Okay, so you’ve decided I’m not crazy, and you’re going to try out some of this social media stuff. Where should you start? I’ve got some advice.
Grow Bigger Ears
First and foremost, read this post about how to grow bigger ears. By that, I mean, create a free listening station. If you don’t start with listening, you’ll miss all the very best parts of social media: the serendipity and moments of “listening at the point of need,” as Radian6 CEO Marcel Lebrun calls it.
By that, I mean that people are talking about you, your brand, your company, or mentioning something they need help with that you can solve. Set up some listening tools to monitor for certain phrases and terms, and you’re on your way to finding opportunities that your competitors don’t even know exist.
Be ready to see some negative feedback, too. A lot of times, you’ll see someone who’s had a bad experience. This is a great time to wow them by stepping in, apologizing for the experience, and offering to make things right.
You see, a very little-known secret of social media (and also of good marketing in general) is that customer service is worth 5x to 10x as much as marketing. Meaning, if you make them happy the first time, they’ll run around telling everyone else how amazing you are. It actually costs less.
So, let’s say that you get your listening station put together. What comes next is building out some kind of presence.
The Home Base and Outposts
Ultimately, you need some kind of “home base” on the Web where people can find you. This might be your website, or it might be your blog, but hopefully, it’s the kind of place where people can have questions answered, and a place where people can connect with you, and ultimately, a place where people can engage in the buying process.
I use my blog, chrisbrogan.com , as a home base. But that’s because my business is more mercurial than most. For my new education startup, Human Business Works, I’ve got a set product, a set target audience, and will market to them in a set way.
You might need a different type of website as a home base. I can’t answer that for you. But it’s important that before you go out and explore the social Web, you have a place where people can return and learn.
Now, what should we do once we’ve set up a home base?
It’s my opinion that most work in the social Web will get done out on sites that aren’t your own. It might be LinkedIn. It might be Facebook. It might be Twitter. It might be some esoteric or private forum. But I think that the days of “Get them back to the main site” are over. We need a home base for conversions (and for general anchoring of information), but we need to spend time on the “outposts,” such as these social networks listed above. That’s where the customers are, and you need to be where they are.
On the outposts, instead of just hawking your wares, listen to the people talking. Understand that they’re not necessarily there to be pitched. They’re not there to buy. But they are there to express needs and interests, and that’s where the opportunity comes in. There are many ways to make good use of these efforts, provided you’ve set up your listening station and your home base.
Imagine someone says they need legal advice. First, think about HOW they’ll talk about things. They’ll more likely say, “I need a lawyer.” So make sure your listening station is set up to accept the right phrases. Second, they’ll want to know they’re talking to someone trustworthy, so make sure your home base is set up to look reputable and information-enabled. Finally, they’ll want to chat about what they’re into, not be pitched, so work on building a relationship before you build a sales effort. Make sense?
Thread This All to Your Mainstream Marketing and Communications
If you normally get leads from the Web and from mail and from the phone, just add in “social media” as another lead source. If you handle customer service via email and the Web, add in “social media” as another support path. It’s really not that tricky, and you really shouldn’t have to accommodate these types of interactions differently than you do your mainstream efforts.
In fact, that’s the best part. It’s not all that different, except that it’s more personable and it’s much more effective.
How’s this working for you? What do you need me to clarify? What else can I do to help you with this? I’m here to help.