Strategic Social Networking - A Game Plan

One of my ongoing challenges when explaining how social media can be used as a business tool, is how to demonstrate a strategy that will deliver real results.

There are still a lot of business people who suspect that social media is a waste of time or a distraction from doing real business. And there is something to be said for this suspicion - especially if social media is is pitched as a "magic pill" for all manner of business problems.

To help me better explain social networking (which is the human behavior rather than simply the technology of social media), I put together the flow chart below:

  1. Step one is to Follow. I am practically a broken record on the subject of following strategically. The eventual makeup of the people who follow you will largely be based on the people you follow.

    Many of the people you follow will, in turn, follow you back. For example: my most recent Twitter stats indicate that around 25 to 33% of the people I follow, will follow me back within seven days.

    But by following certain people based on the subject matter of what they write about, you learn more about that topic. You may also re-tweet much of the content these people send out, and will then show up on their radar.

    Strategic following can be done by looking for keywords in the Twitter stream, keywords on blogs, or by simply following the people who follow certain "gurus" on your subject of interest.

  2. The next step is Listening. Not spamming. Not telling. Just listening.

    Follow certain blogs in your field of interest. Read Faceboook walls of the people you are interested in. Set up keyword search columns on Tweetdeck.

    Read what the people you are strategically following tweet about, or make videos about, blog about or post on Facebook and LinkedIn.

    Not only will you learn more about your subject area, you will also be better able to contribute meaningful information and insights in a conversation with these people.

  3. The next step is to Gather relevant content. The purpose is to find subject-specific information you can deliver to your own followers that solves certain problems, informs, starts conversations or helps achieve goals related to your field of interest.

    Social networking is all about giving others useful and valuable information. You cannot possibly produce enough of your own content to build a reputation as an expert in your field. But you can become an information resource to those who are interested in your subject.

    How do you find all this useful information?

    Set up Google Alerts to have new web content emailed to you each day whenever new information on your keywords is picked up by Google.

    Find blogs devoted to your subject on Put the really good bloggers on your list to check on each day. Or better yet, sign up for their RSS feeds so their newest posts will be sent to you directly.

    You can also search social bookmarking sites like Digg, Stumbleupon, and many others. Just do a regular search for certain keywords and you will likely find a ton of great new articles and videos on these topics.

    Finally, search YouTube for great videos related to your field. You will be surprised at how many great tutorials are posted on YouTube.

    Whenever you find quality content, tweet about it. Write about it on your Facebook or LinkedIn site or mention it on your blog. In other words, share this content with the people who follow you on your various social media platforms.

    Why send out links to other business' websites? Because it will build your own brand as a provider of quality information on your topic. This is almost (notice that I said, "almost") as valuable as being a creator of quality information.

    Your goal is to position yourself as a resource, and gathered content works just as well as created content to achieve this goal. Your name will be associated with the quality of information you deliver, regardless of whether it is original to you or not.

    That being said, it is still important to create your own content. As important as positioning yourself as a resource is, it is also vital to position yourself as a thought leader. The next section will show how to do this.

  4. Create content. Yes you should also create your own original content. As beneficial as it is to be known as a valuable resource, becoming a thought leader on your subject is the next step to gaining credibility and trust.

    Thought leadership need not be difficult. In most cases, creating your own original content can be just a matter of adding your own thoughts and insights to gathered resources.

    Some of your original pieces can begin with quotes or references to gathered content, but then you will add your own commentary. What insights can you add to a pieces created by someone else? What do you disagree with? What new direction does this information take you? How can you apply this information.

    By all means, make it simple. Create list articles on your blog. What tips or solutions can you offer people trying to solve certain problems.

    Create a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that answer questions you have either heard or know from your own experience that people should be asking.

    How can you help people become better consumers of the type of service or product you offer? Give them quality information that will help them do this.

    Don't like to write? Create audio podcasts instead of articles. Record short videos (2 to 3 minute videos work best). Or just compile lists of links as resources for your readers.

    Once you have your own created content, do the same thing you do with the content you gather. Tweet about it, blog about it, write it on your Facebook or LinkedIn page.

    A good rule of thumb is that you will only send out one of your own created pieces for every ten or so links you send out that were created by others. Even occasional original content can help to establish you as a thought leader.

  5. The final step is to Engage. Create conversations with others who are discussing your subject matter. Comment on blogs, retweet good articles, comment on Facebook entries, comment on YouTube videos, etc.

    If you find someone to be a valuable resource or thought leader on your topic, tell your own followers about this person. Compliment that person. Compliment a particularly valuable piece that person created.

    Use your social media platforms to ask questions or add your own insights about the things others have posted.

    If you have a blog, write trackback articles about another blogger's post that excites you. Don't feel shy about disagreeing, as long as you can do it without becoming disagreeable.

    Sometimes people ask questions on Twitter or LinkedIn that you can answer. By all means jump in and give that person your best shot. Send them links that will help them further.

The point here is that social networking really centers around sharing ideas, information and solutions. Add to the conversation but gather or create quality content so you will have something valuable to say.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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October 8, 2009 at 8:38 PM Yeah Totally said...

This is good advice. It's amazing how much social capital a person can achieve just by showing up