One of the biggest pain points I hear when talking about social business is that there’s no clear steps for getting started. People aren’t sure of that first step to take to get them on the right path, and that’s understandable: people want to do the right thing, but the right thing isn’t going to be the same for everyone so the process is inherently confusing by virtue of the “choose your own adventure” nature of it all. The single best benefit of social business is also the biggest roadblock to becoming involved: the individual attention and personal connection. These pain points and roadblocks, as well as benefits are the same whether you’re an enterprise B2B (business to business) organization, or a small business in the B2C (business to consumer) worlds.
Here’s the short and sweet list to getting started:
- Read the IBM Social Computing Guidelines. Learn them, know them, live them! (Even if you aren’t an IBMer, this guidance is the single best document to use as your social compass.)
- Create your accounts and Connect with people, build your network, and learn as you go.
- Listen, share, amplify and create. Each of these levels of engagement are valid and useful
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
Of course, I also have a more detailed list…
Following are a mixture of more in-depth strategic and tactical steps you can take to get started and eventually become successful in the social business realms regardless of your business’ size:
- Define your goals- This isn’t the first step by accident… sit down for 10 minutes and really think about your goals. Is it simply to drive short-term or immediate sales? Build a sustainable client base? Establish your business as the leader in your field? Once you specifically identify what you want to accomplish using social media you’ll have a clear set of guiding goals to help you make the right decisions about everything else.
- Build a project/program plan for yourself- This sounds like heavy lifting, but it isn’t, or it doesn’t have to be… The key point here is to identify and list the steps you will take to execute and achieve your goals. Go as simple or detailed as suits you. As an example, one bit out of my personal plan: “Create and maintain an expected frequency of blog posts on the topics relevant to social business success in efforts to build my thought leadership.” See, easy
- Target the right channels to achieve your goals. Not all channels are right for your business- Twitter is a great place for building B2B or B2C influence, while Facebook excels in large brand promotion and lacks in capabilities for B2B connections. Likewise, LinkedIn is a fabulous channel for B2B networking but misses the end consumer. Find the right place to interact with the people you want to reach… go where they are!
- Jump in and setup accounts- Begin building your network by adding people you find through searches on industry topics, key words, or self identifying demographic information for the audiences you want to reach. Be sure to fill out your profiles as best you can so that when people check you out after you follow them, you look like the real person you are and give them a reason to follow you back.
- Watch. Listen. Amplify. Share. Create.- Now that your accounts are up and running and you’re starting to curate your network, take some time to pause and watch what is going on in the spaces, listen to what your network is saying to each other, get a feel for how everyone interacts (each social channel is different in its expected and tolerated behaviours). Start out by amplifying a few others’ messages/posts, then add in sharing with some added context or value around the share. Lastly, add in creating your own content to share as well. This creates a solid organic growth to your account and helps to show that you aren’t just a broadcast arm for your company. Real people don’t just talk about themselves and what they want to sell you, they engage and highlight others and provide value where they are able.
- Use rich media to bring visual interest to your content- Pictures and videos will skyrocket your content views and help it resonate with your audience. Case in point, you likely noticed this blog post because the associated image caught your eye in your feed and made you pause to look a bit more closely… and now you’re here reading this post; mission accomplished! Pictures work!
- Fail early, fail often, and learn- Run A/B testing on your targeted audience segments. Some campaigns will work better for one segment than another and determining the winners and losers early on will help you roll out larger better campaigns down the line. Knowing what doesn’t work is as critical as knowing what does, and often in the social worlds, more critical.
- Be agile– watch your metrics and analytics, and adjust your focus and methods as you determine what works and what doesn’t. Be fluid in your capabilities and styles of replying or posting content, and don’t tie yourself or your content to any single channel. Know when it is time to move from or add another channel to your repertoire.
- Continue to curate your network by dropping the identified spam accounts and adding new people you come across who fit your target, or are just interesting people
- Lastly, and probably the best bit of advice I can provide at this point: if you’re thinking of making your own Harlem Shake video… just don’t.
There you are, some tips based on my experiences on getting started to help you dig in to your personal social choose-your-own-adventure as you move from social media into social business. Some may appear daunting at first, but they don’t have to be. Use what works for you at the level that you need… heck, a single line project plan maybe all you need to keep you on track, or you may be the kind of person who needs to build their own editorial calendar for blog posts or tweets; in either case you know what you need to keep you in the right focus better than anyone. When it comes to social business, having those guiding principles will become your safety net for success; keeping you on the right course and authentically connecting with your audience in ways that resonate and build deeper relationships with them. But remember, working in social business is not a sprint, it is a marathon that will show small incremental benefits now, and much more robust value down the line.