by Greg Olson, Ubiquity Group
Lately, it seems that I have had conversations DAILY with people wanting to learn more about social media. This past few weeks, I’ve spoken with entities ranging from a cupcake bakery, an automobile parts manufacturer, a nursing association, a dog trainer, and a medical device company. You should know: your customers and members, prospects and competitors are using these online communities every day – and more than likely, they are also talking about your products or services in these online communities!
What is social media
Social Media is the use of technology combined with social interaction to engage and participate in conversations – but instead of a one to one conversation – it is a one to many conversations.
In this Social Media space you will find blogs, RSS, social search, social networking and bookmarking. All of these means present the savvy marketer and association executive with a rich set of new tools to help in the effort to generate new business. Now, it is easier than ever to build up thought leadership and credibility online by posting articles, blogs, video and pictures.
A quick snapshot of social media tools
LinkedIn: Most likely, you are already using LinkedIn for your professional network, quite possibly with a group related to your association. If you don’t have a profile set up or have an updated profile, go to LinkedIn.com.
Tip: Use the Q & A section to build up thought leadership. You can join up to 50 groups and submit relevant news articles that you enjoy to the groups you belong.
Facebook: Many people are only using this for their personal online community. I recommend that you keep this to friends and family. Business contacts can join your association’s Facebook fan page.
Tip: Join relevant Facebook groups to find potential members/customers, articles and industry information.
Jigsaw: This is a great tool for prospecting, and an excellent way to find contacts within an organization. Note that there is a fee for this service.
Tip: Combine Jigsaw with LinkedIn to find contacts.
Twitter: This is really just a Microblogging site. Twitter is a great tool to use for research.
Tip: Download Hootsuite and use the search tool to find conversations about topics of interest to you and your business.
Social Media Monitoring: It’s important for you and your organization to listen to the online world first before engaging. This will allow you to formulate a plan and determine the key online communities that are a fit for you. Social media monitoring uses key words to search for information. This is a great way to keep up on what people are saying about your company, industry and competitors.
Tip: Social media monitoring free services: Hootsuite, Google Alerts, Yahoo Pipes, coComment and Commentful. Social media monitoring professional monitoring services: Radian6 and Filtrbox.
Social Media Submission Sites: Digg is a social news website made for people to share content. Digg allows you to submit articles that people can give a thumbs ups or thumbs down.
Tip: Digg is another way to build up thought leadership, and a treat place to search for content.
Social bookmarking: Delicious and Faves.com allow you to share your bookmarks with others online, plus you can access your personal bookmarks from any computer.
Slideshare: This is a great site to post your PowerPoint presentations and word documents. However, be sure not to post any proprietary information. Posting builds up your credibility and adds to your thought leadership reputation.
Tip: You can also link Slideshare with your LinkedIn profile.
Blogs: Technorati is an online tool to search for relevant blogs. I do not recommend starting a blog until you are committed to keeping one updated.
Tip: Rather than starting your own blog, find blogs that are interesting and post your comments and feedback for others to read.
Ning.com: This tool allows you to search existing online communities or start your own for free.
Tip: Ning is a good place to join online communities that are of personal interest.
Meet up.com: Post your meetings and events on Meetup.com to help drive awareness and traffic. Attendees can rate your meetings.
A few tools and tips
1. Manage your time with social media
Like any new venture, learning to use social media will take time. Take a little time every day to review, respond and engage in the online community. You could spend hours on Twitter and LinkedIn; I typically spend about two hours per day; knowing that my clients are responding to me in the same manner.
2. Follow the rules
•The main rule is understanding that getting involved requires a commitment: Members and prospects will easily get turned off if you start and then leave them hanging.
•Be honest and authentic with what you post.
•Do not spam. Nobody likes a hard sell.
•Review your employee handbook and make sure you have rules for employees to engage social media tools. It is no different than policies regarding personal Internet or email use.
•Assign social media responsibilities to various employees; even your receptionist and customer service team. Your employees should report back to you what they have found that is relevant to your industry.
There are new social media tools coming out every day, and most of these tools are very simple.
Spend a little time learning about these new tools and finding the ones that make sense for your association. Put your plan together with few simple goals and assess it quarterly. You will be on your way to talking, playing, and contributing in the Social Media Space!
Greg Olson is past President of Colorado Business Marketing Association, Partner with Ubiquity Group and President of Townie Marketing. Ubiquity Group specializes in generating demand for life science companies. Townie Marketing specializes in training companies and associations to use social media to reach out to their community. Greg@ubiquitygroup.com. Follow on Twitter: @ubiquity. Blog: www.ubiquitygroup.com/resources