Posted by: kevinliebl | June 25, 2009

How to Keep from Drowning in Social Media

Social Media IconsI 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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  1. Yes, “it is a waste of time” is what I feel now. However, I am still quite vague in exactly what I need to do in social media to communicate to my target market. Which tools are you using to search for your target market? Do I need to focus on tweeting just on certain subject? or should I be more well rounded so that people will be interested in my offer in future?

    • Joyce,

      I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. Agreed – I focused on Strategy and not on Tactics. For Twitter, I am a big fan of TweetDeck, but there are many others. This is a great tool for managing the inflow of data. You can create columns and filter based on category of data. They also just released a version for the iPhone, so it will sync your data back and forth – a very nice feature. Everyone has their favorite tool and they are changing daily.

      Getting back to the “why” and “how”, if you truly want to get a grasp on Social Media, I HIGHLY recommend you read “Groundswell”. There is a link on my recommended reading on the right column. It is really an eye-opener for most marketing types. Everyone that I know that has read it said, “Wow, now I get it!”

      Good luck!


      • Hi Kevin,

        Thanks for your reply and your tips! I installed Tweetdeck last week, am learning on how to use it and get the hands-on of it. 🙂

        I am going to take a look at the “Groundwell”.

        I follow you on twitter. my username is joycetan76. Look forward to learning from you!


  2. Establishing, focusing and listening pretty much sums up what will keep my eyes from burning out from the computer screen. Thanks!

    In addition, I think we need to gather application recommendations per social media channel…… such as Hootsuite is a very useful, time saving tool for Twitter. Anyone have recommendations for facebook?


  3. You lay out an overall strategy/approach. But then there are the tactics/tools.

    Sorting out the noise from the valuable info is hard enough. Then tracking, organizing in a way that can be used is the next challenge facing many of us.

    Your posting addresses another question that came in this group by Elaine Lee:
    Can some one please recommend a site where I can manage all of my social networking accounts? Where I can post, upload, follow and all that.

    Clare Wade responded with: Check out . It allows you to post across many different social networks.

    I welcome other ideas.

  4. For a company, there needs to be a process established for social media for it to be successful and not a time waster. Social media must be treated like traditional marketing and have processes in place such as how a company data sheet is updated or how the company website is modified. After the social media objective is determined and the social media process is in place the effort level should be acceptable. Social media is a wrapper that is put around the traditional marketing items. Companies should look into using outside companies to assist in creating the social media processes.

  5. Gosh, Kevin, this sounds an awful lot like somebody might need a social media PLAN! 🙂 For marketers new to the game, I suggest reading Chris Brogan’s June 22 blog post “You Still Need A Frame.” Be sure, too, to check out all the great comments that follow.

  6. All,

    As an example of the long list of tools (the top 10 list changes daily), take a look at the following – As a disclaimer, I am not endorsing any of these tools, but wanted to pass on one of the many lists of tools available. Use at your discretion and pick the ones that work best for you.

    – Kevin

  7. I did a blog on this as well, we are on the same wavelength it seems:

    FaceBook, Twitter, etc……… More toys than tools today, unless you have a well defined goal. LinkedIn however is much more focused.



  8. Hi Kevin – spot on advice regarding the objective for SM tools. It seems that so many folks (on Twitter especially) have come to the conclusion that getting 10000s of followers is an end in itself. Hence there is a lot of noise out there about “get x number followers in 10 days” or similar.

    Also the fact that you can hide behind a keyboard seems to embolden people. The result of this is they have no qualms in simply blasting out a sales message frequently and repetitively!

    These 2 things combined lead a lot of people to conclude SM in general, twitter in particular is just noise, spam, sales messages, banal messages which all = “waste of time”.

    It is necessary to cut through this and decide what you want from the tool. Personally I am looking to encourage people to want to visit our site, therefore everything is geared toward that objective and its NOT just blasting a sales message, rather it is finding and engaging in our chosen niche as you mention in your post.

  9. All great advice, but I still have a very difficult time finding my chosen niche. I make banners for people from all walks of life, so what’s my niche? For instance, I don’t want to add all sports minded people as my followers just because i make some sports related banners. Same with schools….
    How should I zero in?

  10. Jan,

    It sounds like you have been in business for a while, so you probably know your target markets. I would suggest that these markets are your “niche” that you should focus on. For example, if you do a lot of work with AYSO or Little League, then I would focus on those segments. I (think) your concern with adding “all sports minded people” is that it is too broad, and in this case I would agree. However, if you can zero in on AYSO or even more specifically, AYSO Coaches, then I think you would be very effective.

    The thing to remember is that there is no magic with Social Media. It is simply a new “media” to reach your customers. If you would previously been targeting AYSO/Little League coaches, then you should do the same.

    I would imagine that you don’t really target “all walks of life”. It is a common mistake many people make in defining their target market. This is a fundamental marketing issue, independent of social media. It is common to say, “I can sell my product to anyone”. While this may be true, most businesses segment the market and focus on a few key markets.

    For example: 1) AYSO/Little League Coaches, 2) School teachers / coaches / art departments / drama departments, 3) Real Estate Agents, etc…

    Go look for LinkedIn groups that meet your criteria. Search within Twitter for similar dialog and then go “listen” first to the conversations and then join in.

    If I misunderstood your question, let me know…

    Good luck,


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