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Social Media Basics

  |  April 7, 2010   |  Comments

Are your social media marketing efforts paralyzed? Consider these four steps.

Some reading this column may be geniuses in social media (hat tip to you) and others may be just starting out (hat tip to you as well). No matter where you are in this cycle, there are four basic steps that should always be adopted and reviewed.

Even if you work at a social media trailblazer, always take a step back and make certain you are following the basics. This is comparable to when two college football teams are preparing for the national championship. In 2010, as Alabama and Texas prepared for the game, here's what Alabama's philosophy was:

"The focus will be on fundamentals and execution, rather than scouting Texas...It's going to be important for us that we get back to where we're physical and aggressive in what we're doing," Alabama coach Nick Saban said, "that we play with the mental and physical toughness that kind of trademarks our team."

Which was very similar to how the Texas Longhorns were striving to achieve excellence:

"It's like starting over and having a one-game season," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "So you really have to go back and work on fundamentals."

Both of these teams were the best in the country and both had perfect records. Yet, they both felt it was appropriate to never lose site of the fundamentals that got them there. In fact, the first few weeks of practice preparing for the game they weren't looking at anything new, rather they were revisiting the fundamentals.

Now, if we are going to replicate a championship-caliber team and practice revisiting the fundamentals, what are the necessary paths and building blocks an individual or business needs to undertake within social media in order to have a chance for success? These are broken into four easy steps.

Whether you're a business or an individual, you must wrestle with many complex issues for social media. These can often be overwhelming. Where to even begin?

Rather than becoming paralyzed, understand that there are four simple, yet critical steps to social media:

  1. Listen: Listen to your customer and conversations around your brand.
  2. Interact: Join the conversation.
  3. React: Adjust your product or service based on feedback.
  4. Sell: If you listen, interact, and react this will happen with less effort.

Companies often enter the social media fray and jump straight to step four - selling. This is the worst thing you can do, and it won't be effective.

You must start with listening. Without listening, you won't achieve success with the other three steps. As many have said before me, there's a reason we have two ears and one mouth.

After listening, then you have the appropriate baseline and credibility to join the conversation. Imagine if you were at a housewarming party and walked up to a group of four people already engaged in a conversation and said, "I'm not sure what you are talking about, but here is what I want to talk about." You don't want to be "that girl" at the housewarming party and you don't want to be "that girl or company" in the socialsphere. Even those who have fully bought into listening, are you really practicing it? Does your CEO receive a one-page weekly summary or "listening report" that gives high level data on what is being said about the product, service, or brand? What do people like? What don't they like? Do you have a similar report for your competitors?

Many get the listening and interacting part correct, but then they commit a terrible crime. They don't do anything (react) based on the suggestions and information gathered? If 90 percent of the people complain about a certain aspect of your product or service, it's imperative that that issue is resolved, and resolved promptly. Conversely, if 90 percent of the conversation is centered around certain aspects of the product or service that people love, then it's imperative that this information is placed in the appropriate hands (PR, production, sales, customer service, etc.).

We won't touch on selling too much, because if you do the first three steps well (listen, interact, react) then the selling will happen with a proper push here and a prod there. In a future column, we will explore the important flip side of the social media escalator, the customer piece. In the mean time, whether you are an expert like Scott Monty at Ford or just starting out, never lose site of the basics.


Erik Qualman

Called a Digital Dale Carnegie, Erik Qualman is the author of best sellers Socialnomics (2009) and Digital Leader (2011). Socialnomics made the #1 Best Sellers List in seven countries and was a finalist for "Book of the Year." Fast Company Magazine lists Qualman as a Top 100 Digital Influencer. He is a frequently requested international speaker and has visited 42 countries. He produced the world's most viewed social media video series and it has been used by NASA to the National Guard.

He has been fortunate to share the stage with Julie Andrews, Al Gore, Tony Hawk, Sarah Palin, Jose Socrates (Prime Minister of Portugal), Alan Mulally, and many others. For the past 17 years Qualman has helped grow the digital capabilities of many companies including Cadillac, EarthLink, EF Education, Yahoo, Travelzoo, and AT&T. He is also an MBA Professor at the Hult International Business School. Qualman holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas. He was Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State University and recently gave the commencement address at the University of Texas. He lives in Boston with his wife and daughter.

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