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Being SocialWith the plethora of social sites available to individuals and organizations like, we all have an embarrassment of riches. Sadly, too often I see an embarrassment in tactical use as well!

With LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and SlideShare just to name a few, it is difficult to develop and deploy a dynamic social strategy. In my travels, I see a lot of individuals, teams, and brands DOING social instead of BECOMING a socially enabled organizations.

To help you use social media more strategically, I offer the following 10 simple ideas on what social really is, mistakes I’ve observed others make, and suggestions for how to stop making them:

  1. Social is Learning. In your use of social, are you following your customers? Are you following the thought leaders they follow? Are you following highly influential people who could be sources of insights for you? If the answer is “no,” that’s your clue to change your social behavior.
  2. Social is Listening. I tell my two children, “When you’re talking, you’re not learning.” The same goes for your social strategy. Only when you stop pushing messages and start pulling back toward you the dialogue, interaction, and engagement social media is designed for, will you make a positive impression on your current and prospective buyers. You will you begin to start THINKING social, not just doing it.
  3. Social is Analytics. There are incredible insights available from the transactional data, but only if you look for it. Check out FollowerWonk for all kinds of details about your Twitter followers’ activities. Seek social media statistics. Until you start consistently reviewing analytics, you’ll never know which components of your social media strategy are working.
  4. Social is Testing. Social by definition is a series of hypotheses. Without testing, how will I know what my target audience is going to care about? What value I can add to their experiences? Of my recent activity, what has worked and what hasn’t? The only way to find out is to start measuring performance, and then making course corrections based on the results.
  5. Social is Unique. You think you’re being “on brand message?” You may be—but you’re also being a bore. Why would I friend you on Facebook if I can follow you on Twitter and get the exact same thing? As social media matures, the demand that you understand and use different channels strategically grows. If your target audience loves the visuals on Pinterest, it makes sense so use that channel for promotions. To create market gravity, be consistent—for example, get your audience accustomed to your promoting something every Tuesday at 3 o’clock. Reinforce with a feed of posts that gets you remembered without becoming repetitive.
  6. Social is Searchable. Putting ‘#’ in front of a word automatically makes it a link. A hashtag allows you to cast a much wider net in sharing your content. It is easier than ever for people to find the conversations that interest them. Hashtags will up the engagement factor in your social posts. Use them, but like spice—don’t make them the meat and potatoes of every post.
  7. Social is Co-Created. Your posts should be about the value that you created for somebody else, not just what is it that you do. A great product photo of your product in a staged setting won’t generate engagement like a selfie of a customer with the product she just used to solve a problem from your company. If you post her selfie to your Facebook page she will share that with her friends. Now you’re co-creating content around an experience. That dramatically extends your reach.
  8. Social is Relationships. I don’t have a relationship with your logo or your building or your tagline. I have a relationship with John who answered my customer service call or Sandy who bought from your company. To humanize your social posts, add pictures, create profiles, and share the human element in your company. The bigger companies get, the less personal they tend to become in their digital presence. Don’t let that happen to you. Relationships are between individuals, not logos.
  9. Social is Human. You know the pharmaceutical company ads that show a woman complaining about her “moderate to severe” medical condition? Or the ones with an overjoyed person carefully holding a product up to the camera so we can see the brand? Who talks or acts like that? It looks like it’s coming from Marketing with oversight from Legal. That stuff doesn’t work in social media.
  10. Social is Focused Communities. The web has brought us the capacity to form what I call focused communities, open by invitation. They’re great for increasing collaboration and synergy when the right people get involved and share their talents. But they’ve gotten a bad reputation because so many people launch them haphazardly, without really thinking through the long tail. You can’t just launch and invite people. You have to assume a gardener mentality. To live up to their potential as facilitators of really great conversations between people who can be strategic resources for each other, online communities need to be seen as a value-add, not a distraction.

Businesses small and large are pushing stuff out nonstop; in essence turning social channels into their personal billboards that essentially say, “Look how great we are.” That’s “doing social” but it’s not integrating social media into the marketing cycle where it needs to be. Social is an ideal channel for learning from your target market. But only if you stops making these ten mistakes!

Nour Takeaways

  1. You can start THINKING social by replacing hubris with humility: listen more, follow more, and share the experiences you create for others.
  2. Apply business rigor to social media as you would your other marketing and innovation strategies: review analytic measures; test iteratively; correct your course and carry on.
  3. Social media provides an ideal channel for learning from your target market, if you stop pushing your brand and start following these ten suggestions.
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