If you are in marketing or PR, or care about your organization’s success on either of these fronts, then you are sure to be hearing a lot about social media. I am having more and more conversations from people who are aware (afraid?) that conversations are happening out there and are wondering how they can get involved.
Well, there is no one answer.
First you need to answer some questions:
- What are your goals? Do you want to monitor conversations or start them? Do you want to generate awareness of your organization? Do you want new customers or improved relationships with the ones you have. Just like any relationship, you have to know what your goals are.
- Who is your audience? While there are no hard and fast rules, different age groups and demographics use different social media. I have lots of links to various research studies here. In order to start to define where you need to be, you need to know who you are trying to connect with.
- What resources do you have for social media? I have never met anyone with unlimited time or financial resources. Define what you can apply to this effort.
Then, you need to understand what social media is.
The best way to look at social media is to view it as another way to interact with customers, clients, etc, with the relationship interactions happening online. These interactions happen anywhere that enables discussions, sharing, and user-generated content, such as:
- Blogs and Microblogs
- Discussion Boards
- Consumer Review Sites
- Social Networks / Online Communities
- Social Bookmarking Sites
- Social News Sites
- Social Music Sites
- Video and Photo Sharing Sites
Online social media offers your the opportunity to participate in conversations, start conversations, expand your web presence and reach, impact brand awareness, generate publicity (both good & bad) and increase your visibility in search engines. You can use social media to tap into the energies of your customers – get ideas for or feedback on new products and services, learn about their interests, and give them opportunities to promote you.
A good point of entry into social media is to monitor and participate in conversations that are already happening. You may know of some blogs or social sites where you are being mentioned, or you may need to do some research to find out. Google Alerts is a great tool for this research.
Once you have done all this, you are ready to develop a strategic social media plan – what you will do and how you will do it. As you develop your plan, know that in this space – as in any relationship – you are not in complete control. Be reasy for your audiences to influence your plan and cause you to revisit it again and again.
If you want to tell and not listen, act without feedback, and decide without input, there is no reason to use social media. Your time is better spent with one way tactics.