Being active on all the social networks your customers and prospects use is a MUST, right? At least that’s what some of the “experts” would tell you.
It frustrates the heck out of us to hear that because it’s an ideal that very few small, and even larger, businesses could meet – if indeed any really want to do so.
What, then, is the answer? If you think this is another trick question you are getting accustomed to our thinking. Or maybe you’re smart (is that redundant?).
As with most things in your business, the only right answer is the one that best fits your strategies and budgetary constraints.
Active vs. Listening on Social Networks
Before we go further, let’s clarify what we mean by “active” on social networks. To be active in our thinking means to be seen and known on the networks. That means posting and interacting with others on the network, especially customers, potential customers and those you have identified as influencers of your target market.
Even if you aren’t active on a particular network, it still pays to be listening. What’s that mean? Simply put, paying attention to what’s said that could be important to you.
- Mentions of your company’s name or the names of key individuals in the organization
- Mentions of competitors’ names
- Discussion of topics that would indicate customers’ needs, wants or preferences related to the products and services you offer.
Listen for Value
Listening can be done without as much cost or effort as being fully active, as there are many social tools. HootSuite (affiliate link) is a tool we use to listen to multiple networks, as well as to be active participants on some of them.
- What do you do when you see one of those mentions? No, not just note it and move forward. That would be too easy, but not very meaningful. So what sort of information IS important when you’re listening?
- What is said about your company, your competitor or other related topic that you note
- Who is doing the talking about it (to be followed up in some cases by research if you don’t know who they are and their perspective already)
- The “tone” of the comments, whether positive, negative or indifferent
Why Not Active Anywhere Your Customers Go
If interacting with customers and prospects is important – and it is – then why NOT be active on any network they use? Quite simply, cost. Not just dollars, but cost in terms of your time and attention, which are often more constrained than even money.
Being active is costly because it’s more than just popping in and out of a social network when it’s convenient but being there and interacting with customers and prospects when THEY choose to be there. Being active means they can count on finding you there. Keep in mind they may count on finding you there once they see you interacting on a network.
What’s wrong with interacting on a network but not consistently active? It’s not as much what you might miss but who might miss you. If customers think you’re out there they may attempt to communicate with you, even when you’re not around. Not getting a response from you may be interpreted by them as you ignoring them and their communication, not that you just aren’t out there.
We don’t want customers or prospects to feel ignored, certainly not because we’ve misled them to think we are there for them. Keep in mind that misleading may not be intentional because, as with so much else in business, it’s the customer’s perspective that is the reality with which we must live.
Choose Social Networks for Full Activity
If you don’t have the resources to be active everywhere your customers are active, how do you determine where to go?
- Find out on which social media your customers are active. You might find the best way to do this is through a combination of listening on social networks and actually asking them where they go (asking has the added benefit of letting them know what they think and do is important to you)
- Determine the budget of money, time and attention that can be committed to the effort, keeping in mind the importance of social media activity but also being realistic about what you can do effectively
- Prioritize social networks based on both the numbers of your customers who are active and where your most important customers are active (we’ll talk about determining which are most important in a future post)
- Establish a plan for social network activity by determining the resources needed to cover the highest priority networks and moving down the list as long as you have resources available; running out of money with priority networks to cover may mean reevaluating resources you can make available but running out of priority networks before resources may mean you can cover all you need without using up your budget for the activity
From here you just get started. We’ll talk more about what’s next in the future, but it is key here to realize you just might not be perfect out of the gate. Evaluate what you’re doing along the way and keep a mindset of altering your plans based on what you learn as you go.
Most of all, get ready to learn more about your customers and prospects – and for them to learn more about you!