Thursday, January 7, 2010

4 Building Blocks for Your Infant Social Media Strategy

For the next few posts, we'll focus on Tactics associated with the lifecycle of your Social Media Strategy.

Today's Tactics are for the Infancy of your Strategy so, not Tactics as in "spend your money on this ad on this platform" but Tactics as in "these behaviors will allow you to create a strong base even before you have a specific thing to promote." Consider these the building blocks of a strong strategy - the more you work on these tactics, the more clear your next steps will be.

You can start these tactics before you've even begun to develop a central communications base - or while your business is taking the first tentative steps into Social Media.

The 4 Building Blocks of Social Media

1) Build Your Reputation

There are a seemingly infinite number of spaces on the Internet in which conversation is occurring. It's likely that the number of spaces in which your particular knowledge is useful is finite, but your very first step should be to be in those spaces.

Search Engines are your friend. Pick one, put in the topic you know a lot about and words like "discussion group," or "mailing list" or "Facebook" and look at your results. You'll find forums, lists, groups, and maybe even specialized organizations and enthusiast spaces. Pick one or a handful of these and engage them.

Specific Tactics to Build Your Reputation:

- Read and join conversations
- Respond to questions and comments
- Assist people with finding what they need
- Learn who the other people on the community are, what they are good at and who you can trust

Every time you contribute to a conversation, you are building your reputation for being knowledgeable and, depending on how you handle yourself in a disagreement, professional.

2) Build Your Knowledge Base

No matter how much you know about your area of expertise, you can always learn more. Staying on top of the organizations, people and places that relate to your business may take up some serious time, but it's business critical. Actively reading, thinking and conversing about new developments will go far to building up your own knowledge set. The more you know - the more you can share.

Specific Tactics to Build Your Knowledge Base:

- Follow leading blogs in your industry, comment on them when you can.
- Use RSS to create a customized news feed from a number of sources
- Take online classes and read whitepapers offered online
- Look for previously posted answers to questions you have on the online spaces you inhabit, before you ask them yourself.

Continuing education is continuing. Like Social Media, the more you put into your field of interest, the more you'll get out of it. Learn what you can, where you can and share it as often as you can.

3) Build Your Network

Every time you interact with a person, you have a chance to create a relationship with them. Social Networking platforms make it easy (and more visual) to connect with other people in a way that forums and mailing lists don't. Use the tools each system has to follow, friend, add or connect.

Specific Tactics to Build Your Network:

- Add at least one new person a day per platform
- Look for peers in your field of expertise, news resources, professional connections, add them.
- Think forward about your business needs. Add people who you *may* need to know to your network now and you'll know where to find them tomorrow.
- Use system search tools to uncover key opinion leaders in your areas of interest, reach out to them

Be a RON - a Reasonably Open Networker. Use your discretion and trust your gut - if someone seems off, don't connect. If you can find a point of commonality or mutual admiration, then do.

4) Build Your Audience

Let me say this plainly - you can't game the system when it comes to Building Your Audience. Any tool that claims you can add 10,000 people to your audience a day is no good for you. Avoid those tools and anyone who tries to them sell them to you.

Your audience is made up of people who care about your product or service. Do not try to spray your scent across the entire Internet and hope someone will think you smell good.

If you play with the first three Building Blocks, then this one will be handed to you. You'll be inhabiting spaces that are filled with people who might care about your business, you'll be building up an audience of those people and assuring them that you can walk your talk.

Then, when you finally have something to focus on, you'll be well on your way to having a potential market.


I'm going to open up the floor to you, dear readers - what do you consider to be a basic Building Block for an infant Social Media presence?
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