It sounds oversimplified, but really there are only two steps to being effective in social media.
Listen. Set up listening tools like Techrigy's SM2, Radian6, BuzzLogic,Trackur, Search Monitor, Backtype, Google Alerts, Monniter, Sideline and Twilerts to find out what people are talking about related to your industry and your company. Each of these tools has their strengths and you need to match the tool to your budget as well as your needs.You may want to use more than one to focus on different keywords but it can be counter=productive to have too many alerts going. If they're all reporting the same information it can get very noisy! Most of these have trials and several are free, so don't feel like you need to start with the most expensive package. The point is to start finding out where conversations are happening and what people are talking about.
Engage. Do something with the information you've gathered. Are people:
- Asking questions about your products? Answer them and offer help.
- Complaining about your brand? Turn it into an opportunity to convert by solving their problem and letting them know you are paying attention to them.
- Saying positive things about you? Thank them. Let them know they've been heard and you appreciate their support. Inspire loyalty.
Like any dance you have to repeat the steps. Over and over again. Once you've connected with people, make sure you stay connected. Not in a"capture those sales leads for the database" sort of way, but in a real human connection. If you're both on a social network ping them occasionally with information or answer questions they post to the network. Every time you touch base with them you deepen the relationship and you have an opportunity to make it even better.
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