Thought of the Day, Jan 22, 2009
Social media is a complicated business. It’s sometimes difficult to hold all the pieces in your head at once. Here are five P’s that are essential when considering how social media will fit into your business goals.
Plan – what is your plan?
Without a plan, how do you know where you are going? How can you react to the unexpected? How can you put your tactics into perspective? In short, without a plan, a business stands little chance of success at social media. Most businesses have spent considerable resources developing a business plan. By engaging in social media outside the context of that plan, a business risks subverting its own strategy. The reason is that social media is pervasive and persistent. Experimenting with Twitter one day might not seem like a big commitment or risk, but later on, such efforts might conflict with additional social media approaches and goals, such as establishing a blog or a wiki. A business would not want to set up a personal Twitter account when a brand account might work better (or vice versa). Such pitfalls can only be avoided (or their impact minimized) in the context of a social media plan.
Place – Where is the conversation taking place?
If you build it, they will come, according to the movie “Field of Dreams.” But social media is not a movie. If you build it, and back it with a massive ad campaign, they still might not come. Why? The conversation may already be happening elsewhere. Your business must first learn where this conversation is taking place, and then engage in that space appropriately.
People – Who is having the conversation and who are the influencers?
Of course, people always come first. But in the 5 P’s, you need to have your plan and know where conversations are happening before you can figure out who comprises the community. Your social media outreach can help you figure out who is having the conversation; that is, engaging on a regular basis, posting comments, participating in forums and so on. There are many ways to characterize the community, but key to your success is profiling behavior. This is more important than age, gender or income. Irrespective of these traits, you want to know how your audience is behaving. And you need to put that behavior in terms of success metrics. Are they reviewing products? Does activity convert to lead? Are they primarily engaged in creating content (such as blog posts) or do they primarily observe the online activity? Answering these questions will help you identify the influencers. That is, those who are driving the conversation and are seen as community leaders.
Product – What are people saying about the product or service?
More likely than not, an online conversation is already underway about your product or service. What is the nature of that conversation? Of course, you can just type your brand name into a search engine and see what comes up. You might find references to your product on Facebook, or MySpace, or on blogs. To search more specifically you can use dedicated search engines, such as Google Blog Search, or Board Search for forums.
Perception – How does your customer percieve your brand?
It’s fine to have a significant presence in social media, but how does your brand message relate to the actual conversation? And how is the audience perceiving your message? Does it come across as real, authentic and passionate? These are not rhetorical questions. When we understand the social media landscape we can devise messages and strategies that are authentic and passionate. This is how we change how our audience perceives the brand and its products.
To understand more deeply the last four of the P’s, an online tracking tool can help your research. Some are inexpensive or even free, although these are not particularly sophisticated. Even some of the paid tools won’t filter out splogs (spam blogs) for example. Nathan Gilliat provides a list of about 60 online reputation monitoring tools, plus a report on this sector ($595).