What’s Your Approach to Social Already?

You’ve had ample time to learn all about social media.

Surely by now, you’ve read articles from experts, tested the waters, followed conversations, found customers, began dialogue, produced content, set up outposts on Facebook and the other places where your customers congregate, integrated social with your other channels, and set up a social listening station for your brand/company. You’re a social authority now.


Unfortunately — and unbelievably — the answer is still “Wrong!” for many marketers. More importantly, many who have make the foray into social media aren’t doing it right. I go back to the great point made in one of my earlier posts about the ways to approach social media:

Social media is like a cocktail party. Do u shout “BUY MY PRODUCT”? Ask for business cards? Or just meet people and talk?”

If I could only count how many times I get cheesy emails through LinkedIn offering nothing but a pitch, or shallow @ replies on Twitter with a salesy comment and a link. Even when used as a “sales tool” social media is no less consultative than face-to-face selling — does the ease of typing and sending email diminish my own interest as a customer in finding the right solution?!?!

Even in this salesy slide deck on using LinkedIn as a sales tool, the salient point is that you have to invest time in building a meaningful network based on knowledge and trust, not used-car-salesman-quality emails and tweets.

Please, marketers — if you haven’t yet gotten up to speed with social and how to leverage it, take the time to read a few articles, talk to some experts, and integrate it into your strategy and with your other channels.

My next post will explain exactly how.

Steps to Improve Your Social Network

This may be preaching to the choir, but clearly I am not against that in this blog. You know this.

Marketers are, by and large, good networkers. This is probably due to the fact that, like I said in a recent post, we are in sales as much as we are in marketing. We’re accustomed to seeking and finding customers on an hourly basis, so seeking and finding others like ourselves either comes naturally or comes through experience. And as part of Brand Y-O-U, your personal brand, networking is critically important to the vitality of your career.

Yet for young marketers, those who’ve been in a particular job or field for a long time, those who are not either natural or trained networkers, or those executives who are not in marketing, you need to take a good, long look at your social network and get up-to-speed quickly with the power of social networking. And specifically, building the power of your own social network — the generalities and statistics and cool factor about social networking are great, but the ROI in social networking needs to include some tangible benefits for you and your personal brand, right?

Make no mistake — investing some of your time in establishing a strong social network for yourself is just as important as investing time to understand the social networking tools you use to engage and acquire customers. And it’s important to invest this time when you’re:

  • At an experienced career level, in the growth stages of your career, or just starting out
  • In a strong employment position, rather than just when you’re looking for a job
  • That’s because when you’re out of a job, of course you’re reaching out to people — and it’s perceived that way. You’re out of your comfort zone — and if you’re not a regular networker, you’re viewed as putting on a persona that’s not normally you.

    So, now that we’ve got the reasoning for networking out of the way, here’s the whole purpose of this post. A brief list of things you can do to be a marketer with a strong social network:

  • Build a power profile on LinkedIn — Keep it updated to-the-minute with all your experience, connect to people you work with and know, and ask people to recommend you. Sure, it may be a little cliche now, yet it’s the easiest and first thing to do, and it’s recognized by all. Make your profile a place you can send people to easily learn about your credentials. (Use my profile as a reference)
  • Read and comment on blogs — You need to read blogs for their valuable perspective and insights, so comment on them to put your thoughts on record, build a search-engine friendly way to find you, and establish your expertise. If you don’t have your own website or blog (which, if you’re considering starting a blog, ask yourself these questions first), link back to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Reach out to other professionals who are like you — Create relationships with people you can learn from, bounce ideas off of, and share insights with. They may work for your company, your vendors, other companies in your industry, or even your competitors. That’s right — competitors. Fostering a strong social network and empowering a give-and-take of knowledge is more beneficial than erecting barriers that diminish your network’s reach. Find these people on LinkedIn, at industry events, on blogs, on blog comments, on Twitter, on Google, on company websites, and via other colleagues in your social network. Reach out to them with an invitation to share expertise and discuss issues.
  • Stay in touch with your network — Don’t meet people and then just let the relationships wilt. Stay in touch with your network, where they are, what they do, and more importantly what and who they know. Find relevant reasons to communicate — share ideas, forward data and articles, set up meetings, propose partnerships.
  • These are the basics. There are other things you can do — start a blog, seek speaking opportunities, and more. If you’re new to being a social networker, start slow. Build a good foundation for your network before you charge ahead into the world of blogging and advanced social media.

    You’ve invested the time, money and effort in being a good marketer — don’t let it go to waste because you didn’t invest in your social network and Brand Y-O-U.

