This was something written for the www.mediatoreal.com blog earlier in November, but I think it may be of use to some of you if you haven’t seen it already…
In celebration of Entrepreneurship Week and Global Sharing day I want to make available a couple of the tools I have been using loads with clients this year.
Having spent time at the British Library on Monday in their Business Village event, and an afternoon in the company of some very forward thinking Social Entrepreneurs at The People Who Share’s gathering at Mozilla’s lovely space in London, I decided it is my duty as a caring stoker of the economy to talk you through a few of the approaches that form the support I provide to companies looking to grow.
A good place for me to start is with a practical tool I use with Startups – my Thought Leadership Model for social media and conversational marketing.
My belief is that it has become practically impossible to credibly claim to be an expert in anything these days, the world is simply changing too quickly. The pace of developments in technology and therefore all areas of business (and life in general!) means that, in some cases at least, 20 years of experience in a specialist field is not nearly as valuable as having your finger on the pulse of current and emerging trends (admittedly you can have both!)
What this means is that many younger and less experienced people are in a fantastic position to provide thought leadership on specific areas of business and commerce, based on their understanding of what’s happening right now and their ability to project forward and perceive a future state in keeping with the rate of change.
You have to get to know at least some of the following before getting involved…
- who is talking about what and how influential are they?
- where is the conversation taking place and why did it start?
- what are the prevalent opinions and how have they changed?
- why is the subject relevant and what makes it important right now?
- how has the discussion evolved and where’s it heading?
- when is the right time for you to join in and what should you say?
For most businesses still in their infancy the immediate opportunity with Social Media is more about joining an existing industry or need specific conversation, rather than monitoring and addressing discussions about your own brand. The whole exercise can become quite labour intensive as you manually trawl through the seemingly endless data in search of relevant groups, threads and hashtags. Groups to join on LinkedIn, people to follow on Twitter, competitor Facebook pages to monitor and community sites that look like they might be interested in your specialist field. The risk of paralysis through analysis is not insignificant! Depending on the size of the task, but not necessarily your budget, there may be some bright young thing out there who has developed a handy programme, app or otherwise described gadgetry that will do a lot of the hard work for you.
There are loads of tools to assist with this sort of thing online. From elaborate Social Media monitoring systems like Salesforce.com’s Marketing Cloud (formerly Radian 6) and Sysomos Heartbeat but many of these are expensive. The good news is there are a huge number of free tools available as well. Probably the best known and certainly the simplest is good old Google Alerts. Just set up email prompts based on relevant keywords and decide how often you want to be notified about what’s happening. Beyond this essential core standard lies a vast array of more powerful solutions that are still free but offer far more granularity in the way of analysis. One in particular that caught my eye is Social Apps HQ, they’ve combined all the key elements from keyword conversation tracking, brand monitoring and influencer ratings to sentiment analysis, mention trends and response tools.
Once these inputs have informed your opinions, you’ve identified where the conversations are happening and who you need to engage, just share your views. Comment on blogs and articles, use the hash tags, get involved. And as you build your credibility why not start your own discussions around topics that will further demonstrate your relevance and insight, the stuff that will secure you new clients. Just make sure you include links back to your site to help people access deeper content (perhaps your own blog or white papers), don’t be afraid to include a call to action in messages, just ensure it is relevant and respectful – a natural part of the conversation not a sales message.
Use the conversational activity across social media and comment threads to join the dots between the discussions and your more detailed information in your site. Create a natural journey from discussion to service information and purchase decision, taking a route that demonstrates your understanding of the landscape and acknowledges…
- TRENDS in the economy and or a specific market sector
- IMPLICATIONS for businesses and consumers affected
- POSSIBILITIES in terms of potential responses to the situation
- SOLUTIONS that include your skills and services
The visual model represented above is just a snapshot of my view of a structured approach based on the current media environment. It can be developed and refined as the world changes while retaining the core principles of Listen, Learn, Engage and Influence (although, I find the word influence has negative connotations – can anyone suggest an alternative? I want to say “help” or “assist” while acknowledging that this is marketing but with a focus on customer need!)
Do let us know if you find this sort of thing useful, there is more to share if it will help you develop your approach to marketing and business strategy!