The Four Tracks of Social Media: Listening, Responding, Content, Community

Business and Social Media - the four tracks

Everyone is still trying to figure out social media and to justify any budget at all to promote their businesses on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. For business (is a bit late to the game) social media can provide a welcome tonic to an otherwise stagnant ad campaign or underperforming product promotion. Put a little “social” in and reap the results. Except the results, if you just tack LIKE US ON FACEBOOK to your ad campaign, can be less than compelling. That’s not really what we mean when we talk about integrating social media into everything you do.

And one of the best ways to LEARN THIS, business or individual, is to start using social media. And in order to engage appropriately we have to understand the four different tracks of social media.

Listening – is track one. (Everyone has to start at track one. See @comcastcares on Twitter)
Any company or individual that is not listening for the conversations that might be taking place anywhere and everywhere on the internet is missing big time.

Blogger Response and Outreach – is track two. (Do a google search for Dell Hell and learn about Jeff Jarvis and how he wrote a new cluetrain for Dell.)
If some one is attacking your brand and you are not there to listen and perhaps connect with the author, then you are again missing huge opportunities. The conversation cannot be controlled as demonstrated quite well with the Dell Hell example above, but the role of a social media strategist would be to join the conversation and provide accurate information regarding the companies brand or in the case of personal-track social media, your self-brand. Without a response process in place, your own company’s hell can spin out of control.

Content Generation – is track three. (See Hubspot and Spredfast as a stunning examples of brilliant content generation.)
Once you have gotten involved in the conversation, and are connecting and hearing the voice of the communities you are building relationships with, then you might have a good platform to begin authoring content for that conversation. Here is where video, powerpoint decks, e-books, how-to PDFs, and online widget or search tools can provide a starting point for conversations with your potential and existing customers. You want start conversations on the positive side of your product or business objective.

Building a “community” – is track four. (LinkedIN, you are dipping your brand in it right now. The velocity of conversations and connections here are accelerating. Today we are introduced, interviewed and hired without so much as one face to face meeting or phone call. LinkedIn is the B2B side of social media.) The other concept is to build community on your own site. Large businesses have been creating “communities” since the phrase web 2.0 was coined. A majority of these “ME-communities” don’t ever get off the ground. Even using great tools like Jive or SocialText the best intentioned community may not catch fire. You may not be building a compelling reason for the conversation to come to your site. Start with engaging in communities where your customers already carry on discussions. Building a community site is a lot of work, and in the end a good majority of the corporate community sites become ghost towns and are taken down to reduce overhead and maintenance costs.

Clear objectives are important to understand what you are wanting to accomplish with your social media program. Also making sure you have the resources (time and people) required to respond should the social part of your program take off.

Your program might be about

  1. direct selling product (does LinkedIN sell t-shirts and courier bags?);
  2. selling services (currently LinkedIN doesn’t really offer social media consulting services, but they might in the future); 
  3. reputation/brand management (if someone is running your reputation in to the ground (ala Dell Hell) it’s best that you show up and engage);
  4. showing up for the conversation (you need to be where the conversations about your business could and should happen)

And LinkedIn is a great starting point for that.

By understanding the four tracks of social media, your engagement strategy can match the type of conversation and tailor your message to the needs or questions of your customers in real-time.

And that’s where social media can outperform any other marketing program. Your customer can and will talk back to you. Make sure you’re listening and responding appropriately.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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