21 September 2012

What To Expect From Social Media

For the social media novice, the prospect of entering into the world of social media for the first time can be daunting. It can be perplexing trying to work out where and how to begin in the labyrinth of available online networks, each boasting mind-boggling numbers of potential new customers for your business. If only you could fathom a way in which to meaningfully engage with them! If, for example, you have never been “poked” or “retweeted”, probing this unknown domain with its unfamiliar vernacular and seemingly odd etiquettes could present a risk to your existing marketing efforts and, if handled incorrectly, may damage your existing online corporate / brand identity.
In this blog post you will find a few basic helpful tips for getting started in this space.  Ultimately you should the confidence to take your first steps into this exciting media, and to start to craft a sustainable social media strategy for your business.

Begin by “listening”
If you currently do not have any, or very little, social media presence, begin by “listening” to existing social media channels / groups that share your organisation’s interests. Open sites, such a Twitter, allow you to search their content streams using such tools as Twitter Search. The Google Alert service enables you to set up regular user-defined email alerts that monitor the internet for new content in a number of formats such a blog entries, videos, discussions and more. In taking this approach, you can start to compile your knowledge base of “who” is posting “what” content on your chosen topic or query, before getting involved yourself.

Taking your first steps
As you become more au fait with the various styles of language and different etiquettes used within social media, create new social media accounts that you feel best serve your business. All social media platforms vary in what they offer and some will provide you with much better access to your target audience than others. Advice about which social media platform best suits your type of business will differ, but ultimately you will get a strong feel for what is and isn’t working fairly quickly. Advice about specific social media platforms and their potential impact is widely available online.

Starting to build your community
As your confidence grows, you will want to build a community around your chosen field of expertise. This involves locating like-minded people / organisations / customers and beginning to interact with them. This may take the form of commenting on other users’ content, inviting them to comment on your content, exchanging ideas / concepts (social media is a great place to ask questions), sharing information / links etcetera. Don’t be afraid to put others in the limelight, share with others what you know, show a human side and always remain courteous, helpful and supportive. Not all comments you receive will be positive or necessarily fair, so be prepared to engage with these conversations and to see them through to an amicable solution where possible. Bear in mind that you are not the only person in the social media space with something interesting to say; it’s not just about you and users can easily tune out! Ultimately you are trying to create a valuable community so remember, it’s a two-way street; if you ask for feedback, be prepared to help others when they ask for yours.

What can your community expect?A social media community will take time to build but don’t get frustrated. From the outset of establishing your social media presence, give your community a strong sense of what your specialist area is and how often they can expect to interact with you. By setting expectation levels, people know what to expect from you but ultimately that means an extra workload on your shoulders too. As your reputation and reach in the social media space grows, so will interest in you and your organisation’s products and services.

Create and plan like a publisher
Inevitably, as your social media efforts gather pace, so will the demand on your resources. The introduction of a weekly blog, for example, involving writing and moderating the content, responding to user comments etcetera will all take regular amounts of time and effort to manage. Add to this a successful spin-off webinar series, regular tweetups and before you know it, interacting with your social media community will become an increasingly time-consuming task. “Success” you may say. Indeed, but you need to schedule in the various workloads and additional resources associated with your social media efforts to ensure they continue to flourish. Keep in mind too that social media can have the effect of disarming even the most seasoned traditional marketer, so don’t assume they are the best suited to help with social media content tasks. By selecting someone already in touch with contemporary blogging styles and techniques, it can save valuable admin time and spare a few blushes. That said, bear in mind that whether it is one or more people sharing the job of managing your social media accounts, you should establish a set of social media guidelines for all staff (templates are readily available online).

Content strategy is key
Alongside your new social media strategy must sit your greater content strategy. This will involve the content that you have available now, together with the content you plan to share with your community in the future. Some of which you will know is in the pipeline, such as content created around an annual event, for example; some of which may come about via your social media endeavours, such as the opportunity to write a guest blog or to present at a virtual event. Either way, embracing the creative drive and editorial planning principles of a publisher will help you and your organisation better deliver good quality, original, authoritative and timely content resulting in maximum impact for your products / brands. At the heart of this will be a “living” editorial calendar that sets out the necessary content inputs by subject, type, author and deadline. This in turn will underpin and inform both your on and off-line content marketing strategy moving forward.

by Martin Maynard, Red Rocket Media