How can you jump into the social media pool without drowning? Here are a few qualifiers to test you or your clients basic readiness to begin making a difference in this incredibly important channel:
1) Do you have inventory? Is it valuable to your audience?
Before you do anything, take a look at the pieces of content that make up your brand. These are the bits of information, copy, design assets that your audience will pass around.
In some cases, this can be something as simple as your product images, or intelligence you collect. Sharing bits of these back can prove hugely powerful. Chances are, you've got a virtual basement full of content right under your nose that you take for granted from the perspective of your every day work. You just haven't looked at it from the perspective of your audience yet.
2) What ways does your audience use technology?
What are the daily technological habits of your core audience? How do they use these hardware devices and software/Web interfaces to connect to the people important to them? Hint: It might not always be online all the time.
3) Are you ready for help to be its own reward?
Now that you have an inventory of assets and see where your audience lives online (or offline), what would you do to help them if revenue is taken out of the equation. No one likes to hear it, but it is true. You have to do something helpful consistently, and make the revenue a byproduct of that facilitation.
If you don't understand that context is more powerful as a revenue driver than forceful control, stop here. Take some time to really look closely at every dominant brand you see during the course of your normal day, and how they place themselves within those moments. Context, baby, context!
4) Are you willing to apply people to the solution?
Social media is not a vending machine to be stocked with salty snacks of goodwill when empty. You will have to spend time observing how the people that matter to your brand live in these environments. You will have to spend time participating: not as a company, but as individual people at that company.
If you feel like you don't have time for this, you need to reevaluate how you spend your time. Why do you consider your audience such a low priority? You don't have to spend every waking hour on social media, but you do need to dedicate some time to understanding. You do not have to be an authority. You only need to provide a different perspective.
What's your take? Please add your perspective in the comments section below, or @mleis.