I return today from spending the last 2 days in NY at SMX Social Media. A lot of great speakers were present, and this post will summarize a set of 11 guidelines for putting together a successful social media strategy:
- Know your audience / Pick the right social media site to target - This is first for a reason. You need to know what type of audience uses a given social media site. If you are interested in marketing to seniors it may not make sense to spend too much time on MySpace for example.
- Discover their needs - Study the site and learn what type of content prospers in their environment. This acts as a second check to tell you that you have targeted the right social media site, and it also tells you something about how to present your content within their environment.
- Learn the lingo and value system - This is just important. According to Rob Key, who spoke on Wednesday, each social media site begins to develop their own unique dialect. If you don't understand the basic dialect, you will stick out like a sore thumb to the regular users of the site.
- Make friends - In particular, make friends with the influencers on the site. On a site like Digg, these are the top 100 users. The best way to do this is a corollary to the next point - add value to that power user. Comment on their stuff. Reference their stuff from your site, or in comments elsewhere. Suggest related things to them (that is not your own content).
- Add unique value to the community - Become a member. Social media, oddly enough, is social. People who take, and don't give, are not popular in any social community. Note that adding value does not mean contribute your own stuff. Find other people's great stuff and contribute that.
- Don't self promote - There are almost no social media environments that are keen on self promotion. Even if the site terms of service say that self promotion is OK, the community itself tends to frown on it (this is true on Digg and Reddit, for example.
- Make sure the information you provide is accurate - Don't be lazy about fact checking. Make sure your contributions will stand the examination of hundreds or thousands of people looking at it. You don't want to be outed for providing lousy info.
- Be transparent - This is another biggie. If you are saying something about a company that you have some association with, be open about it. You definitely do not want to be outed for this either.
- Be patient - The big wins may well take some time to achieve. You are going to need to make up front investments to become a part of the community and figure out how to fit in. The right way to get the content you are trying to promote on the community site varies by social media site, but following the above guidelines will cause the people who come to know you to start following your stuff. You can also learn from them what is appropriate for that particular community.
- Be prepared to let go - Once some of your content is taken into the community, the community will begin to redefine it. This is one of the trickiest parts of social media. However, if you have created something of value, this metamorphosis is extremely powerful. Those who participate in these actions will begin to take ownership for what they have created - and they will drive the success of your content / brand for you.
- Don't spam - The above points should already make this clear, but social media communities tend to be very fast in acting on spam. Just don't go there.
There is a high level of intolerance for bad behavior in a social media community. Unlike search engine optimization, every single item is reviewed by humans, many of them in fact. Any inaccuracy, or problem with what you are doing will be discovered rapidly. In addition, you may have people challenge you who themselves are completely inaccurate and off base. You just have to deal with that.
The above guidelines should provide a good start, but as always, the devil is in the details. That's where you come in.