Sandy Carter has spent close to 10 years helping IBM navigate the world of social media. IBM’s a HUGE company with a variety of products and services and it’s not an easy task. There are a variety of customers to speak to and a variety of products to consider how best to market.
You can learn a lot from her experience.
Marketing enthusiasts worldwide tout the benefits and necessity of social media in business. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, professional communities, blogs and the list goes on.
Savyy SMBs know creating an online presence will heighten awareness and, ultimately, bring in new business. What’s often ignored, however, is that without a clear plan and direction in place before a company begins using social media, it will surely fail. If you’re going to invest in a social media plan, don’t dabble. Do it strategically.
After nearly a decade of driving social media programs and offerings within IBM, I’ve learned a few, simple, yet often ignored “Digital Before and After” practices that when followed, show why SMBs should use social media.
What Do You Want To Say?
Take a hard look at your business structure and current communications plan to determine what you want to achieve through social media. Is it a greater awareness of your brand, better communication with your customers, a way to communicate news, or to achieve greater sales leads? Also brainstorm ways one-way communications within
your company—newsletters, e-mail blasts, or annual reports — can be transitioned into a two-way communication using social media to offer more value and a voice to your stakeholders.
Who Do You Want To Say It To?
Determine who your audience is. White collar executives? Internet-savvy Moms? Millenials? A bevy of social media tools target varied audiences. There are obvious examples
MySpace for the younger generation, and LinkedIn for seasoned
professionals, but there are thousands of others targeted to niche communities, and identifying your audience and where they are communicating online is a crucial step. Our “Getting Started with Social Media” guide on IBM’s web site is a great place to explore this topic further.
How Will You Say It?
Realistically evaluate the depth and breadth of content you plan to communicate, as well as the capacity your business has to devote time to social media. Determine which of the communities your audience is active in, and if they are aligned with the content and capacity of your business. If your company is low on manpower, microblogging tools
like Twitter may be best. If your business devotes an extensive amount of time on internal and external communications, you may be able to shuffle dedicated hours to more time-intensive social tools like blogging and active niche communities. It’s also important at this stage to create a social media policy. Mashable’s guide is a great starting point.
Don’t Talk, Just Listen
Join the services and groups that are aligned with your goals and audience, and actively absorb the conversations. Do a gut check – are the discussions taking place relevant to your business? Could your company contribute in a meaningful and influential way? Notice how active members build relationships with other users and take note. This is your how-to guide, and it’s as simple as just listening.
Start With Small Talk
Then Drive It Home Once your company is ready to communicate, start by adding value, establishing yourself and the company as a trustworthy and influential leader in the space. Don’t push your business goals. As time goes on, just as with a standard sales situation, gradually shift the conversations to more sales or company-specific ones. Although it’s important to remain socially active, it’s more about the quality versus the quantity, so make sure what you’re saying adds value to conversations and even spurs community members into discussions, ideally ones that drive home the focus points of your brand.
Stop, Evaluate and Shift
Use monitoring tools for your blog and Twitter to help analyze your online conversations and determine the value and opinion of your communications by analyzing things like emoticons.
When I speak to IBM partners and stakeholders, they confirm these key steps lead to successful online presences. Don’t be discouraged if your first, or even your fifth attempt are unsuccessful – it takes time, and a commitment to getting it right. Have you had success using social media to drive awareness and sales for your company? I’d love to hear about it! Comment here, or send me at Tweet, @sandy_carter. And if you’re already a guru, and want to learn more in-depth information, visit me on my blog: