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Social Media for Business: Phase One - Discovery

The fearless folks at Firecat are early adopters. We live and breathe LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, voice and text chat, forums and other ways of staying connected online. We help businesses, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies navigate the relatively unknown waters of social media. Just like individuals, organizations learn social media by participating, learning, and gradually developing an online persona (or personas) that authentically represent them.

Stage 1: Discovery

If social media pundits seem to know it all and you feel like a newbie (n00b!), remember that these communication technologies are a brave new world for everyone and they're evolving very rapidly. They're here to stay, and it's not a problem that you weren't the first one to sign up. The folks who first bought ridiculously expensive, briefcase-sized cell phones earned some bragging rights, but we all got there in the end, didn't we?

Newspapers didn't replace books, radio didn't replace newspapers, and TV didn't replace radio. Social media outlets don't REPLACE any of the existing communications media, they are adding new channels, new possibilities, new options. It's all additive. That may sound like bad news to those of us who feel overwhelmed and overworked. But your customers, stakeholders, prospects, employees -- whoever you want to connect with -- are out there, right now, creating content for you to find. Internet technology makes this findable, measurable. These conversations were happening all along, anyway, you just didn't know about them. Now, thanks to the Internet, you do.

The first order of business is to understand who you want to connect with and where they congregate online. Google is your best friend for this; a few well-considered searches can reveal volumes about your customers, prospects, audience, employees, and competitors. Try your company name first. Then your service or product and location -- the city, the state, the region.

In addition to Google searches, go directly into the primary social media gathering places and do a search for your company name, competitors' names, your city and industry, and so forth. Social media points we pay particular attention to include:

  • LinkedIn. Business-flavored "seven degrees of separation" style social networking, managed introductions, and expert question-and-answer showcase.
  • Facebook. Social networking environment with emphasis on college-age and adults, so has more business flavor than the similar MySpace. Facebook applications offer commercial opportunities; Facebook groups invite all sorts of configurations to emerge.
  • Twitter. Microblogging; users answer "What are you doing?" with 140 character responses, whenever they feel like it. Some companies monitor Twitter for emerging customer service issues and even provide customer support through Twitter.
  • Flickr. Photo- and video-sharing environment that supports tagging (user-created indexing of content), discussions, commenting, voting and more.
  • MySpace. Social networking environment with emphasis on kids and teens. Supports audio, video and other applets; often used for self-expression. Think of a living, breathing high school yearbook page.
  • SecondLife. Robust virtual world that allows interaction and movement through its 3D space with avatars. Corporations such as IBM and NASA encourage their employees to collaborate here.
  • YouTube. Video-sharing environment, supports tagging, rating and commenting.
  • Yelp. User-provided reviews and ratings, searchable by location. Particularly good for local businesses.

Make notes of the most interesting discussions or interactions you find. Pay attention to volume; one nugget about your company or a key issue in a blog doesn't mean that blog will be an important part of your strategy. Make screenshots of your key finds, and be sure the URL is visible in the image so you can find the site or thread again.

Start thinking about which of these social media outlets is likely to pay off for your organization. Monitoring all of them is too big a task unless you can divide the work among several staff members.

Social Media Discovery Checklist

  1. Set up a Google News Alert with some of your keywords. Tweak the keywords if what it yields isn't helpful.
  2. Visit each of the sites above, and search for your company name or industry, or key product. Or your city.
  3. Ask the people close to you if they use the social media above, and if so, explore how and why.
  4. On each of the sites, register your simple company name if no one has registered it already.
  5. Start a list of social media gathering points for your key stakeholder groups: customers, prospects, employees, vendors, competitors.

LET US HELP

Firecat Studio is ready to help you leverage social media for your organization. We can help your staff, or manage the effort for you, with a clear plan, milestones, and measurable results. Contact us for a free consultation.