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Social Media 101: Q & A Essentials

November 23, 2009

On Thursday I took part in a Social Media 101 panel, held by Business Wire where I met lots of interesting people; some new to social media and some more experienced. There were many good questions asked by the audience. Here’s a small selection of some of these.

Should businesses use Facebook or Twitter?
There is a view that you should just jump straight in, use the tools, and see where it leads. Personally, I disagree with this approach. The question shouldn’t be about whether to use Facebook, or Twitter, or both. Rather, the questions should be:

  • What is it you want to achieve?
  • Can social media help you to achieve this?
  • Are your customers using social media?
  • And if so, what social media channels they are using?

This can help form the beginnings of your social media strategy, from which tactics can be derived. Maybe you do find that Twitter is more suited to your business than Facebook (or vice versa). But maybe you find that blogs and community forums are better at achieving your objectives. At least by approaching it this way, you aren’t deep diving into tools or losing sight of what it is you are trying to achieve.

Also check out:
The “5 Knows” of Social Media
There is no Twitter Strategy

Do you have any tips to get started?
I always recommend to read the book Groundswell, if you haven’t already. The POST method (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technologies) in this book will really help to structure your thoughts for your social media strategy.

Also if you don’t fully understand the workings of some of the tools, a good way to gain a practical understanding is to simply experiment and try them out personally in order to get familiar with the workings and nuances of them.

How do you separate work from personal?
For myself, it is very easy to keep work and personal separate in the social space. For business, I share content related to the company I work for, that helps solve our customer’s challenges, and for personal I focus on my interest in search and social media. There is a very clear line.

However, the line is more blurred for someone who may be a consultant in the social media field. Adding in non-business related information helps to make them and their personal brand more human. But there are ways to make businesses more human also, including a person picture, using conversational language, and having a person update tweets rather than just using it as an RSS feed.

Also check out:
10 Tips for Using Twitter for Business

How do you get lots of followers on Twitter?
One view to get lots of followers is to follow lots of people in the hope that they follow you back. However, sometimes it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in number counting. What is more important is to focus upon quality of followers over quantity. As an example, you may get a high number of responses from a demand generation Email, but if those responses don’t convert into a lead or a sale, then the number of responses you get is almost arbitrary.

A better approach is to provide interesting content and make use of popular keywords within your tweets so that you show up in searches. This way you attract followers who are interested in your content, rather than the “I’ll follow you and you follow me” approach.

What are common mistakes in Social Media?
Probably the biggest mistake is thinking that you can’t make a mistake. I think Charlene Li put it best by saying that at the end of the day, mistakes are inevitable because social media is about relationships, and no relationship is perfect. The key is to learn from your mistakes and learn from them quickly so that you don’t do it again.

Another common mistake to make is to believe that you are in control of social media. Just because you have a plan in place doesn’t mean that you are in control. People will always be having conversations about you, your brand, your products, your competitors. The best you can do is to ensure that you are listening to these conversations so that if anything negative does get said, then you can address the problem quickly and in a positive way.

Thanks again to Business Wire and @laurentoday for inviting me to take part in the event.

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