Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting to the HEART of Social Media

Online rules of engagement are changing. Old school business approaches and methods are getting left behind for dynamic new mediums that offer more interaction and less broadcasting. Businesses and industries are realizing it’s no longer possible to simply say what you do - you need to say what you can do as well.

This is the dawn of social media as a true business outlet and there’s never been a better time to get in on the inside. Look online at tools and applications like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Delicious and more and you’ll see both major and minor brands with a presence. With the amount of businesses taking a more active role in social media, it’s a fairly good guess that some of them will be your competitors.

So how do you keep up and make sure you’re not the one left in the social media wastepaper bin? How about getting to the HEART of social media?

Hear what’s being said.

There’s a lot of conversations taking place that you won’t even be aware of until it’s potentially too late. Perhaps it’s the amount of conversations taking place that’s kept you away from social media in the first place - too much to take in with too little time. But is it really too much to take in if you filter out the conversations that affect you? And that small amount of time now could mean the extension of successful time for your business. Hear what’s being said and react accordingly - the benefits will be worth it.

Engage the conversation.

Once you’ve filtered the conversation to look after your brand, it’s easier to then engage the conversationalists. Listen to what’s being said and involve yourself - whether it’s in support of a positive comment or in defense of a negative one. Show empathy over exclamation - get to understand what the problem is and work with the audience to resolve. A negative experience turned into a positive one is worth more than any PR or advertising blitz.

Acclimatize to your new surroundings.

The single biggest “mistake” that most businesses make when taking their first steps into social media is rushing in headfirst and using old business methods to try and establish themselves. This might work in certain settings - old school still has a little sway left - but for the majority of social media use, it’ll just come across as too much too soon. Look at what’s happening around you and maneuver your strategy around what’s working. See who’s being successful, use their guidance and always be open to new practices.

Reach outside your core audience.

Think about your business and the reasons why it’s successful - I’m guessing one of them is because you reached out to new markets and targeted them with your products or services. After all, without growth comes stagnation. This is one of the old practices that should be encouraged when using social media. While staying within your key demographic will certainly find you fans of your product, look for other audiences to talk to.

Just because they don’t use your brand isn’t to say their friend doesn’t - wouldn’t it be great to get a new customer because their friend told them you were on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites and networks? Keep thinking one step ahead to grow your userbase.

Transparency is key.

You know the old saying, “Honesty is the best policy”? Take that with you into the social media arena and you’ll learn more and gain more than if you try being something you’re not. Your biggest fans are probably that because of how you’ve conducted yourself business-wise so far - why should you want to change that? Be open, be clear, and be honest. False views have a way of coming back to haunt you when you least need or expect them to - truth and transparency are the perfect foils to any and every misquote. Keep it simple and keep it honest and you’ll find the respect of your audience, targeted and otherwise.

Most happy endings come from following your heart - why should it be any different for social media?

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