My Google+ Quandary

John Hope-Johnstone

A few weeks ago I was pondering Google + and where it was going to fit into my HPR Social Media Seminars and into my own social media world. I have no intention of abandoning my over 4,000 followers on my facebook business page and I don’t want to just repeat content from one platform onto another. I was trying to figure out how I could add value to Google + and my new friends on that platform. Usually a glass of wine or two helps but in this case I was stumped.

Then, a small unpretentious epiphany shone through the darkness…. why not ask my new G+ friends how they felt about Google + and the difference between it and facebook. WOW! Think of that, a marketing guy actually going to ask fellow consumers what they think, how original.

Well, some of the responses spelled out the obvious differences: Facebook still has the lion’s share and will be hard to beat as it comes up to nearly a billion possibly in 2012. However, Google has the advantage of “integration” with a huge arsenal of available tools to integrate with the social media platform such as: Google News, Entertainment, YouTube, Gmail and its Android platform and more. These will help create a fluid social experience on Google+.

It also has two failures behind it with Google Wave and Google Buzz. I say “failures” but like all good failures they were learning steps that Google had to take to finally get them to Google +.

Two responses from my new Google + friends were just what I was really hoping for. They speak about the present difference in the psychographics of the Google+ user over facebook. This, of course, will change over time.

Here is my original question as posted on Google+: 

“Hi my G+ friends, I have a question that needs your expertise. My firm teaches Internet and Social Media Marketing for brand promotion purposes to medium to large organizations. Personally I am floundering with Google +, which I like a lot, trying to determine how to differentiate my social media message on Google + vs Facebook. Any ideas?”

Here are the two answers that helped me a great deal in my quest:

From Dennis Rivera:

On G+, you have tech-savvy individuals and a ton of creative types looking to share, connect, and build a large community of individuals based on content or interest. So, regardless of whether or not you went to high school with someone, you’re connecting with the person because he or she is interested in the same things that you are. Businesses who think that they will have a single business-related presence on G+ will probably not do so well here. They will need multiple personal accounts, where employees are genuinely building connections with their audiences, relying on the intangible more than the tangible. I think that the Google employees on here are a perfect example of how businesses need to use the network. They are people first: interacting, sharing, being genuine, but at the same time, they are building brand loyalty.

This is a little scattered, but it’s midnight and I’m tired. I guess the general message to businesses is: The G+ community wants engagement.
Cater to the community and you will win.

From John Norris:

Maybe it’s just the folks I’m following, but Google+ seems to be a bit like Quora, some very knowledgeable folks in here at the moment. The communications the platform lends itself to seem to be more dialogs, and constructive ones at that.  Can’t quite put my finger on it, sort of a vibe I’m getting. Businesses will need to up their game to do well in Google+ at this time.

Thanks Dennis and John for your responses. They helped me a great deal.

Thanks to you for reading this post. I invite you to comment and add your thoughts about the use of Google+ and also subscribe to the e-newsletter if you haven’t already. If you have, great to see you again.

The Sociology of Social Media

John Hope-Johnstone

In my seminars and books on social media I often remark that all social media platforms from facebook to Twitter are basically inert. They are like a telephone with no voice, an old telegraph key with no hand, a TV with no programming… you get the picture.

Participants in my seminars are often very focused on learning how the platform works and how best to tweak it. This is a good thing but most people can find someone to illuminate them on how to set up the platform, but after they learn all the little secrets what then? Basically it just sits there and does nothing, unless YOU give it life.

Understanding how to give social media a voice and how to create buzz, is worth far more of your study time than most people give it. That is why about 70% of people promoting their businesses with social media FAIL to achieve all the results for which they had hoped!

There is no difference to bringing social media alive good Public Relations practitioners have always known. It is capturing the attention of your fans and followers with good content and good ideas that relate to their life and work cycle of today.

Part of this lies in understanding the “sociology” of your readers and in particular what life cycle they are in. Have a look at the photos of your fans and followers. What age bracket do they seem to fall within? I understand there will be outliers but in the majority what age bracket?

When I look at my facebook business page, (yes, it’s the same as a “fan” page), and gaze admiringly at my friends, I realize that by and large (according to their photos) the majority fall into the age decade of 40-50 years of age. (Taking into account Photoshop and those who look amazingly like Grace Kelly).

Next, I want to ascertain is this a boom (in size) decade or a bust (in size) decade. The US Census bureau is a good source of information:

US Population Graphs Click to enlarge

40-50 seems to be a pretty good size and therefore has good potential to grow.

My next question, is to define into which cohort my fans on facebook fall. Each cohort have their own particular wants and needs and are in a particular life and work cycle.

Source: FDU Online Magazine: Click to enlarge

Using the above snap shot, my facebook fans are GenX with a smattering of the tail end baby boomers. (It’s good to note that my Twitter followers tend to be slightly younger with the majority being Gen X, more Gen Y and fewer Boomers, which is the general profile of Twitter users.)

Let’s take a look at the Gen X life cycle:

Click to Enlarge

Sociologists have often remarked that tail end Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers have more in common than the tail end Baby Boomers and the more advanced Baby Boomers.

Both cohorts are trying to make sense of Social Media with the Gen X trying to understand it more for work purposes having already adopted it for play.

The decade previous to the majority of my followers,  30- 40, researchers have noted, is perhaps the highest stress decade. It is the decade in which we awake and realize we are NOT the gazillionaires we had told everyone we would be by 35 (with the exception of Mark Zuckerberg). We often awake to 2.5 children under the age of 5 and a mortgage. We silently think to ourselves (male or female) “I don’t remember this in my dreams.” Does this mean we are unhappy..no, it just means we are surprised.

By the 40-50 decade things have usually settled down a bit. Over 50% of us are onto our next marriage or have sworn off marriage all together. Possibly we have gone through a mid-life crises but had more talent to cope with it than our many earlier multiple crises. We are either climbing up the corporate ladder or have been laid off and starting our own businesses. The latter seems to be a majority of my fans on facebook and definitely the majority of my Twitter followers.

Among Americans who are employed, 16% are self-employed. Close to one in three (30% of employed Americans) work for large corporations, and 28% work for small businesses. The remaining 39% of employed Americans work for medium-sized companies, for the government, in educational institutions, or in the non-profit sector, according to Pew Internet Project.

I think many of my facebook fans and a majority of my Twitter followers fall under the 16% self employed and the 28% who work for a small business.

They are looking for advice on how to work smarter, market better and save money. Now if I can answer some of those questions in an engaging and fun way the perhaps I am doing a good job with my social media time.

My next project will be to check some of the “profile” pages of both my Twitter and facebook followers to check and see if my assumptions are correct and to add any more profile information to my growing picture.

Once complete and checked I will develop an Editorial Calendar to guide my posts (yes I do give this some thought and planning to this rambling). This will also give my facebook comments and Twitter tweets the same aspirations.

The more original content I can produce, the more people will follow me and the more “thought leadership” I will gain.

Ok, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Give me a comment and let me know your ideas. More next Sunday.

Why do your Fans “Like” your Facebook Page?

John Hope-Johnstone

Bon jour, I have been a very bad boy and have neglected my blog for quite a few weeks. I have been working hard on turning the last two years worth of posts into my new book “Secrets for Successful Social Media Marketing”. Which I am happy to say is now ready to go to final press, (yippee!!).

I have often written about the mysterious subject of why people bother to join a facebook fan page.

I don’t know about you, but I get three or four daily recommendations that I “like” someone’s facebook business page. Most of the time I ignore them. The question I always ask myself is what’s in it for me?

Now, I am not against facebook fan pages, in fact I like them very much and I do have a fan (business) page for HPR Social Media, so I understand what’s in it for the business owner, I am just a little hazy about what’s in it for the fan?

That’s why I was intrigued when I recently read a post by one of my favorite social media gurus Amy Porterfield in the Social Media Examiner. In the article she quotes from a couple of new studies on WHY people are likely to click the “like” button. I found theses studies to be one of the first really good insights into the sociology of facebook fan pages.

The study that I found to be of particularly interest, was by Exact Target and CoTweet. Their research discovered that one of the key reasons people decide to like a facebook business page was “social badging”, or what I have called in my book “social validation, or social proofing”.

“Social validation or social proofing is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous situations when people do not have enough information to make opinions independently and instead look for external clues such as: consumer comments, popularity, star ratings and third party endorsements to help develop a level of trust.” Wikipedia.

Social badging is an offshoot of social validation and it occurs when people are validating their persona through either the purchase of certain brands, by the organizations with which they align themselves, or through important friends.

