Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Social marketing for business (not an oxymoron).

I just had a great conversation with a long-time vendor about the perks of using social media for business. He was wondering what networks to use, how to use them, and (the kicker) how to find the time to use them. There are only so many hours in the day/dollars to spend; do you sacrifice some other marketing activity in order to add Twitter or Facebook to your marketing mix?

Though I'm sure there are MANY differing opinions on this topic, I offer the following tips for those reluctant to take the plunge:

1. Decide what you want to achieve. Are you looking to create awareness? Drive sales? Position yourself as a thought leader? You MUST have a goal in mind, otherwise you are just wasting time and resources.

2. Who do you want to talk to? Your message is not (and shouldn't be) relevant to everyone.

3. How do you reach those people or companies? Twitter is today's media darling, but it's not always the answer—sometimes you are truly better served by pursuing more traditional marketing activities. If you determine that you need to add some social media marketing to your mix, maybe you should choose to be really active on LinkedIn and not so much on Facebook. The trick is to build a community or following where your audience is already talking. Think of yourself as Mohammed; you need to go to the mountain.

4. Create a plan—and stick to it. What will you talk about? How often will you participate? I find it is much easier to pick only one or two topics, and stick with them, than try to cover everything under the sun. And I enjoy reading other people's blogs, etc., when they follow this model, too, since I know exactly what to expect from them.

5. How do you find the time to tweet/blog/fill in the_______? Start small. If you are able to carve out 10 minutes twice a week to tweet, blog, or comment, etc., etc.,—then you're off and rolling. As you gain more confidence, you will likely want to ramp up your activity.

6. Set guidelines. If you choose to delegate social media marketing activities, make sure that you are utterly clear about your goals and expectations. It's important to remain flexible, however, since you never know what interesting discussion might crop up.

7. One last point. Social media marketing is NOT about "controlling" the conversation. The point is to invite conversation, to participate in others' conversations, and to build authenticity for you and/or your brand. This is not your grandfather's PR!

What do you think? Any other tips?

Monday, May 4, 2009

A marketer's primer to networking.

I recently got a phone call from a friend who said she was debating joining a professional organization. She was partially on the fence, she said, because she didn't want to attend an event and not know anyone.

Though I am by no means a master networker, I do feel like I've gotten much better at it over the past few years - and so I offer my friend (and any other reluctant networkers!) the following tips:

1. People in professional organizations all have something in common already. Use this to your advantage! I love attending marketing events, since the bulk of attendees are usually marketers, too. No matter who I meet, we are bound to have something in common. You can start with an easy icebreaker, like "What brought you to the event tonight?" and you're off and rolling. (A side note: if you walk into a room and everyone is already talking with someone else, approach a group of three or more and introduce yourself. People talking in pairs can be having a private conversation, whereas there's almost always room for one more person in a group discussion.)

2. Set a goal. Sounds a little silly, but setting a networking goal for an event is key. You can set your goal as wanting to meet three new people, to swap business cards with one particular person who you know is also attending the event, or to introduce yourself to the keynote speaker. If that sounds terrifying, decide that you will talk with the person sitting/standing next to you (baby steps!). Once you feel more comfortable, you can set your goals progressively higher. And once you've met your goal for the evening, you can let yourself off the hook and simply enjoy the event.

3. Remember your business cards! I went to an event last night, and when I pulled my card case out, realized I only had four business cards with me. It was both embarrassing and a drag, since I met some fascinating people. Fortunately, people were very gracious and gave me their cards anyway. Which leads me to my fourth and final point...

4. Follow up after the event. So you went to an event. You met your goals, and you (gasp!) even found yourself able to relax and enjoy. As you review the stack of business cards you collected, recall what you discussed with each person, and shoot him or her a quick email. If they are on Twitter, find and follow them; if you had an extensive discussion, you might want to invite them to connect on LinkedIn. The point is to keep in touch...and that's really what networking is all about.