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Monday, September 28, 2009

Steps in Social Media

Social Media is a process. It does not happen overnight. Sometimes, in social networks, it is like landing on another planet and meeting people that are literally alien to you. For some of us this is easy. I could walk in a room and gladly initiate the conversation, get to know someone, set up a meeting, and walk away as "good friends". For others, being sociable is a struggle. It may take days, months, and maybe even years to make a good connection.

Now, lets add the Internet to the equation. If you are in a certain age range, you may be what I call "lost in the transition". Media and information gathering changed drastically since the Web arrived and even more in the past few years with social media. The last time we saw a shift like this was when the printing press and television was launched. Now, after the newpapers and televisions controlled the media for so many years; we are telling people that it's simply not hot anymore. Some are confused, others are outraged. Tradition is hard to overcome in all areas.

What about Journalism students? They now have to redirect their efforts into learning social media on their "spare" time if their schools are not integrating it into their regular curriculum. Businesses who thought they had a stronghold and others who thought they had at least a handle on it are now screaming down their company ranks looking for someone who knows something about social media. Many larger companies are very late. They have to suffer significant loss before reaching out for help and considering this new niche. Then the proposal has to climb back up the ranks through walls of "we know what works" and "I have been doing this for years" before someone finally says "Let's do it".

I believe many businesses are distracted by this economy. While businesses are struggling, social media grew on the scene, and it kinda went a little unnoticed (it could be bigger). It is easy to blame the economy for all of your company struggles; but the truth may very well be that you are simply not connecting with people where they are today. Add the economy to your company not connecting, and you are pretty sure to fail. A good social media plan can open your business up to a whole new world of possibilities and opportunity. HEAR YE HEAR YE!

Once a company decides to join the ranks of social media, they can approach it in several ways. They can sample it (and sometimes be very discouraged because they are not using it properly), or they can work with someone to develop a strategy and implementation plan that could be consistent and effective. When we work with clients, it is not just about setting up a Twitter, Blog or Facebook account, but actually laying out a map of success to follow. Here are some questions you may ask: What is the product they are offering? Who are their competitors? What are they using for exposure and reach at the moment? Are these new prospects open to learning social media? How much time will they have weekly to put toward it? What social media platforms are best for this company? What type of "schedule" do you recommend for them? Do they have someone in house that can be trained and assigned to social media, part of full time? Will they need someone on the outside (you) to at least partially maintain it for them? These need to be answered!

There are many steps in Social Media. Understanding, learning, believing, developing, implementing, and socializing. Once you do start making connections; your contact management program needs to be in place to show any return on investment. Make contacts, group connections, get information, plant seeds, and grow your business life.

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