Amy recounts that nearly 40% of those studied, joined a facebook business page to publicly display their brand affiliation to friends. In other words, “liking” this company, organization or charity etc., was felt to raise their image in the eyes of their peers.

Now this does not discount the other valid reasons for joining a facebook page such as staying informed about the brand (34%), or getting updates on future products (33%), and of course one of the most popular reasons (40%), receiving discounts or a value added bonus.

However, getting back to social badging. It demands the question, what can you do to make your facebook fan (business) page more alluring to those who are looking to grow in the eyes of their peers through social badging?

The answer lies in showing that your organization is aligned with the same values as your community. That it is involved in your community. That you are just as interested in informing your fans about the need for volunteers to clean up a park, or ladle at a soup kitchen, as you are about the new discount coupons.

This falls under Public Relations and brand image. Inform your fans about the good deeds you and your staff do in the community, both as individuals and also corporately.

I think that another proof of the importance people place on social badging came in another study by facebook, where to everyone’s surprise the facebook ads that pulled the highest clicks were one’s that aligned the brand with a social good deed.

I shall be back to weekly writing of this blog  and weekly podcasts on social media now that I have almost put my book to rest and I hope you will do me the honor of continuing to read and listen.

Social Media for Driving & Retaining Membership

John Hope-Johnstone

Bon jour! This post is all about how to obtain and retain members with the assistance of social media. Obviously this post is more important for membership based organizations such as Associations, Chambers of Commerce, Destination Marketing Organizations etc.,  however it also pertains to organizations wishing to maintain good customer relations or charities and not-for-profits wishing to maintain or increase their donor base as well.

Membership based organizations exist to serve their members. People join membership based organizations to gain professional status, update their education, network with others, grow their business and to monitor and promote profession-related policy positions that could effect their business.

All of the above reasons for joining a membership based organization depend on the sharing of information and the building and maintenance of networks. With the aging of the population and the old guard slowly leaving the workplace and new blood rare to find in some membership organizations, it is interesting to find that while Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media tools, they are not necessarily considered the most effective in reaching membership goals. In fact, the most effective social networking tools are considered to be those that are basically housed within the organization itself, namely listserv (50%) and/or a private association social network (39%). It is difficult to know if this response is due to entitlement in these platforms, because, except in rare cases, I have rarely found in-house listserves or social networks to be well used.

Approximately two-thirds of Associations respondents report still using snail mailed welcome kits, admittedly a decrease from the 2009 study of 15 percentage points (68% in 2010 vs. 83% in 2009). However, findings indicate that associations with greater than 80% renewal are significantly more likely to use the mailed welcome kits (75% vs. 58%). The question for some associations might be, if your membership is aging and no fresh blood is coming in, are you fishing where the fish are? Perhaps they are engaged on social media?

First, let me say in a loud voice that I am not advocating giving up tried and true methods of recruiting and retaining membership or donors. I am suggesting that Social media, done effectively can increase the satisfaction level of present members or donors by increasing the perceived value and hence increase the potential of membership or donor renewal and referral. It can slowly become part of your membership services campaign but should, like the other methods of recruitment, be monitored and gauged for its effectiveness.

Here are 10 steps to developing and retaining members using social media:

