With the proliferation of spoofs on social media gurus and sites mocking the generalization that some social media professionals are offering to clients, I think there is a real need within the social media consulting community to actually figure out what can help clients today. Too much advice is driven by hype, and a bit more rigor needs to be applied to the overall discussion around how to attack social media. If you work in PR, marketing or sales, there is a sense that organizations need to do something to engage and monitor conversation happening around the brand. But do we all need to start tweeting and figuring out our Foursquare strategy right away? Probably not. We may actually never need to look at those tools. Never.
Lots of people have said it before, but the technology is secondary to the strategy.
Marketing - If you are a marketer, first look for the places where individuals are talking about your brand. Don’t waste time trying to figure out how you are going to engage. Too often organizations will spin their wheels thinking about engagement when they could just use forums as places to actually market their products and services. So today, really understand who is talking about you, what they are saying, and where they are saying it. Refine your message, and advertise based on what you learn. Want to create an engaging social media widget? Great. That’s step two.
PR - If you work in public relations, you want to control the message around your brand. First things first. When someone says something that is blatantly false, help make corrections and provide simple transparent content that does that. Whether it’s a paid monitoring tool or not that gives you insight to these conversations, focus on the negative. As a PR professional, you want to keep the message clear. Step two is creating a conversation with people who love you, people who are not sure how they feel… and driving more conversations that emphasis this message. I think PR is a bit further along with social media, so being more proactive on listening and engaging is something that you can do. But focus on the message, and address conversations that are off-message first.
Sales- Of all the functions that can suffer from analysis paralysis, there is no function that can fall into this trap more than the sales function. Developing new business is usually high-touch and often a really difficult endeavour. There are businesses who are making sales by looking on social media, but this can often be a long process. If your Marketing and PR team focuses on advertising and message within social media, they have you generally covered. After all, these groups, especially Marketing, are designed to drive sales. So setup your monitoring tools to look specifically for individuals who are looking to buy now. If you are up for the challenge, go ahead and engage those individuals. Otherwise work in conjunction with Marketing and PR to be aware of the conversations that are occurring on social media. While there are a few industries which may benefit from directly talking to individuals discussing an imminent purchase, this is an extremely difficult thing to do. Wait for the tools (and the associated algorithms/processing) to get better, and then revisit using social media from the direct view of a sales function.
If you can attack these ideas first, there will be plenty of time to use other (much cooler) ways to get involved with social media. Let’s get back to running a business!