don’t immediately get up on stage and give a 10-minute speech on Korea’s nuclear policy or your ideas on global warming. (If you actually do this in the normal course of your life please forget using online media—ever.) To have an influence in the offline world
we know we need to listen, respect and engage in a conversation before we attempt to solve problems or, indeed, sell anything. Respect means we have to build a community, we have to be prepared to recommend others, and we have to keep a sense of humour. The same applies online. We need to find out where the online community is happening and hence where our potential community is talking. Then we need to join in just as we would in real life.
Step 3: Your social media strategy Many companies have a very detailed social- media strategy but, in my opinion and experience, as long as you follow the etiquette guide you can make this as simple or as complicated as you like.
The key thing is that, unlike advertising, you have to deliver value to whomever is receiving your content, otherwise he will switch off and you will not be able to measure the value to your organisation. For Wiggly Wigglers, it was a very easy
decision to try podcasting and blogging way back in 2005. We were wasting money on
advertising that was simply not working. We wanted to provide our prospects with stories in the belief that they would understand us better and that would lead to sales. Now we have developed a very active Facebook group and Twitter account and benefit from third-party recommendations by the hour—much better than us paying to shout about our products and company, our customers and prospects are doing it free of charge. However you decide to start, it’s a valuable
exercise to write down your main aims. These may include generating leads and increasing your customer base; establishing yourself as a thought leader online; educating potential customers; building awareness and brand; using your contacts to source new products and ideas; improving internal communications. You should also commit to a timescale. You will need to dedicate a regular amount of time to your strategy, perhaps a few minutes a day or a few hours a week. You will want to measure your results and
whilst measuring online conversations in monetary terms can be challenging, some measurements are easy. Start by tracking how many people visited your blog; how many people visited your website after following you on Twitter; how many people took up your special offer from Facebook. On the other hand, some measurements are impossible: How
many people actually listened to the podcast they downloaded; how many changed their views because of something you said, and so on.
Your social media risk management Whether you like it or not your customers, suppliers, children, and enemies are online. Whilst you cannot control what is said about you online, you can monitor and address any issues positively. For example, I used Twitter a while back to lobby for action when BT let us down very badly. Within 20 minutes of my negative Twitter post, the operations director had phoned me from his local office and organised the appropriate credit, to the tune of £6,500! It took 20 minutes of social networking compared to the two-month period in which I had been attempting to get a positive response. It’s easy to see why; when you are
complaining alone it’s easy to be ignored. When you are complaining on Twitter with thousands of followers, BT (and many other companies) want to minimise the damage and show the good side of their service.
Heather Gorringe is founder of natural gardening supplies firm Wiggly Wigglers and a Catalogue Exchange board member.
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