  1. Assess what is working and what is not by actual number of members each social media platform brings in. Do the same exercise with old methods of membership solicitation and don’t allow sacred cows to remain just because some board member ten years ago had the idea.
  2. Begin your foray into social media for membership building and retention with a poll to see which social media platforms the majority of the present members reside. Is it facebook? (most likely) or Linkedin. Do they tweet? Blog?
  3. Go for the low hanging fruit. This would include your lapsed members and your non-member users. They’ve already expressed an interest in your organization, so
    now is the time to convey how important membership is for their own success in a difficult economic environment. Search for them on social media sites through use of a CRM system such as Batchbook.com that will allow you to see which social media platforms your prospects are using.
  4. Once you locate a lapsed pilgrim on, say Linkedin, then see who is connected to him/her who are still active members and have them contact the lapsed member via the social media platform in a social manner and bring them back into the fold.
  5. If you decide a facebook fan page is in your future, then ask the question WHY?  Why would I go to this page. What are you going to offer that is special and will drive me to visit that page? What special information is going to be on it to make members go? Also, don’t forgo just your own or other staff members regular facebook profile pages. I gain far more social capital and conversations from my regular facebook page than my business fan page. That doesn’t mean you overload your profile page with business stuff, you keep it social. Let people know who you and other staff (who want to) are and what you are like.
  6. Twitter is a “news agency” and it works best for informational purposes. It is great at conferences to help people find people and to update any changes in program and to point members towards special information you are putting out about the conference. A hash-tag is a great way to get groups together.
  7. Don’t forget about YouTube . Short video clips about presentations at a conference are a great way to remind people who didn’t go what a great time and a great educational opportunity they are missing. Also pulling the videos into your Web site  is great content. Give your members faces that they can relate to.
  8. Don’t forget good social media is all about the quality of your content and information. If you just blah blah blah then people will shut down. If you give them key information or point them in the direction of good content via a link they will come back for more.
  9. It is about getting people involved and not feeling that an organization is elitist, especially young prospective members who may think its just an old boy/girl network and that they will not feel welcome.
  10. It is about giving your organization “a face and a voice” and by that I don’t mean one face but many.

Thanks for reading this post. Hope it had some information you found useful about social media and membership. Please leave a comment. Follow me on:

Find out about our Social Media Seminars go to: http://www.johnhopejohnstone.com

Developing Community

John Hope-Johnstone

Bon jour, in past posts on this blog we have spoken about developing “community”  and its integral role for success of social media marketing.

 In marketing today we speak less about demographics and psychographics and more and more about “communities”. Communities have a common interest and that interest is usually coalesced through the action of “search’.

 ” A community is fundamentally an interdependent human system given form by the conversation it holds within itself.” (Peter Bloch).

In the past the term “community” has been relegated to forums and message boards. But with the rise of social media platforms such as facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Yelp and many many others the term community has become vague and loosely defined. These communities may exist only for a nana second

We have two choices with communities; to join an already established community (in the majority the is what we mostly do), or create a new community, either around a common interest or sharing of a particular bit of knowledge.

Today, we talk often about virtual communities and they exist dominantly for the sharing of knowledge. The Internet was formed for the sole purpose of the dissemination of knowledge and a majority of the communities of common interest are formed around a desire to discuss and disseminate certain knowledge. Fresh knowledge keeps the community growing and stable and so the community like a hungry beast must be kept fed with the fresh meat of knowledge.

Here are some of the types of communities people have enjoyed through these online connections. (Written by Sue Boetcher, Heather Duggan, Nancy White)

  • Socialize – meeting people, playing around, sharing jokes, stories and just taking interest in each other. Communities like this often focus around bulletin boards and chat rooms. An example of such a community is Electric Minds at http://www.electricminds.org
  • Work together (business) – Distributed work groups within companies and between companies use online community to build their team, keep in touch and even work on projects together. A very detailed description of how online work groups work can be found at http://www.awaken.com and http://www.bigbangworkshops.com .
  • Work together (community – geographic) – Freenets (see the Freenet Directory) have offered local communities ways to communicate and work together. Some have even combined this with ISP service. Community groups such as soccer teams, school groups and others have used online community to provide forums for information and discussion, helping bring groups together.
  • Work together (issues) – Virtual communities have been very important to people who share interests in issues and causes. Support groups for people dealing with certain diseases, causes such as politics or the environment, or people studying together, all can form a nucleus for an online community.
  • Have topical conversations – Online salons and discussion forums such as the Well (http://www.well.com), Salon’s TableTalk (as of mid 2001 a paid subscription model) (http://www.salon.com), Cafe Utne (http://www.utne.com) and others have formed communities of people who enjoy conversations about topics and shared interests. ForumOne noted in 1999 that the top ten topics for forums registered at their site are around the topics of (in order): relationships (16%), “mega sites (diverse topics, aggregations of smaller conferences – 11%), business and finance (8%), health (5%), hobbies (4%), religion (3%), music (3%), international (3%). It would be interesting to revisit those stats at the start of 2002.

