Take the time to understand the right kind of "field of dreams" to build for your target audience.
Social media marketing, contrary to what the major media outlets will have you think, isn't a grand field of dreams. Just because you say, "Hey, I'm here" and put out a press release announcing your new social media community has launched, doesn't mean you're going to have throngs of people begging for entry into your community. In fact, you might encounter more flack from community members for your "chest beating" rather than building a relationship with community members.
Overnight success stories are really few and far between in social media. And really, how do you define success? Is it a video going viral? A photo or blog post? Most of the time when something goes viral it's by happenstance and a lot of companies have trouble turning the viral content to their advantage. While the video that went viral got them a lot of attention, it was likely for other purposes and companies aren't able to actually measure the impact viral content had on their bottom line. They really didn't plan to build that "field of dreams," it just cropped up one night in the back yard.
Buzz Monitoring Isn't Enough
Buzz monitoring tools are great. They can help you find conversations you are most interested in. Whether it's centered on a brand, product, service, company name, or a particular concept, buzz monitoring tools can point you in the right direction. Some can give you a bit of sentiment around the conversations, but even that information must be analyzed because sentiment is a tough thing to measure and evaluate via computer programs at this time.
By just looking at your buzz monitoring data and not really researching that data, you could mistakenly go down the path of thinking, "Wow, all these people are talking in forums about us, we should build our own and get them to come to ours." A lot of agencies are out there selling the idea of "branded communities" or "ambassador programs" to companies because they point to the buzz monitoring data to say, "See, they are talking, you should have them talking in your place."
It's just not that simple.
Sure, putting up the software, having someone design a slick look, and putting together the announcement you've opened your "virtual doors" is pretty simple. Actually building a community is a totally different set of tasks and responsibilities that takes a lot of resources and time to do. These agencies that sell these pre-built community packages neglect to tell you about the investment you'll need to make to build a community of people, beyond the nuts and bolts of getting it live on the Web.
You Have to Understand Your Audience
When buzz monitoring identifies conversations that are happening, you really need to take a closer look at not only where these people are talking, but how, why, and maybe even when they are talking about what you are monitoring. There are a lot of cues that need to be picked up on to figure out if you can actually fill a need, or if you will be duplicating efforts if you build your own community.
Humans are creatures of habit and most of us are reluctant to change. If there's an active community dedicated solely to what you are interested in, it's likely you aren't going to be able to move people from that community into your brand new "branded community." In social media, people tend to avoid the loud "Here I am" type of marketing efforts and pushing them into "branded sites," in lieu of marketers who actually are interested in building relationships with them in genuine ways.
Research what your buzz monitoring data is really telling you, so you'll understand how different segments of your market consume content. One segment might like conversing on forums and message boards. Another segment might want information, so a blog providing that information would be better suited to work for that segment of your market. If you don't dig into the data, it's tough to really know what your audience is really wanting.
With today's economy, everyone looks to their bottom line to make sure what they are investing in is worth it. Social media shouldn't be any different. Understand the right kind of "field of dreams" to build for your target audience; don't just build one because a company has a slick brochure, sales pitch, or PowerPoint presentation selling a bunch of the newest bells and whistles of social media magic.
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Liana "Li" Evans is the author of the award winning social media marketing book, "Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media" and she is the president and CEO of Da Li Social, as well as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University's Mini MBA Program. Liana has also been featured in the books "Online Marketing Heroes" and "Video Marketing An Hour a Day." As an established online marketing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience she's focused her unique skillset to specialize in integrated marketing and how companies can successfully strategize integrating all online marketing channels as well as offline traditional media. Her deep technical combined with a public relations background enables her to partner with clients for establishing successful online marketing campaigns that combine cross-channel tactics cohesively.
Li was the search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing architect for such companies as QVC and Comcast (Fancast) and has consulted with several other different sized companies such as AOL MovieFone. Her wealth of knowledge in dealing with large e-commerce and content sites allows her a wider perspective into what it takes to launch successful marketing campaigns in the online space.
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