Many people and businesses are now aware of the potential value that social media tools can add to their image and business, but few seem to know how to go about it. The “what” and the “where” are fairly obvious; the “how” is trickier.  Here is a hint: ENGAGE your audience.  To “participate” in social media using sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but refrain from generating and responding to discussion would be a waste of precious time and resources.  Brian Solis, a public relations expert, introduced the concept of engagement in his recent book: Engage: the Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the Web. Below I’ve listed a few basics of how to get started on a social media campaign that will be effective.

  1. Do your research. Find out where your target audience is. Discover what venues are hosting conversations about your brand, product category, etc. as well as what people are saying about them.
  2. Find the current opinion leaders. Connect with those who already have a following. Creating relationships with the people who are talking about your industry or product could be extremely beneficial if they decide to become your advocate.
  3. Create a community. In order to create a presence in social media, you must actually be present. Seek out your audience and provide them with a reason to be interested in you. You must discover the wants and needs of your audience and make those elements the driving force of your online community. As fellow PR practitioner Katie Stansberry has said, “Value content is determined by what is valuable to your audience.”
  4. Moderate the conversation. Generate discussion with your audience. Talk WITH them (Again, engage).  Social media should create a two-way communication channel between you and your customers, clients, etc. When people give you feedback in the form of comments or questions, reply to them to show them that you are listening and that you appreciate them. Large businesses in particular can provide a more “human” image if they are conversing with consumers.
  5. Find the “sweet spot” in communication rates. Although you should absolutely post frequently on social media sites, you should not overload your audience with unwanted information. If you post too often, you run the risk of having a spam-like effect.  Don’t talk just to talk; be purposeful in all your communication.
  6. 6. Measure the results. Monitor the rates at which your online communities grow. Keep track of followers, readers, website views, etc. Observe and analyze what actions cause jumps in your follower rates and what actions spark the most conversation.
  7. Remember that social media is continually changing. In this fast-paced and ever-changing online world, trends in communication change at a rapid pace.  The phrase, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” will not apply.  To maintain success, you must always be monitoring changes and improving and evolving your social media efforts.  If you continue to research and follow your target audience’s habits and interests, you will ideally be able to maintain a good online presence.

This guide is a mere outline for strategic use of social media. For more information on this topic, here are links to a few other blogs with great viewpoints on the subject:

To read more on Brian Solis’s take on the concept of engagement, you can order his book through hi website:

— Courtney Larson, Account Executive

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