I want to add one more type of community and that is a social media community. Writing this post gave me pause to think about the communities in which I am involved. I don’t belong to a forum (I have in the past), I don’t belong to bulletin boards but I am involved with social media and social networking platforms. Here are some social media that I believe still should hold the title of community:

  • Those who regularly follow my blog could be called a community (poor things)
  • The Linkedin groups that I belong to and whose brains I pick religiously are a community.
  • Although random, my facebook friends are a community.
  • Twitter #Corvallis is a free flowing community looking for knowledge about the town of Corvallis. It ebbs and flows but none the less it is a community.
  • I subscribe to various knowledge e-zines. I suppose all of my fellow subscribers are part of a community and we are asked to comment on the e-zine. It is a poor form of community but a community none the less. Then there are consumer

The key word for communities is a sense of “belonging” according to the author of the book The Art of Community by Jono Bacon. Part of that sense of belonging has to do with getting a tangible “reward” from the community. That reward can be entertainment, knowledge, friendship, support and even financial gain.

Communities are incredibly ethereal and tend to come and go at will. I believe that to try and overly structure them is a recipe for disaster, just let them be. Feed them and nourish them with knowledge but don’t try an control and over-structure them.

For the majority of us, we are going to find our community within the 800 pound guerillas of social media such as;  facebook and my space and linked in and Twitter. We tend to treat these communities rather casually when with a small amount of effort they can be powerful building tools for success.

There are two key elements about building your social media community that we often forget: 1) Build it with people who are key influencers in your world. 2) Be social: Introduce people, mentor people and help people get where they want to go. By doing this, you will build your own reputation and your community will prosper.

Well, this is a relatively short post as I am off to Rome. I will post again after I return. Thanks for reading and please add your comments.

Social Media Strategy Part 2

Hola my friend, this is the second post regarding developing your own social media strategy. 70% of people fail and abandon social media as a brand development tool because they have no strategy. Please read the last post to get a start on this.

This post goes deeper into “how” to develop a strategy and at the end gives a link to our own HPR strategy example.

Strategy isn’t the end it’s the path to get there. So, let’s put some goals out, and then talk through how to build a bunch of objectives to reach them.

Social media is just part of an overall customer experience. Social media does not have its own orbit rather it belongs under the heading of Public Relations. So, ask yourself, “What will I learn from our social media work that can be applied across all other areas of marketing — oh, and product development! — to make our customer experience more enjoyable, our content more accessible, and, ultimately, more conversion oriented?” A good social media strategy will extract insights from various social media platforms and leverage them to help improve both your own strategic view and the strategic plan for your business. (Adapted from the excellent work of Chris Brogan.)

Here is a side note: If you aren’t playing around in social media now, then just jump in and have fun. Try it out. Hire a teenager to help you understand the platforms…have fun! Remember, you don’t have to use it just because it is there, but you do have to understand what it is all about because, most likely, many of your customers are using it! Remember, if you aren’t at the table, you are likely to be part of the meal.

Your Social Media Strategy should help you develop the following:

• Increase customer base.

• Generate leads.

• Drive sales.

• Build awareness.

• Make money from your content.

• Establish thought leadership.

• Educate customers.

• Customer-source part of your product development.

• Reach new channels of customers.

• Improve internal communications.

• Increase buzz about your business

• Build social and political capital (remember it is part of Public Relations)

Did I miss any? Feel free to add some.

In the last post we explained about the four pillars of creating a social media strategy:

1. Communication

2. Collaboration

3. Education

4. Entertainment

You must keep in mind all four of these pillars as you create and activate your social media strategy.

Before we go too far down any one path, we should ask some questions:

• Are your customers likely to be online? Note that lots of people are online these days, but it might be that you have a product or service that isn’t as frequently purchased or researched via the web. What’s your story?

• Are you ready to handle negativity? Platforms like blogs and videos allow for negative comments, and some company cultures aren’t ready to engage with those opinions.

• How will you incorporate this into your staff’s (or your own) work load? Are you willing to take on some interns and train them?

• How will you measure results?

• How long are you willing to give it a try?

• What’s your willingness to experiment, take risks, and adjust your plans?

Just those answers might tell you a bit about your business, whether or not you decide to go forward with building a strategy using social media tools. Remember, it’s a lot easier to NOT listen to customers and just blast your messages out with no regard as to how they’re received.

