Today I was speaker at the eWomenNetwork luncheon in Tempe Arizona. A group of women entrepreneurs wanted to understand how social media can impact their business. This group is focused on the strategic plan and beginning their journey minimizing their mistakes. If you are testing the waters don’t be discouraged but recognize that “build it and they will come” is a misnomer. Social media should be meshed into the heart of the marketing, branding and thought leadership of a firm. Since many of you didn’t have the opportunity to be there, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of the presentation.
Claim your brand (your company name, and your own name). Your brand should be focused on your customers needs and as much as possible be controlled by you. Now I use the word control loosely as this is not the corporate tower mentality of press releases and case studies from your Public Relations Department. But your brand conversations and those happening on the internet should be in your possession. How do you do this? Use Namechk.com to find if your preferred brand username is available. Namechck.com will search what’s been taken in the social media realm. Grab your names in the major social media sites now or they will be gone later!
Listen. You must know what’s already going on in your business niche. Not so much what social media tools everyone is using, but listening to the conversation. The majority are out creating facebook pages as extensions of their website, but forget that social media is a participation sport. What are we listening for? What is being said about our firm, our industry and our competitors? What are our potential customers asking for? Careful consideration should be focused on who is participating. Start your listening with a few searches on google about your company name…look for reviews, see if you’re listed on the first page of search results, etc. Then move to some listening technologies like Google Alerts, TweetDeck and Social Mention.
Begin participating. Perhaps you are a B2B so you start with LinkedIn. I see more people who start here and never really get it. They get a dozen friends in their network and nothing happens. Here are three things you will all do today: Change your title under your name to more of what you do. For instance if you are in sales say customer relationship and business development for the XYZ industry. You want people to find you. Add a few applications to your profile… Reading List by Amazon and Bloglink. The reading list is for sharing, the Bloglink is for listening and sharing. You can automatically see the blogs that your LinkedIn connections have and get to know what they are passionate about. And join a few groups so at least you look connected and interested. After all the do call this “Social Networking”. Post comments to their blogs, ask and answer questions in the group discussions and get your feet wet!
Decide what the purpose of your social media participation is. Perhaps you want to help a friend get a job. Maybe you want to promote your philanthropic and community causes. I bet you all want to market your products and services. This strategy meeting is not just the owner, unless you are a sole proprietor. Even then I’d say talk with a mentor, social media strategist, branding, marketing or PR firm. Involve business development and sales then prioritize. A few hours a planning will save weeks of effort. Read a few good books like Putting the Public back In Public Relations, The Long Tail, Trust Agents and Groundswell as they will help you understand the social media craze and how to leverage it.
Consider a Blog. I believe that a Blog is the most underutilized social media tool. It can convey your passion, relay your expertise, reach into the emotions of your potential clients and start a conversation. Oh, and it will help you climb the search engine rankings easily if done right. There are two schools of thought for beginners. One is I am afraid to jump all in, so they start a blog using Write4.net if they want it to be super easy, or wordpress.com if they are halfway convinced that this blogging thing is right for them. Write4.net will tweet your blog post and give you a blog with a few nice features like the Retweet button. Neither of these will ideally optimize search engine ranking but can help with website traffic. I have to admit, I’m wishing I had just started with WordPress.org but hindsight is 20/20. Problogger tried to convince me too but it looked like to much work to start. He also has some many fabulous suggestions on copy, writing headlines, creating compelling calls to action, etc. With your strategy in hand write a few posts that keep the focus on the customer and help them out (for free). Write good headlines as they will determine whether anyone reads your blog.
Maximize your reach. The best way to expand reach for most firms is with a combo attack. Blogs, Twitter, newsletters, Facebook don’t only use one method – as you limit your reach. If you are afraid to start writing a blog or concerned about the expense there are many free and easy choices. The professional blogger will lean toward WordPress.org and rightfully so.
Recognize everything you participate in can help you in search engine rankings, positions you as an expert or interested learner and improves your reach for authority. Stay focused on the customer and building their trust. I believe it was Chris Brogan who said social media is “two parts helping, two parts connecting and one part selling”.
If you attended the luncheon, would you please add comments to this blog on what you learned and what your have planned as your next social media step.