I am surprised how often I hear, “I started to investigate Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media tools and was overwhelmed with the data. I think this is all a waste of time!”
The mistake many people make is that they dive into the social media pool without a strategy. They believe that social media is a panacea to solve all problems. Social media is simply a tool and it doesn’t replace marketing fundamentals. The evolution of the web is taking a similar path to other media. Initially, businesses thought of the web as print media. Companies simply posted their datasheets online. It was a static, flat media much like a newspaper. Social media is now allowing businesses to think of the web as being a place for “conversations”. It is a dynamic, two-way media for real-time interaction. If we think of it in terms of “print media” versus “conversations”, it helps put this discussion into context.
Establish an Objective – The most important step businesses need to take when looking at social media is to establish an objective. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to understand your customer’s requirements? Do you want to promote your products? Do you want to enhance your brand? This will define how you use social media. Social media should not be a stand-alone campaign, but rather a component of your larger marketing programs. Again, this is a tool that should be integrated into your larger marketing efforts.
Focus your Efforts – Identify your target market and create a focused effort around the right people. Use the 80/20 rule – Find the 20% of your target market who are the creators, connectors, influencers who are creating 80% of the content/buzz around your product/service. Use search tools to focus on keywords (e.g., hashtags in Twitter) to identify the most appropriate people to follow. Consider following your top 50 customers. If it is difficult to find people with common interests (almost never a problem today), then create your own group. You can do this very easily in most online communities. LinkedIn allows you to create a group about anything. You can also create a blog, or your own online community. Eliminate the “white noise” and focus on the important data.
Listen, Listen, Listen. Once you zero-in on a target segment, listen to them! The beauty of social media is that periodic interaction with customers (focus groups, trade shows, etc.) has been replaced with real-time interaction. Take advantage of it.
Accept that the Market is Changing. The worst complaint I hear is, “There is too much data. I can’t listen to every one of my customers!” We can’t afford not to! What a tremendous opportunity. Your customers are willing to talk to you. Are you really going to hang up the phone? Trust me, your competitors won’t.
Remember to apply fundamental marketing principles to your social media efforts and to integrate social media as a tool in your larger marketing programs.
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