Strategy Starters:

If we’re going to put a social media strategy into place, we need to align the path we’re going to take, and develop it with an understanding of how to reach our goals. Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How do we know we’ve arrived? Here are ten key actions to create a Social Media Strategy:

1. Communities: Most social media strategies have to address several “communities of common interest” and dividing your customers (present and future) up into several well defined communities that have common interests is important. Then how will you encourage these communities to gather around your social media content? Since social media is part of Public Relations in marketing we mustn’t forget that there are seven publics in Public Relations and these can be used as guidelines as you look into your community structure:

1: Press (media) relations (don’t forget bloggers)

2: Employee relations

3: Community relations

4: Educator relations

5: Consumer relations (*this is the biggie)

6: Stakeholder relations

7: Management relations

2. Key Influencers: From within these communities list out, with full contact information, the key influencers. Those are the people if you help them understand who you are and what you do may influence many others. (This is the most time consuming part of developing a strategy) but also the most important. It is critical to note that it is an ongoing process and should involve at least 10 new key people a day).

3. As best as possible try and track down the top key influencers from each community and see what social media platforms they are using. Also, don’t forget that the key word in Social Networking is “networking”. With programs like facebook and My Space, Linkedin and others, you can reach your key people by finding friends that you have in common. Then an introduction is easy.

Pause here to follow number four before moving on to the next part of the plan.

4. Spend several months just listening and seeing what the on-line conversations are all about; be a good little puppy and don’t bound into the pack all slobbering with enthusiasm.

5. If you have the resources, assign a Community Manager (paid and with good writing skills) to become part of, and to handle, a community (it is best if the Community Manager has an interest in that particular community). From within the community, cultivate an “Evangelist” to work with your Community Manager (unpaid).

6. Communications: Create your social media platforms so that they will bring people to an understanding of who you are, what you know and what you do: Micro blogs such as Twitter, facebook, My Space, Linkedin and E-Newsletters are commonly used to shout-out and point people to other information you want them to know about. The next step points to>>>> your blog, where you show your expertise and knowledge in a casual and friendly manner and certainly NOT in a sales-like manner. Blogs can also include V-Logs where you are showing your knowledge but on video (such as YouTube). Once convinced of your expertise, these blogs and V-logs can point towards >>>>Your Web site where finally they really understand what you have to offer. Please understand that although this is an ideal progression, people will jump in at any one point and go on to another (if they are interested), so you must cross reference your platforms at all points.

7. Listening: Implement rudimentary listening platforms such as Google Blogs or Technocrati or others.

8. Message: Determine the message and the mix of content you intend to create for each community, and build a calendar around it. Remember your bottom line is to create “buzz”. Learn how to build awareness and encourage conversations with the content you’re creating.

9. Measurement: How are you going to measure your success or failure in the social media arena? Remember, it is not the Return on Investment (ROI) that counts in social media, it is the Return on Engagement (ROE). Here are some suggestions:

• Buzz, (conversations that go three or more in depth)

• Friends, followers, joiners, eyeballs

• Readers of your blogs

• Comments on blogs

• Newsletter subscribers

• Unique Web site users that have come to your Web site from tweet links, or blog links etc.

• People who complete “conversion” activities on your Web site (you decide what those conversion activities are.)

10. Test: Try out your message with your peers and your consumers. Don’t be afraid to ask “what would think if I said this…” Continue asking that question all the way through your social media campaigns. “How am I doing” is the most neglected and important question in business.

Many of the answers cannot be received until you assimilate into the communities and conversations. But thinking of these situations ahead of time is no different than anticipating the hard questions from reporters before a press conference. Prepare yourself with answers, then read and react. It’s not the soup-to-nuts of a social media strategy, but the answers to these questions are at the core of successful ones.

Remember, there are as many paths to successful social networking as there are human beings. This is simply a guideline from which you can develop your own style.

See how HPR social media coaching has created its own Social Media Stratgy Example for you to use.

Thank you for reading this post. Please read past posts and forward on to your friends.

The next one will be posted next Sunday. Follow Twitter for shout-outs about new posts on The Buzz Master Blog.

Developing a Great Social Media Strategy

John Hope-Johnstone

John Hope-Johnstone

Goede dag (Dutch for “good day”): Sorry about the two week gap in postings, I am just sure your week was ruined without it! I was enjoying great family and friends time at Beach Acres Resort, on Vancouver Island, (what a paradise!)

In the last post we promised you that we would talk about the most important part of social media and that is developing your strategy.

If I were to take a SWAG (scientific wild ass guess), I would have to say that at least 70% of people using social media for the exposure of their brand are wasting a chunk of their hard work and money because they haven’t asked the one key question..WHY?

