I’ve been thinking about how different people and organizations approach social media and it’s let me to ponder the meaning of life, or at least second life. How you approach social media should be grounded in why you’re using social media to begin with. First of all, there are no wrong answers to this question, accept the ones that don’t fit with the way you’re allocating time, effort and resources (this primarily applies to businesses). That being said, it is an important question to answer before you head down the prim rose path of “getting social”.
Are you interested in connecting with old friends and relatives? Are you simply exploring to see who and what is out there? Are you a brand hoping to tap into an underground fan club? Or a small company looking to spread the word about what makes you great? While these seem like simplistic questions, answering them upfront and honestly can help you focus your efforts and avoid many misguided attempts to “get social” without even knowing why that matters to you or your organization.
Let’s start with the individual who says they just want to find their high school sweetheart, but is perhaps a budding entrepreneur looking to spread the seeds of their business venture. Social media was made for you. You can start with allies–friends, family and other supporters and get them to advocate you to their network, usually on Facebook or a Ning community. Follow up with other professionals and individuals who share a common interest–these folks are easy to find and connect with on LinkedIn or Twitter using WeFollow.
What about the business that claims they just want to know what people are saying about them? Is this true or are they really after tangible results such as ROI, ROE and Share of Voice? Being honest about our intentions in the beginning can help craft a more meaningful and appropriate strategy and define the resources you’ll need to successfully execute that strategy. Let’s just assume they really just want to stick a toe, or rather ear, in the social waters to hear what is being said. Simple search tools such as Radian 6 can enable this type of research with little investment.
Once you know what’s being said, on which platforms and by whom, you can then determine what you want to do about it. So you’re a business and you learn that compared to your top 3 competitors you have substantially lower social share of voice, comments about you are predominantly negative and related to poor customer service. This a huge opportunity and great directional input. This should be the cornerstone of defining your social purpose, especially if you can connect what you’ve learned with customer behavior such as sales and complaints.
Once you make that connection, the next steps are easy. So sales have been declining, call center traffic has been increasing and you’ve been losing market share to those top 3 competitors. While social media isn’t to blame it is helping to diagnose some of the symptoms. Your initial social purpose should be LISTENING, finding out what people are complaining about, what they dislike about you and like about your competition and how this compares to information you’re getting through other channels, such as your customer service call center.
By defining your initial social purpose as listening, you can focus on (1) improving in the areas that are surfacing on social platforms; (2) entering those social platforms cautiously to engage in proactive listening and problem solving; (3) building customer relationships and brand advocates by creating value for your customers in the form of genuine concern and desire to improve, followed by actual scalable improvement. See the value of this approach versus diving head first into a Facebook fan page only to have your wall filled with complaint you’re unprepared to address.
Follow me on http://www.twitter.com/jpolk122907 to get more tips on defining your social purpose.