Monday, August 30, 2010

How can my company use Social Media?

A lot of people agree now that Social Media has become an integral part of marketing. A lot of people know what Facebook is. Fewer people might know about Foursquare or Gowalla right now, but it's all catching on. In perusing what's out there in Social Media, it's easy to find a lot of information about Social Media. Whether you believe there are "experts" or not, there is a lot of content that tells you how to succeed using Social Media. There is even some content that tells you how to fail.

If you are new to this world of Social Media, or if you are new to marketing in general, what you are probably not seeing a lot of is how all of this information can be adapted by you and/or your company. There isn't a post or an e-book that speaks directly to you. I can't promise that this blog will be all that different. After all, without talking to you I can't really give you customized information. But what I can tell you is how to go about answering some of the questions that can help you get started.

Go where the customers are.

One thing you can learn a lot about is the importance of relationship building in Social Media. You see a lot of sites that help you learn how to nuance your blog posts away from language that sells. You read a lot about how important it is to be yourself. But there's one really important thing you need to do first. You need to go where your existing and potential customers are. There's nothing wrong with networking with people who are interested in fishing when  you manufacture CNC machines, but it's probably not going to generate the levels of success that you've been hearing about.

How do you know where your customers are? Well, you need to do some research, something that Clayman Advertising can help you with. And what do we help you research? There are two things you need to find out right away. First, are your customers actually out there using Social Media? Second, if they are out there, how are they conversing about your industry? A close third, of course, is, "are they talking about you."

One thing that concerns me about the current marketing environment is that the whole feel is like a college party, and Social Media is the drink of choice that everyone thinks you should have. You should, in fact, totally go bonkers for that drink, and if you don't, you're a bit of a party pooper.

The thing is, sometimes we conduct research and we find out that Facebook is not fertile ground in which a garden of great results can be planted. That's not to say that Facebook is bad or that it will never come in handy. It just means that existing and potential customers aren't there now. Sometimes there is only relevant activity on YouTube. Sometimes there just isn't much buzz at all (I talk about this conundrum in more detail in an earlier blogpost called "The Social Media Case Study You'll Never Hear About").

If you find that Social Media is not heavily populated by customers or potential customers, the next step is to find out if your competitors are out there.

Go where your competitors are.

There are two things you want to look at when researching the Social Media activity of your competitors. Again, this is something we can help you with, but generally, you want to a) see if your competitors are using Social Media and b) You want to see how they're doing. What do I mean by that? It means you want to look at that competitor's Facebook page. You can look at how many fans (I guess we should call them "likers" now) the page has. But more importantly, you want to look at the activity. It's relatively easy to get fans or followers, especially if you're a big company. If everyone at the company likes the page, you could end up with a commendable 500 fans right off the bat. What you really want to look for is the nature of the posts that are being made and what kind of reactions those posts are receiving. If the same person is posting a news release every Wednesday to a room of crickets, you can assume that the page is not successful. If people other than the page's host are posting to the page, if there is a lot of conversation, if there is a lot of liking going on, then that is something you want to make note of.

Same rules apply for YouTube and Twitter. A company could end up with 1,00 followers almost by accident. Are they conversing with those followers? Are they using the tool appropriately? Are they getting responses?

If you find that your competitors are having a fair amount of success even despite your research showing that the conversation rate is low, it adds more weight to your consideration. If your competitors are mostly talking to themselves, it's safe to assume that the time is not right for you to join the lonely crowd.

Go where you can shine.

The final consideration in the first round of identifying where in the Social Media world you should go is where you and your company can shine. Where can you provide the most value to your customers so that you can start to build that online following? What kind of content do you have already that could easily be used for other purposes? If you have a lot of white papers, for example, maybe a blog is a good place for you to start. If you have a vast video library that's getting dusty on your website, enter into YouTube and start letting people find your company that way. Play to your strengths. That is what ultimately will win you business and help you maintain business.

Go carefully.

These are all important things to consider, and they are just the beginning. Once you figure out where you want to be, you need to figure out what you're going to do there. Avoid the temptation of falling victim to the excitement or the peer pressure. Your customers will be there tomorrow if they're there today. Determine how you can integrate your new Social Media efforts with other existing marketing initiatives. Determine your corporate policy. All of those are part of the nitty gritty on how you and/or your company can actually set forth on the path to Social Media success.

Did this help? Do you have any questions? I'd be happy to answer them! Just leave a comment below.

1st image by ostillac callisto.
2nd Image by Gabriella Fabbri.

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