Listen Before You Leap

Thomas Marks brings years of marketing experience to his blog "It's All About Content" as the President and Managing Partner of TMA+Peritus. Prior to starting the agency in 1983, Tom was the VP of Marketing and Advertising for Bally Corporation in Chicago. He was also President of Bally's multi-million dollar in-house ad agency FFC Advertising.

Effective social media strategies are heavily reliant on your great content. When it comes to social media, generally businesses make one of two mistakes. They rush into it faster than a doped-up sprinter without realizing the consequences of their actions; or, they stick their toe in the water — ever so slightly — making it utterly impossible to see any results. In order to avoid the predictable, which is no measurable results from your social media efforts, you must adopt a point of view (POV).

But before you do that, it’s imperative that you subscribe to the philosophy that we spend so much time trying to be understood and not enough time understanding. If you have trouble agreeing with that belief, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll have trouble with social media. The first step in a successful social media campaign is to listen. Listen to your audiences, monitor what they’re saying about you, about your brand, about your competitors, even the events they’re attending, both professionally and personally. Do it through the search functions on Twitter and Facebook, through Google Alerts and other free-ware like Who’s Talkin and Social Mention.

After that, really listen, but this time in earnest. It’s high time we took the social out of social media. Now, it’s just plain media. Would you place your print, TV and radio campaigns without a media plan? Would you do it without knowing the Nielsen, Arbitron or Eastlan ratings, cost-per-thousand, pass along readership, or Alexa counts. Of course not, which is why social media needs a media plan, too. Invest in listening like you would invest in the tools required for a traditional and cost efficient media buy. Radian6 and Cision are very thorough, but they can get pricey; Scout Labs isn’t very costly and is a great value if you’re listening only to your audiences and your industry.

Finally, have a point of view, and be ready to express it. Your audiences want your expertise, your knowledge and even your assistance. What they don’t want is a sales pitch. If you overtly pitch, you’ll strike out. Being part of a conversation is just that — a part not a hog. There’s one guy who is extremely bright and innovative about social media, but his blogs are so full of himself that the peeps have completely tuned him out, including me. This can happen to a business as well. When it comes to television advertising, I tell our clients, "you’re an uninvited guest in someone’s living room so don’t be obnoxious." The same holds true for social media, and when we all understand that, your POV will result in a positive ROI.

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