Posted to Volacci's blog on May 23rd, 2011
Social Media in Four Steps! Step 1: Finding (and listening to) the Conversation
Even if you’re new to social media or if you’ve only barely wet your feet, you probably have an idea how powerful social media networking can be. But if you’re skeptical or unsure on how to truly get involved, the world wide web might seem more terrifying than inviting. But that’s where we come in. Starting today and running for the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the basics of setting up and successfully running social media campaigns for your organization or business. So if you’ve been thinking about implementing social media into your marketing campaign, read on for tips and tricks to help you get started.
Before you even think about writing your first tweet or posting to Facebook, you need to figure out and understand as much as you can about your social environment. Most industries have a niche interest area and many of these areas are found online. To get started, figure out who is talking about your interest area and what is being said. The who is especially important, and you’ll need to identify two different groups of people before you begin:
You’re looking for new customers online. But who are they? Before you start tweeting your life away, figure out who is going to be listening. Create personas for your potential customer types. Give each type of customer a name, an occupation, some hobbies and interests. If you’re selling trendy maternity clothes, for example, one persona might be Kate: a twenty-seven year-old college graduate. She works for an advertising agency downtown. She does pilates and is a member of a local book club. This is her first pregnancy. If there are other customer types, identify them as well. This is imperative to helping you figure out what you’ll be sharing and how you’ll deliver it. Kate is probably going to be interested in witty or intelligent tweets, but might be offended by lowbrow humor. Once you figure out who your clients are and what they like, you’ll understand how to capture and keep their attention via social media.
One of the cardinal rules of social media is listening. But with the millions of voices on the Internet, you need to know who to listen to. Who are the thought leaders in your industry? What are they saying? AllTop and Technorati are both great places to start finding popular blogs in different topic areas. Both sites organize blogs by topic, so you can easily search for sites within your areas of interest. You can also search popular blogger’s names in Google to see where they’re participating. If you can engage them and capture their attention, your online reach increases significantly. You can increase your scope by hundreds or thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) if thought leaders in your industry share your blog or retweet your Twitter updates. Once you’ve found your industry’s thought leaders, read their blog, follow them on Twitter and participate wherever the conversation may take you.
Once you’ve found a good framework of blogs relevant to your industry, read them frequently. Using RSS aggregation tools like Google Reader can make this process a lot easier by allowing blog updates to come to you. Tracking more than a few blogs without an RSS can easily put you in way over your head, so start using one early on. RSS readers make adding and deleting feeds pretty simple, and this may come in handy as you’re discovering who to follow in the industry (and who just isn’t making the cut).
You can also use these bloggers to figure out where the online conversation is taking place. While many of these bloggers will have mini communities in the comments section of their blogs, you’ll find that conversations often head elsewhere. Find out which communities the most popular bloggers participate by going to their About the Author pages or asking them directly. Oftentimes, the conversations head over to mega-networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but if they lend themselves elsewhere, your industry thought leaders are the ones in the know.
If you’re not already tracking you and your company’s name, now’s a great time to start. If you neglect what’s being said about you and your company, you’ll miss out on opportunities to defend your reputation, respond to questions and comments, and convert potential clients to your brand. We recommend Google Alerts to help monitor your brand because you can integrate it into your RSS reader for easy reference. For Twitter, Hootsuite and TweetDeck are both great tools for monitoring any type of conversation on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
As in all things social media, these tips are fluid and should be tailored to fit the needs and desires of your company. Let us know if you’ve got any other tips - we’d love to include them. And stay tuned for next week’s post on participating in the online conversation.
Be sure to check out Part 2: Social Media Engagement and Participation.