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?


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