Social Media Networking – Be Sure You Can Pass the “Puppy Test” Before Engaging

Networking, pressing the flesh, chatting on the phone, attending trade shows and conventions have always been an important part of a business’ marketing plan. However, today those efforts look incredibly puny when compared to the tsunami of social media networking opportunities  that are available.

Think about it for a moment. Social media is far more than FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media is any channel or property that allows any interaction with people or businesses. Photo sharing sites, video sharing sites, blogs, bookmarks, site reviews like Amazon and even directories like Yelp and Manta are essentially social media channels.

The numbers are huge!

Eleven percent of the world’s population have a FaceBook page. Each of those members has, on average, 150 friends. FaceBook members spend over 700 minutes a month viewing and updating their page. Twitter has over 225 million users and each user has an average of 130 “followers.” LinkedIn has 135 million accounts including virtually every Forbes 500 company and their senior leadership.

Odds are, your customers and your prospective customers are out there in the social media universe.

Refrain from the urge to dive into the social network pool head first

The potential is huge…but it will be there tomorrow or even a month from now. Before you start a social media networking strategy, you need a solid plan.

The first step is to identify where your audience hangs out. Which channels do they use and how do they use them. Determining the answers to those two questions is no walk in the park. It’s time consuming and requires significant research but is essential to any successful strategy.

Once you know where your audience is, you have to decide what you’re going to say to them. The key to networking is the viral effect that interesting content can generate. A single retweet, for example, will put your message in front of 130 new, likeminded people. A portion of whom might retweet it again. Understanding what kind of content you’re going to present, how frequently you present it and who is going to create it are three critical planning steps that many times are given short shrift by businesses jumping into social media marketing.

Traditional advertising/marketing is campaign driven. You create an ad, place it on a channel (print, broadcast, direct mail etc.) and then wait for results. A company’s direct involvement in campaigns is minimal. Social media on the other hand is relationship driven and requires an ongoing conversation between a business and those you hope to develop relationships with. It requires that you regularly provide new content to keep the conversation alive.

Before jumping into social media a business should ask itself if it can pass the “puppy test.”

When a person wants to adopt a puppy they have to ask themselves if they are willing to commit the time and resources to make sure the puppy is fed, walked and kept healthy. If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then the result will be a sick puppy.

The same questions apply to the decision to get into social media networking. There has to be a steady stream of content fed into the effort, interaction with the community has to be timely and relevant and the performance of the strategy has to be regularly monitored to ensure efficiency. Getting into social media is easy and the financial threshold is almost nonexistent. There are literally hundreds of channels to pick from. But if a company does an honest evaluation of their ability to “take care of the puppy” it probably will determine that it has neither the time nor talent for a shotgun approach.

This is where knowing where your audience hangs out becomes so important. Knowing how your audience uses social media allows you to hone down your effort to just those channels that promise the biggest relevant interaction.

So on the one hand social media networking represents an important element of your marketing plan and on the other, if not properly managed; it can be a huge drain on time and assets, or just die on the vine.

If you’d like some help with your planning and managing, we’d be delighted to give you our opinions. Give us a call at 305-791-0077 or drop us a line today.

 

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