A teacher once told me; “just because it exists doesn’t mean you have to use it.”  I think she said “grasshopper” after that statement but time clouds my memory. If you haven’t answered the question “why” about what you are doing in social media and developed a strategy then you are sailing into unfamiliar waters without a map.

I have written in past posts that Social Media belongs under the marketing heading of “Public Relations”. Public Relations are defined in my book “How to Market Tourism in the 21st Century”  as: “The development of social, political and marketing capital through third party endorsements. Part of the value of third party endorsements lies in reproducing them, so they can live forever”.

As a tool of PR, Social Media has great value in creating both social (facebook etc.,) and political (Linkedin etc.,) capital and by pulling comments and blogs about your brand into your Web site you can make them live forever.

We dedicated the July 19th post, to the act of developing a Key Influencer List which is a big part of developing your Social Media Strategy.

The content of today’s post comes, in part, from a great book, (although very thick), http://www.socialmediabible.com . In this book Lon Safko and David Brake encourage you to think of your social media strategy as a platform supported by four pillars. You really need all four pillars, they suggest, stabilizing the platform and making your strategy work:

1: Communication
2: Collaboration
3: Education
4: Entertainment

As we discussed in the July 12th Post  the bottom line of social networking is to create “buzz”. Buzz is any conversation that goes three or more conversations in depth about your brand. Developing a Social Media Strategy answers the question; “what are you trying to get them to buzz about?”

The four pillars are levels of engagement and before you can develop a strategy around them, perhaps it would be a good idea to review what you’re already doing and the results you have been getting.

How to Develop a Social Media Strategy:

1: Divide your consumers into “communities of common interest” in other words groups that revolve around some common interests, (perhaps a lifestyle interest?). Look at your present customer base and see how you can divide them into market segments based on common interests. Don’t know? Better find out. Or, perhaps you have to create a new community, although it’s easier to join one. Remember, communities succeed only if they meet the needs of their members. The concept of community is fairly broad and many of these communities will overlap or operate interdependently. Here are five broad categories of the term Community of Common Interest:

                                          1: Metropolis Communities: facebook and MySpace are examples of this category, they are small countries within themselves with millions of members.
                                          2: Affinity Communities: Some people are passionate about National Public Radio (NPR). If you visit www.npr.org, you will see a lot of rich media that allows you to interact with NPR become part of the NPR community.
                                          3: Intercompany Communities:  Using such platforms as Ning and Wiki apps and others, companies are creating their own communities that allow employees to contribute and interact and get to know each other in a whole new way.
                                          4: Vertical Communities: These are often industry specific communities where people with specialized skills and expertise interact with one another. A community of international petroleum engineers would be an example.
                                         5:  Horizontal Communities: These communities are not industry specific but focus on functional groups with expertise or interests that cut across a horizontal path of other communities or industries.     

2: Develop a list of a minimum of ten things you want each community to understand and buzz about your brand (personal or corporate). These are the communication and education pillars of your Strategy.

3:  Figure out which the best social media platforms are (i.e. facebook, My Space, Twitter, Linkedin etc) or a combination, to reach these communities. (Read August 8th 2009 blog post).

4:  Who are the leaders of each community? How do you want to influence them and which of the ten messages do you want them to understand about your brand. This is developing your Key Influencer List [past post].

5: Find and engage those key community leaders, ask these key influencers to contribute to your social media. Become friends on facebook, follow in Twitter, join their Linkedin group. Mention them in your blogs and videos. Promote them and they will promote you and hence influence their communities. 

6: Decide on which units of measurement of success or failure you are going to use to gauge your strategies performance. For example, friends from the community involve on facebook or eyeballs on You Tube or followers on Twitter from each community.

Lastly (aren’t you glad),

7:  Each community needs a party. You Tube throws actual parties where members get to actually have face time, exchange ideas and have fun. Why don’t you be the party planner for your various communities? If not a party at least some sort of human interaction. This can be the climax to your social media strategy for the year!

Sorry, this blog post is far too long but the subject is incredibly important to your social media success. Let’s follow up with next weeks post on the same subject of “Strategy Pt2” but create a case study example. Ok?

Please comment on this blog love to get advice or embed it into your Web site or recommend to a friend. Thanks for reading Buzz Master.

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