Twitter. Facebook. Yahoo Forums. BeBo. My Space. Flickr. You Tube. It’s hard to keep up, much less develop a way to use social marketing to support your business and your bottom line. To help, here’s some pointer to help you start thinking social.

  • Social is different. It’s not another platform you can use to reach customers with your marketing message. You can’t set up a social media presence that operates like another advertising channel – that would encroach on territory that belongs to people, not organisations.  Social Media is powerful because it can bring the opinions of your customers straight to your business.
  • The first step: listening. There’s a good chance that your customers and potential customers are out there using blogs, forums, comparison sites or even Twitter to talk about your products and services. Someone may be complaining about your customer care or praising a speedy delivery. But you won’t know about it until you start listening. There’s lots of tools out there to help, but it does take some time and effort to find the ones that will work for you. Google Alerts are a good place to start. Just put in your keywords and Google will tell you when they come up. There are also member-only forums (some people call them microcommunities) that won’t let you find out what’s going on until you become a member. So, it’s a good idea to find out where your business might be discussed. From forums for new parents to sites for anglers, there can be quite a list of places you need to look. Don’t overlook Technorati for finding relevant blogs.
  • Decide on a strategy: Like any part of your marketing budget, social media efforts should support a clear goal. Do you want more conversions, a wider brand net or positive new brand associations. Or are you looking for information that will help you develop new products?  Knowing what you want to achieve will help you determine the best paths to take. It sounds obvious, but so many organisations want to take a toe-in-the-water approach. And just see what happens…You certainly wouldn’t do that with an email marketing campaign, so why do it with your social marketing investment.
  • Help others. Don’t just talk about yourself or your product. Mention useful ideas, promote a related charity. Get involved in related themes. It’s not about adjusting your megaphone to reach more people, it’s about finding influencers and winning them over.