As individuals and communities evolve into the social media space, it becomes crucial to understand where and when people are talking right now, and if there is a trend in how they are talking about a subject or industry.
Social Media is not a singular conversation. There is no singular person controlling the buzz and there is no singular tool that gives you understanding of every topic.
The core problem is that the number of channels creating information is immense: there may be a discussion on topics that interest you on a blog, in a newsgroup, on Twitter, YouTube, or various mobile applications. While those conversations are all happening online, they all use different technology. If you related this to the real world: you would need different tools to monitor television, radio, newspapers, coffee shops, cellular phone calls, and every cocktail party conversation.
The conclusion to this core problem is education. You need to understand who is talking and why it is important to your business goals, along with steps you can take to take advantage of situation.
The First Stage: Build an outreach list
Beginning Strategy: read through this list of action steps once, then come back and define a few goals for why you are building an engagement list. You don’t have to worry about being precise and 100% concrete, most of your current ideas will have gone through several evolutions during this planning process.
Some important items you should ask yourself:
- Who are we trying to reach at the end? Possible types of users could be consumers, journalists, investors, or industry peers.
- What is the outcome of our outreach? Reducing new client acquisition cost, increasing customer satisfaction, streamlining product development, or refining market intelligence are all good possibilities.
- Are there likely metrics we can affect and measure? As a business professional, someone will be asking what results your engagement strategy had. Be prepared by keeping key metrics in mind during the process.
The Ten Steps:
Step One: review the following six social media sources. In all cases, do a preliminary overview of your industry, of any keywords that are top of mind, as well as the names of any industry or association groups. This gives you a good starting point to detail where you want to go.
- Facebook Groups
- Linkedin Groups
Step Two: identify local or topical clusters. Once you have an overview, go back and cross compare items you found in step one. Key areas to look for are detailing top blogs (Postrank and Technorati both provide general scores) and identifying groups of users that spread across several services (high ranked blogs typically provide links to Facebook/Linkedin/Twitter groups.)
Step Three: break down apparent clusters that make sense for your business. Define geographic, topical, market, and demographic silos that are applicable. For each cluster you establish, detail five to ten top individuals to interact with.
Step Four: establish your workload and labor commitment. Be realistic. If you have fifty individuals to interact with, realize personal outreach is going to take thirty to sixty minutes per person. For an extremely large outreach, this time adds up very quickly. If you don’t want to commit the time, reduce the number of people you are reaching out to. You should also consider investing more time up-front for your own learning curve.
Step Five: research and personalize. Go into every site and review the “about” page and the past three to five articles, along with the last 30 days worth of information on Google (search for the persons name using the “advanced search” function to view only recent information.) If they have a Twitter account, spend a few minutes reading recent activity.
Step Six: Review your strategy. One of the most important steps of the process is to go back and re-think your strategy based on all the information you have just gathered. In most cases basic tactics and goals stated at the beginning may be proven to be inherently flawed.
Step Seven: outreach. Remember to try two or three options. The best way to earn an honorable mention in someone’s rolodex is to offer something of value to them. This “offer” doesn’t have to be cash (although a lot of people love this…) and could revolve around some common benefits. Think outside of the box when doing outreach and do not be scared to pick up the phone! (also remember to have effective follow-up.)
Step Eight: build the relationship. Once you have taken the effort of outreach, continue working on continuing communication. If you have a web only relationship make a schedule to communicate through blog comments, twitter, and other web services. If you have the ability to meet in person, attend or coordinate regular events to build stronger personal connections.
Step Nine: pay it forward. During the course of research, outreach, and relationship building: attempt to detail three to five basic objectives for each contact. Your assistance in reaching small personal goals for each contact is a quick method for solidifying a memorable and positive relationship.
Step Ten: collect some good faith karma. After you have contributed to the conversation, begin to seed your communication with your own professional wants and needs. Continue to review your own contributions vs the requests you make, and be careful to maintain a balanced two-way relationship.
Ask around. In many cases, professional peers may have already done some of the work above. If they have, ask to share notes and compare objectives to leverage any synergies you may have. If they have not, ask them if they would find value in your research and get them to commit some support to the effort.
It pays to listen to the marketplace, educate yourself, and use your brain. You don’t have to be scared of taking action, but creating an outreach plan allows you to avoid obvious pitfalls and take advantage of multiple benefits.
Try to break this workload into digestible portions and don’t overwhelm yourself. It is better to commit to a smaller and more routine schedule that reaches some goals, than work yourself into a panic and quit before reaching any milestones.