    The Demands of Social Media

    There is a drove of companies flocking to social media right now, especially in B2B media, healthcare, and of course consumer products. There’s no doubting the magic that happens when brands build meaningful relationships with customers via social media.

    If you’re among the people taking a good, long look at making the dive into social media, make sure it’s an effort that’s set up to succeed.

    I’m proud to say that right now, my ABM Media Marketing committee is putting the final touches on a Web 2.0 best practices whitepaper. It focuses on educating B2B media companies about various social media and Web 2.0 tactics and technologies. In the process of putting this project together, I talked to several leaders in the industry about what’s needed in order to make social media efforts successful. Joe Pulizzi, founder of customer publishing dynamo Junta42, made this all-to-true statement:

    B2B media companies now need people who live in social media all day, every day. They need a Chief Conversation Officer who follows online conversations about their brands, monitors Twitter and Google Alerts, and comments on key blogs.

    Many don’t realize the effort required to make social media successful — it’s not as simple as creating a Facebook group or creating a blog and seeing the interaction blossom. It’s about living and breathing your industry, through the lens of social media, for hours every day. It’s about becoming part of conversations about your business wherever they happen — on other websites, other blogs, LinkedIn groups, Facebook discussion boards, Google Knol, Twitter, and anywhere else. It’s about being a proactive force all over, not being a passive voice on your own website and expecting people to come to you. It’s about making the interaction with your brands feel personal and real — without marketing copy or the corporate platform. It’s about honest conversation and knowing (and playing by) the established rules and expectations and dealing with opinions that differ from yours. It’s about making a commitment to spend the time required to make it work, and be patient for the amount of time it takes for genuine trust and interaction to build.

    Make sure you know the effort required before you charge ahead. Your customers will hold you accountable if you don’t.

    What Matters Right Now? (and Other Key Questions)

    Have you taken a good, long look lately at your mix of tactics? At your communication frequency? Your investment (time and money) in social media? Do you know what tactics matter most right now to your customers?

    Everything in your strategy has to be up for re-election in this economy. If it’s not making the grade, or more importantly, if you can find better ROI elsewhere…throw that tactic out of office!

    Social media is becoming more important than ever according to several sources. That has to change things. You have to find your way into more places where customers are sharing and experiencing and passionate. What’s your plan to do that? Is it Facebook, LinkedIn, or somewhere more niche? Is social media an acquisition tactic for you, or an experiment? Is it authentic and customer-driven, or are you turning users off with brand messages?

    There’s also word that email marketing will increase. Really? How is that a good thing? Isn’t it enough right now? I’m not sure how more email could be good in any way — despite its offer of lower costs for tighter budgets. I know I’m not increasing my email no matter what, but I will be increasing the relevance of my messaging, that’s for sure. I’m going to let my competition email more, annoy people, and get opted out. And my less frequent, more relevant emails will be the last man standing, showing up at the right time in a pristine inbox (sounds like a fairy tale, no?). Same for my keywords — I’m gonna drill down, find those long tail keywords that provide return, and fine-tune my strategy on Google and other search engines.

    Working on a great whitepaper on Web 2.0 for B2B media companies. Stay tuned for that next week.

    Forge Partnerships

    As marketers, we focus most of our time on building relationships with our customers, since they of course are the lifeblood of our business (and our jobs).

    Yet be sure that you take a good, long look at potential partnerships that ultimately could bring you closer to those customer relationships you need. We sometimes get so consumed with the day-to-day requirements of finding and keeping customers thorugh traditional marketing, that we lose sight of the fact that in today’s media-cluttered marketing environment, a different (and/or subtle) approach may work better in some cases.

    A great example of a recent high-profile partnership that illustrates this approach is New York Times and LinkedIn forming a content partnership (also highlighted on Mashable). Both entities have a common interest in a specific target, and are leveraging each other’s customer networks to promote awareness and ultimately cross-over.

    Clearly this brilliant partnership came to fruition after strategic discussion about how it would be successful for both parties. And both parties had to be knowledgeable about the other one’s services and value proposition. So the moral is: are you making time to do this? Are you making the time to think creatively about how to find customers, investigate the market landscape, and consider possible partnerships? Do you know of any places where people who fit your customer profile congregate and why they do it there? In this age of social media and media fragmentation, many times word more effectively spreads through marketing tactics outside of the norm. Let’s call it marketing through relevance instead of marketing through interuption (interrupting a TV program with an ad, interupting a person’s day with direct mail or email, etc.).

    Make sure you budget some time to do think about partnerships, because it may take time to find potential partners, create a scenario that works for all involved, and it may take even more time to put the pieces in place before you charge ahead.