What do you do when you’re not sure if social media is appropriate for your business? You’re too aware to ignore the buzz, but you’re not sure that social media should be the entrée; you need a side order. That is, social media doesn’t always have to be the steak; it can be the green beans – especially in the very beginning.
Quite understandably, many brands are caught in this special land of social media purgatory. There’s a lot going on with social media and the decision to move forward should not be taken lightly or undertaken as an after thought.
Some businesses are waiting to see definitive ROI in the form of dollars and cents (which will probably never happen, but that’s another article for another time) and others want to ease into the medium with careful, purposeful steps. Whichever describes where you are at the moment, the important thing to know is that you’re not fenced in and you do have options.
There are three helpful ways you can leverage being in limbo; so that later, if you decide to make social media the main entrée, you’re headed in the right direction, and if you decide not to move forward, you’re not over invested and you still walk away smarter.
1. Be OK with your decision. If you decide to take it slow in the beginning, you will be chided. Smart aleck remarks will come from all directions. Expect it, look for it and respond accordingly. Invariably, you’ll run into some “expert”, who thinks you’re nuts to not go “whole hog”. People within your organization may have similar sentiments. Stick to your guns. Nothing is worse than making a decision and then waffling or caving to external pressure.
Be confident that your decision to start small was intentional and the best decision for you at the time. You know that you’ll be re-evaluating your approach in 30/60/90 days and that’s enough to keep you steady in your direction.
If you don’t come from a place of surety, people’s comments will slowly chip away at your resolve and self-doubt is never helpful when you’re trying something new.
2. Start a listening campaign. This is the part where you can walk away smarter if you decide not to use social media right away. People are talking about you, your company, your executives, your products and your services. At the very least, you need to know what’s being said and the context in which it’s being said (this is called sentiment).
By now you know that social media is, for the most part, all about conversations. Right now, most of those conversations occur in text format as comments on blogs, tweets on Twitter, discussions in online forums and Facebook wall and Fan Page posts. All of this data is easily mined for mentions of your brand collateral.
There’s software, called “social media monitoring” or “conversation monitoring” tools to help you determine where, how often and the context in which the conversations are happening. If you don’t want to invest in those tools just yet, at the very least, set up appropriate Google Alerts or use other free services likeTwilert, to let you know when your brand is mentioned on Twitter.
The main thing is that someone pays attention. Many times companies use the right tools to monitor the conversations happening online, yet they don’t review them for insights. Don’t let this information go to waste. Make sure it’s someone’s responsibility to track this data and include it in regular management reports.
Listening is important because when you know where quality conversation is happening around your brand, should you care to, you can participate and even facilitate those discussions; and as a direct result, better manage the brand. If you don’t know where the party is, even if you wanted to attend, you couldn’t.
3. Use O.P.S. After you’ve listened intently, using O.P.S. (Other People’s Social) is the next logical step if you’re trying to keep your social media investment contained.
Most business professionals are familiar with the concept of O.P.M. (Other People's Money); O.P.S. is similar, except it’s not money you’re leveraging, it’s social capital.
Provided your motives are genuine, there's no shame in dovetailing on to the prominent influencer in your industry and writing comments on their blog, engaging with them on Twitter or being their fan on Facebook.
Other good ways to use O.P.S. are being interviewed on a blog, podcast or video blog and guest blogging is also a very popular way to be a part of someone else’s successful social media scene.The upshot is you needn’t start your own social media army to start to use social media effectively; that can come later. Being a part of what's already happening can sometimes be just as important and fruitful as leading your own charge.