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10 ways to make social networks work for your business in 2010

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18th Jan 2010
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Michael Deutch outlines his 10 tips for getting more business value out of social networking activities this year. How many are your organisation undertaking?

10. Map out your social media strategy for 2010. First, set your 2010 social media goals. Then map out the projects that you’ll need to undertake to achieve your goals. Throughout this process, you will need to start listening to determine which online communities are most important to your business. Your observations will help guide your decisions on how to engage each community most effectively. Also, identify the tools to measure your progress along the way. Creating a visual map of your social media strategy will help you make sense of the bigger picture and all of the opportunities ahead.

9. Create synergy to amplify your marketing messages. Social media participants are getting savvier by the second. Treat consumers with respect and add value to the communities that you play in. When you add value, your messages will be shared. Take stock of how relevant communities are interconnected, and build your strategy to amplify communication and marketing efforts. As you contribute content and participate in conversations, link all the disparate sites together to optimize your results. Social media expert Brian Solis provides a big-picture view of the different types of online conversations to consider in his Conversation Prism. Find and focus your efforts on the communities that matter to your targets. Then, you can build your own Social Media Map to define where and how you will engage your customers.

8. Build your brand using location-based social networks. In 2010, expect to see location-based social networks take off, as more customers access the mobile web through their smartphones. This will present a major opportunity for retailers to make their mark on the 'local' social web to promote and engage conversations about their brands online. Smart businesses will get on the band wagon first with innovative promotions which will not only capture the attention of community members but also the media. How can you use these sites to entice customers to try your products and services? Cool location-based rating and social networks taking off in the UK and Europe include Gowalla, BrightKite, Rummble, foursquare, mobiLuck and Dopplr.

7. Look for ways to make the most of emerging enterprise CRM systems. Expect to see more software vendors integrating their software with social networking sites – starting with a lot of chatter around Salesforce.com’s highly anticipated Salesforce Chatter in early 2010. These integrations will help you listen, learn and respond with ease and integrate social media more tightly with your existing processes. While it’s still early days, it’s worth taking a serious look at new solutions as they become available to see what will fit for your business.

6. Allocate budget for social media. Take a step back and rethink how participating in social media will be funded in your organisation. Look at your total mix of marketing spend within traditional activities such as advertising, PR and lead generation. Is social media currently an integrated part of your existing campaigns? Or does it make more sense to bypass the 'traditional' marketing outlets and create a separate social media programme? Will you be creating content internally or using external resources and agencies to produce high-quality, engaging content? All of these factors will influence the total cost of your social media programmes.
 
5. Reach within the organisation for social networking talent. As tempting as it is to hire new social marketing specialists to drive and influence online conversations about your brand, don’t overlook the talent that already exists within your company – people who are already in your organisation who are passionate about your product, services and culture. There may be a learning curve in terms of how to best engage with social media, but the advantage they have is that they already live and breathe your company culture, adding authenticity which will humanise your brand.
 
4. Implement social media policies that promote the right behaviours. Many companies have a social media policy in place – but it’s worth re-examining it to ensure that it is up-to-date with the rapidly changing social networking landscape and that it reinforces the right behaviours online. Policies should exist to enable conversations not put up artificial walls that block and deter collaboration with customers. Consider your corporate culture, train and trust employees, be transparent, authentic and accurate. Apply policies developed for blogging and other company assets to other types of social media.

3. Tie your brand to a social cause. Take a page from Seth Godin, who is launching his latest book, Linchpin, by distributing advance review copies to the first 3.000 people who make a donation to the Acumen Fund, a charity using entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global charity. Seth created a win-win-win situation. Eager evangelists get early copies and blog about his book, the charity received over $100,000 within a few days, and Seth will create a buzz-storm about his book before it even hits the stores! Capitalise on novel ways to create synergy and positive buzz.

2. Focus. Prioritize to focus your time and energy on the social networks that really matter. Don’t try to be everywhere, do everything and respond to every single discussion – instead, focus on the discussions that will influence other conversations for maximum impact.
 
1. Offer exceptional products and services. Social media is simply another tool. If yourproducts and services aren’t great, it’ll be an uphill battle to win. You’ll find yourself firefighting against a tide of negative comments. In social media, you can’tbuy reach. You can’t buy market share. You can’t buy advocacy and customer evangelists. If you want to win, create exceptional products and services that add value and delight customers. That is the fastest and most cost-effective way to get people talking positively about your brand!

Michael Deutch is chief evangelist at Mindjet.

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