Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Socially Savvy... Tips for Success in the Social Media Space

There is no debate over the accelerating popularity of Internet sites and forums where consumers share opinions and experiences about every product and service imaginable. From blogs and podcasts to wikis and social networks, social media allows consumers to rate and review products, advise fellow consumers, and even make their own commercials praising or bashing businesses and brands.

But, the force that is driving social media is as old as business itself: word-of-mouth. Buyers have always shared advice on purchasing decisions and consider word-of-mouth among the most trustworthy of information sources. Yet, this new electronic result is that marketers are rapidly losing control over their own positioning and messaging as consumers begin to control the market conversation. So, how should Marketing respond?

1. Review your corporate product positioning.
2. Use your positioning to define relevant keywords and keywords phrases.
3. Assign a team of cross-functional employees to help track, and when appropriate, to respond to social media content relevant to your market. Make your rules of engagement clear, especially proactive identification of employment and position.
4. Use your keywords and keyword phrases to identify social media influencers who are driving conversations relevant to your business.
5. Read the social media content of top influencers in your market to understand the tone, direction, and drivers of the current dialogue.
6. Submit comments on the blogs of influencers in your market. If your company has a blog, link to these influencers and write posts that reference and link back to their posts. Try to engage them in online dialogue between your blogs.
7. Follow the same process to engage in other forms of social media, including forums, wikis, bulletin boards and other social media applications.
8. Track your engagements with influencers and review the related responses and metrics of attention to them.
9. Refine and repeat.

As social media engages your customers, it elevates and disseminates information about every aspect of your business. To respond to this challenging trend, marketers must avoid the temptation to leverage social media as a new technology to manipulate word-of-mouth messages. Instead, develop trusted relationships with your market community by leveraging all the tools that enhance their ability to focus on issues critical to them and by engaging responsively in a market dialogue.

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