When my Social Media MBA students take their first course in the Social Media Marketing sequence, I stress the importance of listening via social, before attempting to jump right in. One of the course requirements is to create and maintain a blog surrounding social media marketing topics as well as become active on Twitter. Engaging on Twitter is usually the hardest skill to master for some. Once accounts are set up and tweaked, many are ready to sit and twiddle their thumbs. Twitter (and other platforms as well) is only as valuable as the user makes them.
My first suggestion is for students to search topics on Twitter (using the #hashtag, see my February edition of the Social MBA) to find posts related to Social Media Marketing in general as well as other favorite topics. For example, I had a student who loved running and ran marathons. She chose to search posts related to both running and social media and ultimately designed her blog around the two topics (she was able to blend the two seamlessly).
Once students have ‘clicked’ around on Twitter, or even Pinterest for that matter, they begin to see thought leaders and trending topics while absorbing the curated and original content. Then, students start to follow people of interest to add value to their Twitter streams. The content of their streams is dependent on who they choose to follow. The value they get from Twitter is directly related to who they are opting to “listen “ to. This brings me to this month’s topics. We will focus on concepts 3 and 11 from my January post “15 social media concepts to help make you a more marketable social media professional in 2013 “.
Concept 3: Accept and embrace the importance of listening before you speak and having a social plan/strategy in place before jumping on the social media roller coaster.
Much like my students, brands who chose to explore the capabilities and possibilities of social must listen before they speak. Not listening before engaging is the equivalent of walking into a social gathering and blurting out everything and anything to the room. A more strategic approach might be to circle the room, watch interactions, see what topics are being discussed, identify thought leaders, and then try to remember names. The same is true of social.
Listening can be done several ways and it can be used for many purposes. Primarily it can be used to further understand a target audience to ensure that each Tweet your brand sends out is one that provides value. Delivering ‘value’ is of course quite subjective, and very industry specific. It could be in the form of industry news, humor, informational, financial incentives etc. The strategy of delivering value in order to create and nurture relationships must be backed by set business objectives. This leads to concept 11 below.
Concept 11: As a social media professional, you must have the patience to go the distance. Social strategies are not short-term, they are made of long-term goals with specific objectives that have been identified first, and followed by specific tactics.
Before undertaking any type of social media initiative, an organization must begin with identifying specific organizational objectives that will be translated into social strategy objectives. Then, social media activities that address those objectives explicitly should be coordinated appropriately.
Content with value will drive social influence. However, content must also directly relate back to the business goals and objectives, and be relevant to your target audience. Great content can be a source of Internet traffic as well as assist in building authority and trust that ultimately leads to social influence. With this social influence, an organization can leverage it to drive growth and sales.
This all takes time, significant amounts of time. Remember the old saying, “you get out what you put in”, nothing could be more true about a social strategy.