Pre-digested Social Media Advice for the Time Challenged

I have never, in my 46 years, had trouble sleeping. In fact, lay me horizontal to watch a movie, meditate, or read, and I’m out in a matter of minutes, sleeping through ‘til the crow of the first rooster. Sitting, lying or standing though, nothing puts me to sleep faster than reading blog posts on marketing technique. There are hundreds maybe thousands of new ones daily. But folks, that’s my job so I do it with a cup of strong coffee and a handful of Ritalin.

In case you haven’t noticed, social media is the hottest of hot topics. And, judging from the recent posts on the basics, it’s pretty clear some people are just dipping a toe in. In the last few weeks I’ve run across three articles that if read together, give pretty much all the advice a marketer, new to this arena, needs to get going. And, there’s even some good information for the more advanced in the crowd. I’ve taken the time to digest it for you so you can spend your time on more exciting stuff like picking out your lookalike for doppelganger week on Facebook.

The first article that makes sense to check out is by the Crowned Prince of Social Media, Chris Brogan. This social butterfly has got more Twitter followers than the Dalai Lama so what he has to say must be really important. That, or Buddhism is going out of style.

This article should be on your list of favorites if you’re just getting into social media. It provides a way to look at, organize, or in fancy agency talk “frame” social media development and execution efforts. The frame consists of three categories of stuff you gotta do to be good at social networking: 1. Listening (every expert’s #1 so shut up and do it). 2. Connecting (getting in there with the peeps). 2. Publishing (the value is in the content stupid). Listen first, last, and always to help you figure out who’s talking, what they’re saying that’s relevant to you, and how you might fit into the conversation. Figure out where your audience is, what they’re doing there, and if your presence might have an impact, be useful, or otherwise of interest to the folks you want to reach who are hanging out there. “Out there” includes all the usual places like Twitter, Facebook, in addition to places you didn’t even know existed. So, basically, find the water holes where the elephants are drinking your type of water and hang out there. The final point, publishing, is all about making a contribution. Now that you know where to hang and what’s being said, you can exhibit your own POV. There are tools, and more tools. The ones you pick will fit your budget, your listening, connection, and publishing needs, and your appetite for levels of information but not necessarily all in one. Here’s the full article for your reading pleasure. In the end though, there’s still the secret sauce and that’s the art of orchestration, or as Chris says, “tying it all together.” That’s where the experts come in to help.

The next article is by Brian Solis (fewer than half the Twitter followers of Chris and the Dali Lama) but is highly respected for his constant stream of fresh thought leadership. Personally, I think his stuff has the most depth (and the most words). He and Chris “Tweet” off each other constantly, feeding their own ecosystem. Chances are, if you’re following one of them you’ve read a lot of this stuff. This particular article ‘The 10 Stages of Social Media Integration in Business” ran in Mashable and has shown up in my Twitter stream a few times over the last few weeks from many different sources. It’s about the role of social media across business (not just as a marketing tool) and it’s meaty.

Brian tells us that we’ve reached an evolution point in social media. Isn’t that cool? So you can skip the primitive state of benign listening and unguided participation (basically awareness) and go straight to the strategic observation, analysis, and informed engagement or true affinity “unmarketing.” Think of all the cool things we can manipulate. Wait, did I say “manipulate?” I mean “influence.” But there is much to be done. Like Chris, Brian highlights listening (stage 1) then goes on with stages 2, 3, and 4 to demonstrate an approach to entry strategy including: setting the stage (creating and selling the strategy); socializing media (getting in there and doing it which includes conversation, listening, and measuring the impact); and finally finding a voice and sense of purpose (maturation). Stage 5 onwards the process and efforts become more and more involved with brand, value, and community evolution. Done right, social media becomes central to the experience of the brand and business processes, and ultimately the smooth functioning of the corporate community as a whole. Stage 10 is my favorite (being the geek that I am) and is all about measuring the results. I’d recommend reading that stage first as it’s always best to start with the metrics in mind. Keep this article around. You’ll need it if you’re serious about becoming an expert.

And finally (are your eyes still open?), a bit of nerdy Harvard Business Review research by Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski on how people actually use various social networks. It’s appropriately titled “Understanding Users of Social Networks.” It’s an older post (September ’09) but like all useful information, came back around in a newsletter recently. It answers the question “What the hell are all these people doing on social networking sites?” It doesn’t tell you what they should be doing instead, just why they’re there and what they’re up to.

According to Piskorski, the biggest value of social networks is in making up for short-comings of offline networks like finding people, meeting new people, narrowing in on information relevant to a community or demographic. He actually studied the log files of various social networks and discovered, surprisingly, that 70% of all actions are related to viewing pictures. Social networks are enabling voyeurism, a popular human pastime. Not surprising (see my earlier post “To Sleaze or Not…”) men in relationships are often trolling for women they don’t know. Comparison shopping perhaps? When it comes to the sexes, men and women do different things. Women tend to use Twitter to say stuff, men use it to share stuff. And according to the analytics, men are followed much more than women. Hum, what does that say about the role of men in our society? Are they now the hunter-gatherers of information? Another interesting data point was that only 10% of the actual 20 million daily logins on Twitter actually Tweet. The rest are just hanging out looking I guess. Bottom line, people seem much more interested in observing life than actually participating. It’s great we’ve got these new tools to help us out. Finally, if you were thinking about walking away from MySpace, you might want to think again. While only 70 million log in daily vs. 90 million on Facebook, they represent the fringe population, Arkansa, Kansas, Fresno, Fort Worth (not Dallas), etc. If you need to engage these folks, you’ll probably want to consider it. Oh yeah, and in case you haven’t heard, people really don’t click on ads on social networks. So, don’t think of social networking as another media channel. It’s not and you’ll fail if you don’t have a solid strategy.

If you’re still awake, you get the picture. There is lots of juicy, overlapping information that will provide a great foundation for developing a sound social media strategy. Now get back to Facebook. They’re missing you.

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