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Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

Five steps to maximize your business’s social media ROI

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2011 First published in Business in Vancouver February 22-28, 2011 issue #1113 High Tech Office column

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest of the social network landscape represent a huge potential market, but you have to figure out how to reach it.

At a January lunch meeting, social marketing guru Shane Gibson offered to “maximize your organization’s ROI in social media” – all in five (hopefully easy) steps.

Gibson is co-author of Sociable! with Stephen Jagger and Guerilla Social Media Marketing with Jay Conrad Levinson. The January event was the first of a monthly series of lunchtime discussions.

Gibson noted that social media has changed traditional marketing. He said the customer now owns your brand and has multiple ways of taking your marketing message away from your organization’s website. You can’t control this. Instead, a big part of your use of social media will be work with it (and hopefully have it work for you).

And social networks aren’t just about teenagers chatting, grandparents sharing baby pictures and bored employees wasting time at work.

A 2009 Google and Forbes Insights study suggested that 69% of business-to-business buyers use social networks for “business networking and development.” It also found that 53% of C-level executives are now using social networks and the web to find information themselves.

Gibson noted that the return on investment in social media might be difficult to measure. Sure, we’d all like to see a boost in immediate revenue. But an effective use of social media can help an organization build or maintain its reputation, gain and retain clients and employees and reduce risks.

How to do all this? Gibson suggested:

Step 1: Co-ordinate multiple social media. A presence on Facebook is great, but what about those other networks? Note, for instance, that YouTube has a billion views per day. After Google and Twitter, it’s the target of the third highest number of searches on the Internet. A key word in this step is “co-ordinate.” Plan your message and keep it consistent across the range of networks and media. (Tip: ping.fm can be used to update multiple social networks at once.)

Step 2: Listen and talk – don’t market. Engage in a conversation with your Twitter followers, your Facebook friends. Gibson suggests using tools like Google’s Alerts and Blogsearch and social media-monitoring suites to learn what is being said online about your company, its products and its marketing campaigns, and then to join in on the conversations. Gibson suggested using Hootsuite, a “dashboard” for monitoring discussions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. PostRank is a useful tool to analyze data about social network discussions.

Step 3: Have a strong social hub. Add a blog to your traditional static website, using it to provide updates on your products and allow outside users a forum to talk back – another way to listen and speak to potential customers. An example: www.thefordstory.com, which Ford used to help communicate its message during the recent auto industry shakedown.

Step 4: Take it offline and bring it home. Wonder why Gibson held this discussion in a restaurant rather than online? Social media tools can work best if they are used to set the stage for face-to-face meetings. Vancouver Tweetup has successfully brought together groups of local Twitter users for networking, charity fundraising and more.

Step 5: Have a long-term plan. Think about what you hope to achieve and how best to get there. Goals, target audience, appropriate platforms, policies and how to listen and to engage users. Gibson suggests using a “guerilla social marketing calendar” to help team members structure tasks and timelines.

January’s lunch meeting was the first of a series of Socialized! lunches hosted by Gibson and Anthony Caridi that will be held monthly each fourth Tuesday “to provide insights, best practices, and real-world social media strategy.” More at www.closingbigger.net.

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