The volume of social media marketing conversations is at unprecedented levels. The discussion has gone mainstream, and is so loud that it is causing marketers, advertisers and PR professionals to think about social media and start asking questions. One of the most asked questions is:
Should I be engaging in social media to help achieve my business objectives?
Many early adopters, innovative marketers and anointed social media experts will answer unequivocally, YES! And in many cases, they are absolutely right. However, a business needs to think carefully about this question before deciding how to answer because there are several components of a social media strategy. With this post, I will lay out a simple approach to help you get you started with social media marketing, in a way that will augment your existing interactive marketing efforts with a "Social Media Halo Effect".
The 4 components of Social Media Marketing
Getting involved in social media, either for a business or personal brand, is not an all or nothing proposition. Much like interactive marketing, as Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang reminds us, social media marketing comes in several flavors.
- Listening - This is an ongoing exercise to monitor online conversations about specific topics, keywords, or brands. It is the basis for getting started in social media, and can provide ancillary business benefits in other ways, to be outlined further in this post.
- Engagement - Most commonly thought of as the "talking" part of social media, this can manifest itself as a variety of forms. Everything from responding to blog posts or video posts via comments, or establishing a twitter account to engage in micro interactions with your customers . The most appropriate way to explain engagement is to think of it as being helpful, because as David Armano points out, we live in a world where the little things really do matter.
- Community- This may be appropriate if your brand has identified a customer need that it can fill better than anyone else. However, it's not all sunshine and apple pie. Building and maintaining a community takes commitment, and hard work. If done well, the results can be more than expected, just ask Cisco.
- Experimentation - New tools, platforms, and services launch daily. Don't be afraid to try them. Adopt new tactics that work, and shed ones that don't. Don't get hung up on small failures. Learn from them and move on. Rapid prototyping should be your philosophy.
Start listening to conversations about your brand
Doing this is much easier than you might think. An entire micro-economy has emerged with the rapid growth of social media. There exists many vendors that offer listening tools and conversation monitoring services. Whether you decide to purchase a tool like Radian6, Techrigy's SM2 or get started with free tools like Google Blogsearch, Google Alerts or Twitter Search, the point is to start listening. Resist the urge to jump in and start talking. No one likes a loudmouth that only wants to talk about himself.
Dell and Verisign have been listening. So much that they have published case studies on how their social media monitoring has helped. You can download PDF case studies by clicking below:
The Social Media Halo Effect
Listening needs to be the bedrock of your marketing strategy. In you want to have strong, valuable relationships with your customers and followers, then you need to be a good communicator. And good communicators are the best listeners. Listening to the online conversations about your brand will allow you to:
- Identify the most influential people online that are talking about you
- Identify where the conversations are happening (which sites, which social networks, which forums, etc...)
- Identify unmet customer needs
- Identify, in real-time, key events/issues that effect your brand reputation
The insights and learning that social media monitoring reveal is where the magic happens. This is the halo effect. What you learn by listening can impact many other components of your interactive marketing strategy.
Listening improves your strategy and research activities. You gain new, previously undiscovered, insights into not only your brand but also your competition.
Listening clarifies your content strategies by revealing what content is making an impact and what content should be reworked. It could be content that is delivered on your brand web site, email marketing programs, or online advertising campaigns. There are people having conversations about all of your online efforts, whether you're listening or not. Why not listen and incorporate the feedback and learning into the content and messaging that you send out?
I touched on this briefly already but it warrants a deeper dive. Listening gives you a competitive edge. It broadens the reach of your competitive radar. You can learn about issues your competition is having with customers and exploit those opportunities to serve unmet needs. It allows a brand to see/hear/learn about the competition in ways that in the past have been either 1) too expensive to do 2) simply not feasible
Listening can do more. It will also identify your brand ambassadors, influencers, and critics. Tell you where they are having conversations, what those conversations are about, and whether or not they have a positive or negative conversations.
Listening is underrated. And undervalued. I've described some but not all of the benefits listening will provide you. It has the potential to improve many of your marketing efforts, not just social media ones.
Don't fret over figuring out which places you should be participating in social media. Some may be right for you, some may not. However, if there is only one social media step you take, it should be listening.