Social media has become one of the hottest marketing tools over the past five years. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and a host of new sites are now a major part of our daily lives. Since I began blogging in 2005, I have become an active participant in this new world. I have learned a great deal and continue to learn every day. Here are a few observations as from my travels down the social media trail.
The first thing I learned is that you need to be very focused on what you are seeking to achieve from using social media, particularly from a business perspective. On Twitter you can follow virtually every path of interest, whether it is music, tennis, sailing, cooking or politics. There are thousands of people who share your interests on just about any topic. The question is how will you and your business prosper by participating in one or more social media or discussion groups? The first step on the journey is to set some clear goals, whether it is finding new prospects, recruiting new talent or demonstrating expertise.
Second, don’t overlook the obvious. A good website is one of the best instruments for telling your story. However for a website to be truly effective, it has to be optimized. Search engine optimization is the process of identifying the key words about you and your company. If you develop a good website but don’t perform SEO, it will likely be ineffective.
A third lesson is the value of consistent communication. In our case, I write a weekly blog that deals with topics of interest to our customers. It takes time, some writing skills, knowledge and persistence to prepare an interesting blog every week. My blog appears in several locations on the internet and is now read by thousands of people a week. After writing hundreds of blogs, they provide another source of traffic as individuals perform searches over time. Both the new and old blogs produce a steady flow of activity.
Fourth, select the social media sites and groups that are most relevant to what you do. Since my company offers freight transportation consulting services, we try to participate in those sites (e.g. LinkedIn transportation groups) where we will likely interact with prospective clients and vendors in our target industries. To raise our profile, we created a LinkedIn group (Freight Transportation Best Practices) and a daily newspaper (e.g. Dan’s Transportation Newspaper) that most closely align with the mission of our company.
The requirement to be an active participant is a fifth lesson. I see some people become active (e.g. send invitations to connect on LinkedIn) when they are looking for a job or are not hitting their sales targets. That is too late. When you commit to participate in social media, you commit to actively participate in the groups you join or form. You get out of social media what you put in. If you are a passive observer, you will not derive much value. But if you interact with your network, help others, ask questions and supply answers, you will be rewarded.
Sixth, listen and learn. Each different social media platform (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter etc.) has a unique value proposition, a distinct identify and a particular culture. Before you jump in, explore, read and learn. If one or several sites or groups don’t work for you, keep searching until you find those that are the best fit. To keep up to date on what is happening in social media, subscribe to Scott Monty’s weekly blog (http://www.scottmonty.com/). Scott heads up the social media department at Ford Motor Company.
The seventh lesson is to have fun. If you find writing tedious, if the particular groups you join have discussions that are of no interest to you, if the people you follow on Twitter write tweets that are of no value (or don’t write), keep searching. Participation in social media can become all-consuming. The key is to focus on the significant groups and sites, compartmentalize your time for social media (e.g. early morning, noon, late in the day) and then make a meaningful contribution each day. If you are not having fun and deriving value, you will likely lose interest. If you start a blog and then falter, you will likely lose your followers. That is a clear sign that the “fun” component has dissipated.
Finally, find a way to measure what you are achieving. My colleague, Randall Craig at 360 Ideaspace (www.108ideaspace.com) offers some great tips on how to maximize your social media ROI. This should be taken very seriously. If you are devoting precious time out of your business day, you want to ensure that it is contributing to your company’s bottom line.
Collectively, our company website (www.dantranscon.com), our weekly blog, our daily newspaper (http://paper.li/DanGoodwill/1342211466), our LinkedIn (Freight Management Best Practices) group (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4357309&trk=hb_side_g ) along with our participation in other social media sites have helped raise our profile in the industry. They take time and effort but the results are worth the investment. Please share your experiences on social media with the readers of this blog.
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