By Steve Kemish, Director, Cyance.
Like any marketing discipline, it’s vital not to dive into Social Media without a strategy. Social Media can work very effectively, but you need to plan: whether building your brand, driving leads, improving your search visibility or communicating with the market, your objectives will heavily influence the sites and tools you use.
Work out where you are
Use monitoring and search tools (many, like whostalkin.com, are free) to see who is already talking about your business. Remember, some may be negative as well as positive. Just because you are not looking, does not mean they are not there already!
Get the skills
With a good strategy, Social Media tactics are relatively easy. Barriers to entry are low, especially to trial first. But it is important to ensure a base knowledge for everyone involved in your Social Media activity – PR, Sales, Customer Services, Stores can all help or hinder. Organisations like the IDM have excellent courses.
Get the tools
Although many social media tools are free, don’t underestimate the resource involved. A simple tweet once a week is not enough. Social networks are fast-moving so regularly involvement is important. Tracking tools that monitor buzz or interest areas are important. Remember, social media is more than Facebook – you need a toolset that watches where traffic moves: driving email sign-ups, website traffic, downloads etc.
Find your influencers
Whatever your product, there will already be a set of influencers talking about you and your market, so latching into this finite set of “Creators” (Forrester Groundswell) is highly effective to virally spread your messages.
Find these influencers on sites like blogpulse.com or Twitter but don’t forget to look closer to home. In all web analytics packages the “referrers” report shows which sites your website visitors frequented before yours. Google will always top the list, but further down you will uncover sites – bloggers, customers or other interested parties – that are already talking about you and driving traffic to your site. These are great places to start your social media engagement.
Industrialise video and embrace UGC
Many businesses have experimented with video in the last few years. 2010 will see more mature video production. Making the most of high quality User Generated Content videos will become easier and more frequent, due to the new generation HD hand-held cameras such as the Flip. Think about what video can do for pre/post sales, training and brand building, especially given the ubiquity of mobile phones with video capability.
Use the right sites for your audience
Sites like Facebook and Twitter command lots of traffic and therefore lots of interest for social media marketers, but might not always be the best place to start. Search for websites with the best concentration of your target audience using them.
Industry groups or forums like LinkedIn are particularly good. A site may not interest you, but if it’s a hub for like-minded people and your brand or products fit this market, then spending time on the site’s forums and discussions will be far more beneficial than that Facebook fan page.
Integrate with other channels
Debates rage as to whether social media will kill email, and other channels. For me it is complementary. Email offers a more in-depth, personalised route to your audience, so use it alongside. Add your best tweets to emails; make your email sign up page prominent on your social media sites and comments. Use affiliates and Search to drive traffic to your social media “noise”.
Monitor and review
Your blog, website or fan page will grow a life and direction of its own with more readers. It’s therefore important to keep a regular eye on what’s being said rather than simply posting a blog article and vanishing until your next piece. Make sure you monitor, so you can stay involved and add value.
Use alerts on meaningful topics, brands and words, so you can get involved in communities and sites discussing your brand and market.
Be ready for the next big thing
Social media innovations appear almost daily, but not all will be relevant. Be selective yet open-minded. Most importantly, keep up. The most popular site will continue to change, but the concept of social networking (and media) will not go away. It’s not a new thing after all, we have being doing it since humankind began, it’s just the web has made the world smaller and brought like-minded people together.
This article also appeared as part of Aprimo’s ‘Thoughts from the front line’ series. Aprimo is a global leader in integrated, on-demand marketing software solutions.
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