important steps I think a lot of folks are jumping right on over. But, without the plan you’re not really going to be able to keep your program on track. You’ll just be shooting in the dark. The plan can be simple, think about answering the following:
One thing I do want to mention here is that bigger isn’t necessarily better. 10 super engaged fans are more valuable than 100 people who followed, then forget you. You’ll need to factor in this type of context to your reporting, so you can decide if there’s a need to course-correct your social media strategy.
3. Get started. Choose whatever vehicle you want, (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc) based on where your listening profile shows you your audience is, and start talking, listening and responding. Keep your expectations realistic and know that if you give your community value through things like exclusive content/offers, customer service/support etc, they will respond in-kind.
For most of you, all of this is old hat, and to you I say, keep on truckin’ and keep on sharing your wisdom with the rest of us. For those of you who are new to social media, just remember not to get caught up in the tools. Yes they’re important, but if you know who you’re trying to reach, why you’re trying to reach them, and how you’ll measure if you’ve reached them successfully the tools will be interchangeable.
- What the *** is Social Media? Mashable
- Social Media in Plain English
- How to Measure Social Media
- Understanding the Big and Small of Social Media Measurement
Questions? Comments? You know what to do.