The Forgotten Art Of Social Media Marketing – Listening Then Planning

I see people all the time jumping headfirst into online marketing, whether it be social networks, blogs, micro-blogs (like Twitter) and numerous other online channels. The problem is many times their shared communications seem canned, the tone is a bit off, the message is not cohesive and the approach, at times, can be rather aggressive.

“Why are you just barging into my universe?” “Stop selling to me!” “Spammer!” I hate to tell you, but people think this all the time. Even worse…in the online world, they shout it so everyone can hear. Loudly.

First thing first: the wonderful world of online marketing is different than the wonderful world of traditional marketing. Although they have many things in common (target markets, communicate messages, distribute collateral, market research) the approach is vastly different.

The difference is social networks and online communications are not just pushing the message through the channel…they are about building relationships and having conversations. Read that sentence again. Relationships and conversations.

With that in mind, here are two “New Year’s Resolutions” to keep you in the game. If you have been entrenched in social media marketing for quite some time, then these tips will keep you fresh. Brand new and desperate to see what everyone is talking about? These two resolutions should help you enter the online marketplace with more ease.

Step 1: Listen, watch and monitor activity before joining discussion

The mistake many of us make is that we don’t listen before we leap. Our gut instinct is to stick to the same communication style as our email blasts, corporate website or to “business speak.”

I’m not saying its a bad way to go, my point is that if you are going to talk that way then you better make make sure everyone else is speaking your language.

Go onto sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and look around. Go into the groups section on LinkedIn and Facebook and use the search function to find groups relevant to your professional interests. Look at the discussion topics, how people are conversing in each topic, check the level of activity. Anyone providing links to video or audio? Click, watch and listen.

Also, both sites have a main micro-blog wall (they call it “Status Updates”, but looks very similar to Twitter…how uncanny). See how people are interacting, watch how they speak.

Twitter is more tricky, my tip is to download TweetDeck. It is a third party platform that helps you listen in a fast and efficient way. You can search for people talking about relevant topics to your business, your company and even you! Before you send out your first “tweet”, check out TweetDeck and size up the playing field.

Step 2: plan before you dive

If you are going to begin engaging with the global online audience, it’s important to get your act together first, so to speak. Stop and think for a minute. Would you execute a branding or pr initiative without at least a plan outline?

Sit down and identify what you want to get out of this. This can be the hardest step. Without full knowledge about what you can expect, it is hard to identify what your goals should even be. My advice, be realistic, honest and take into consideration what the medium is all about. If you are thinking about SEO, direct response advertising or pay-per-click Google ads then you will think in terms of hits to your online point-of-sale. The social media has elements of this, but the purpose is to position you as an expert, increase visibility to you and your brand, build relationships that will in turn build your business and more.

Think about your purpose, what you are an expert in and what value you can offer. Once you pinpoint that, you can identify the sites you want to focus on, the methods you want to employ and targets you want to hit.

Wrap it up already…..

I really can’t stress how important it is to take the time to check out the playing field before you jump in headfirst. I think the real point here is that you wouldn’t sink $100,000 in a direct marketing initiative without making sure of the integrity of the mailing list. You would never spend $15,000 a week on an English speaking call center who is calling a Spanish speaking market.

At the end of the day it is marketing 101. Learn where your market is, what they are saying and then plan how you are going to join the conversation. THEN start talking.