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“In business, we learn through all that we do, and it influences all that we try.”

Creating social media relationships

In business, we learn through everything we do and it influences all that we try and repeat. So when something new comes along, we tend to view it with either enthusiasm or skepticism. Or in some cases, a bit of both. Such is true with the advent of social media.

As business leaders, we face new challenges. We’re not quite sure how or why to implement the lessons and promises of social media into what we’re already doing. Nor do we understand how to experiment with it in ways that are beneficial. Further, we’re faced the challenge of creating relationships that are meaningful to the brands we’ve built or manage. To top it off, we need to be ‘liked’ in a way that encourages others to engage with and share us amongst their peers, creating valuable relationships that in turn strengthen and support our brand.

Even though social media represents nothing short of a revolution in business, it starts with practical steps that help you move forward with confidence and direction.  So, to get you started, we’ve developed a simple set of questions to guide you through the phases of evaluation, planning and action.

1. Who: Define the brand personality and what it symbolizes.

Social media is about people connecting with people. With it, you can bring your business and your brand to life. Give it a persona, personality, a voice and a presence. So if your company was a person, how would it look, behave, speak, respond, or lead? Make the brand stand for something that’s worthy and desirable. Give it a mission and a sense of purpose.

2. What: Listen to online conversations and learn from what’s said.

Assess how the brand is perceived today. And create a benchmark that captures what the world looks like today. Pay attention to the general sentiment tied to your brand and your competitors. Try Google, Collecta.com. Google Blog Search, and also Analytic.ly to get started. If you’re working with a reasonable budget, consider using services such as Spiral16 or Radian6.

3. When: Pinpoint when your opportunities arise.

Each tool mentioned above provides you with alert systems. These will let you know when your keywords appear online as they happen. Monitor the real-time web to monitor the daily activity. Surface any conversations that represent opportunities for engagement, as well as those that contribute to any negativity.

4. Where: Track down where your presence is required.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and some blogs are among the most often social networks today. Using the same services mentioned above, you can get an exact idea of where your customers, prospects, and their peers are interacting online. Once you have this information, you can put together a plan to become part of the conversation. Further, you can learn how to build valuable relationships, and contribute to the loyalty and advocacy of the social customer.

5. How: Become a part of the community.

In your review, pay close attention to how people interact, and the culture and behavior that exists within the social networks that are important to you. Their words and actions reveal opportunities for value-added engagement. Monitor the responses that follow each time you engage. They will provide feedback for how to improve, and what next steps you should take.

6. Why: Find the reasons that warrant your participation.

Pay attention to recurring themes, topics, question, and insights, or the lack thereof. Doing so surfaces the reasons for engagement as well as the ideas that trigger creativity and value over time.

7. To What Extent: Identify the individuals who can help you tell your story.

Many individuals are earning authority within social networks. What they say influences those around them, which is now referred to as social clout. We can identify who these individuals are are by using the tools in steps 1 through 6.

“People love to share their experiences, and giving them an opportunity to do so empowers them.”

So giving people an opportunity to share experiences can also create a positive interaction for your company; especially if you take note of what they say and address it in your marketing or product development. You can extend the reach, and success, of your social media by getting involved in blogs, forums, and niche communities. But it all starts with getting the conversation going and then creating relationships that get to the like behind the like.