Social Media: Marketing and much more

Should we be on Twitter? What about Facebook? How does this social media stuff work? Can we use it to connect with customers? I'm asked these questions all the time. The answers vary, but in return what I ask is, what do you want to accomplish?

Instead of starting with a tool like Twitter and trying to wedge that into our plans, I find it useful to start by examining organizational objectives. Often these are the same types of objectives you had before "social media" was part of your vocabulary.

Welcome to Social Media - Screenshot of Web site
Welcome to Social Media, written by members of the Cleveland Social Media Club, offers an introduction to social media topics.

Common organizational objectives
  • Increase direct sales
  • Reduce cost per sale
  • Generate more qualified leads for sales reps
  • Solidify your reputation and brand
  • Build name recognition
  • Enhance customer loyalty
  • Improve customer service effectiveness and response time
  • Establish cost-effective methods for teams to collaborate within organizations or with external partners and constituents
  • Collect user feedback for use in product development
  • Promote events
  • Share knowledge to educate constituents, the general public and the media about your topic or cause
  • Create conduits for community outreach and feedback
  • Publicize news and announcements
  • Provide professional growth and educational opportunities for employees

We often think of using social media to augment traditional marketing and public relations efforts, but as the list shows, it can be used for a variety of purposes. Once these purposes are established, we can then determine your target audience, define clear and measurable goals, then establish strategies and tactics to serve those goals.

How can Heidi help?

As a marketer I've found that it is usually more effective for me to teach you about social media and guide you through the process, than it is for you to teach me about your industry so that I can ghost write your blogs or Tweets. Social media seems to work best when the people communicating are the ones who understand the culture of their organization and know the most about the products or services offered. To that end I offer:

Listen Now, Talk Later Presentation graphic
View Listen Now, Talk Later ( a presentation on listening in social media) on Slideshare.

One-to-one 2-hour training or brainstorming sessions
One-to-one (or small group) training sessions are customized to suit your needs. Some people want to learn how to use blogs and specific social media services like LinkedIn or Digg. Others want to brainstorm strategies for reaching their target audience. After you explain your goals and we decide what the session will cover, I'll do some preliminary research to better understand your industry and audience, then we can meet in person or via Skype for our session.
Group presentations
If your business or organization wishes to learn about a specific aspect of social media I can create a 1-2 hour presentation on the topic of your choice. Groups sometimes want a general overview of social media, which I can do, but I've found this can sometimes be overwhelming for beginner audiences. The information isn't complicated, there is just a lot of material to digest in one sitting. If we can focus on a more defined topic this can be more effective. Listen Now…Talk Later: Listening as the foundation of your social media strategy is an example of a recent presentation I did covering the use of listening in social media. This session ran about 90 minutes with the audience asking questions throughout.
Social media planning and training
Social media plans vary depending on the needs of your organization. The end-result could be a 5 page outline, a 50 page plan manual or other documentation that can guide your team. To create a plan I'll meet with you to understand your objectives, goals and target audience. I'll then spend time researching your field and audience, establish a communications strategy and write up a plan showing how to implement the strategy. After the plan is drafted we can then set-up sessions to train the staff members who will be implementing the plan.

If you would like to learn more about ways I can help you implement your social media objectives, please fill out my contact form and tell me a bit about what you would like to accomplish. We can then set up a time to discuss your needs in more detail.

I personally use social media for a variety of reasons ranging from professional development to marketing. Those of you who found my site via StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Ning, blogs, or other social media, have seen first hand how that works. The following links will give you additional insights into my thoughts on social media as well as ideas you can apply to your own strategies.

Social Media Reflections and Resources

Some of these articles are older, and my thinking on these topics may have changed since then. In the 2007 Web 2.0 article I didn't even use the phrase "social media" which seems to show how quickly things have evolved. Social media is an ongoing learning process, so three years from now I'll probably be blogging about some tool or use scenario we've not yet considered today.

Recommendations and ideas regarding specific social media tools
Things to consider when hiring a social media consultant

If you are new to social media, choosing the right consultant is a challenge. It seems like half the people you meet call themselves social media experts, and their expertise consists of having used Twitter for more than 12 months.

I don't call myself an expert, because this is a rapidly evolving field and I'm constantly learning new things. As a marketer and Web developer I've been able to learn about social media gradually over time and will continue to do so. To that end I regularly interact with others in the field to share ideas and best practices through our blogs, Twitter and elsewhere. This has also given me the opportunity to share my thoughts via other channels such as those listed on my media page.

Whether you choose to hire me or someone else, I think the best course is to pick a person with solid communications skills and a background that meshes with your goals and objectives. In some cases you'll want to hire someone well-versed in marketing or PR, in other cases you may lean towards someone more focused on knowledge management or community building. The following articles give you some tips and warnings related to picking your social media strategist.