If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there.
If you don't know who Yogi Berra was, he was a sage and holy man who moonlighted as a baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. Yogi said a lot of great things, and the quote above is often attributed to him, although he also said, 'I didn't really say everything I said.'
Many of us construct an online presence complete with a website, a Twitter account, some Facebook action, something on LinkedIn, maybe some Instragram and Pinterest posts and then just sit back and wait for the money to roll in. How's that working for you? Not so great?
This is why research matters. Research lets you see far, like you have a really good pair of binoculars. All those channels are powerful rivers of information, but you'll need to know where your audience is, and which among those channels they really like to use. Why?
If you had infinite time and an infinite amount of money you could turn on a fire hose of media and spray your message everywhere. But most of us are not Diddy, and we don't have that kind of time and money. We need to focus our efforts with research. If you get out your electron microscope and look at the DNA of online social influence, you will see that the road to success starts at two nodes:
- You need to know who will be interested in what you have to say
- You need to know where they hang out so you can talk to them
Let's say you make great Pinot Noir and you want people to drink a lot of it. You would start by plugging that phrase into a Google Alert so you will be notified whenever anybody is talking about it. You can use the term 'pinot noir' to get general results, or you can put in your own brand name to see who is talking about you, and on what channel. You'd search Twitter for that phrase, and you'd look on LinkedIn so see who's also making Pinot Noir.
Let's say you are a photographer and you want to do the next great Meow Mix campaign. You'd set up Google Alerts for Meow Mix to see what agency is creating the spots, and who the art directors and brand managers are, or better yet, you'd sign up for adbrands.net and search for every brand you want to reach. Here's a checklist:
- Set up Google Alerts for key brands and phrases - yours and your competitors'
- Use search.twitter.com to track these brands and phrases on Twitter
- Use analytics.topsy.com to see how these brands and phrases are trending
- Use listorious.com to see who is influential in your field
- Icerocket.com will give you a snapshot of the entire web, from blogs to Facebook to Twitter
- Vintank.com is focused on wine; useful if you make some
- Adbrands.net will zero in on brands, ad agencies and creatives
If you want somebody else to do this for you, you can hire smart people, or you can use these automated tools.
- -socialreport.com links up your Google Analytics and tracks your active networks
- -viralheat.com lets you see all your online activity in a single dashboard
- -customscoop.com builds custom reports of online searches across all channels
- -muckrack.com tracks journalists on Twitter so you can see if they're writing about your brand
Everybody talks about the value of good content. Sure, content is king. But you also have to know where to send it. That's why research matters.
Binoculars image by Gerlos via Creative Commons License.