How to use social networking

This free flow of content creates a many-to-many distribution model across the internet, making the medium highly attractive to marketers, brands and corporations. But companies should tread with caution. Those that rush to jump on the bandwagon, without an understanding of how this new environment operates will at best look rather silly, and at worst, irreparably damage their brand’s reputation.

Our specialist digital agency, Bluhalo, has compiled a list of questions that every company must ask itself before it embraces social networking. 1. Evaluate your current position within the online spaceYou must have an in depth understanding of your existing online profile. Do your customers talk about you online? Does your company feature on some of the most popular social networking sites? You wouldn’t enter a new global market without understanding how it operated, or launch a product to a group of consumers before you knew what they thought of you, so don’t be tempted to go into social networking blind. 2. Decide on the most relevant channels for your target audienceAudience types can be identified and grouped by looking at their level of interaction with online media and you should use this information to choose the right channels. This is commonly called technographics. For example, ‘creators’ may publish blogs, create their own websites and upload video clips. ‘spectators’, on the other hand, will read blogs, listen to podcasts and view online forums but will hold back from any further participation.

3. Develop a strategy that is sympathetic to your brandSome brands are more suited to social media exposure than others. For example, a great technology brand might find an online audience quicker than a household detergent retailer. But all brands can use social media channels to engage with their audience successfully. It’s simply a case of selecting the right ones – you don’t want to look like the ‘dad at the disco’.

4. Define and set objectivesYou must understand why you are embarking on engaging with your customers in the first place. How will you modify your plan should your customers engage but not in the way you expect? Once objectives have been set and a plan implemented, a way of measuring the effectiveness of the activity needs to be put in place, just as you would with your traditional marketing efforts.

5. Heed the golden rules of social mediaLike any medium, social media operates with its own rules and protocols. Don’t forget that once content has been released onto the internet it becomes anyone’s fair game. The consumer has control of how a campaign will run; all you can do is ensure that you tie down as many of the loose ends as possible. And finally, remain honest, open and transparent. If your company is caught posting bogus blogs (flogs), interfering with a supposedly independent community discussion or is found to be involved in the generation of what appears to be a grass-roots campaign, the repercussions and damage to your brand can be catastrophic.

*Richard Glasson is CEO, Gyro International

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