I hear this a lot: “My organization/association/industry doesn’t really use social media, but maybe we should. Can you come speak to our group about it?”

When I hear that, it’s akin to waving a red cape in front of a bull, because that is like saying to me:

“My organization/association/industry doesn’t really do any networking, or professional development, or lead generation, or marketing, or training, or Search Engine Optimization but maybe we should….what do you think?”


OK, I’m back. I’m over it.

First, semantics. The term “social media” is too limiting – I’d rather use “social communications” or “the social web” – but then no one would know what I’m talking about.

So, if I can’t change the phrase, I want to change the perception of it.

Social media is a tool (only one of many tools!) that can help tremendously with basic business and organizational functions like networking, communications, professional development, etc.

Strategy – Planning – Execution

When I prepare one of these presentations, I start at the top by talking about how to set up a broad-brush social media / social communications strategy, which for me boils down to asking four very basic questions:

1) Who is the market, or who are the customers/members?

2) What sort of people are those customers or members? (Sometimes it helps to create a composite person, a persona, to represent a typical customer.  For a tourism organization, it’s identifying your ideal visitor.)

3) Where is that market active right now on the social web (and where might they go in the near future?)

4)  How can your particular organization or business best engage with them where they are right now?

That’s it. Really. No magic beans.

Once you’ve nailed that down, then do four more things to implement that strategy:

1)  Go where your market is, and observe/listen to what they’re talking about.

2)  Based on where they are active and what they’re talking about, set up your system to engage. If your market is only really busy on LinkedIn, then fine, decide how you wish to incorporate LinkedIn activities into your overall communications strategy. When you set up your system, do not forget to establish goals. What do you want to get out of this engagement?

3)  Now, engage. Answer questions. Provide resources. Be helpful. Leave comments. Do not broadcast the usual corporate gobbledygook – it doesn’t work in social media. ENGAGE.

4)  Monitor and measure the effectiveness of your efforts. This is how you determine the ROI (Return on Investment) of your time, energy and any money you spend. Remember how you set goals two steps ago? When you set a goal, you must decide the metrics you’ll use to measure whether you’re achieving the goal or not.

I know, DUH, right?  Well, I wouldn’t lay it all out like this if I didn’t see so many who don’t do some or all of it.

Overcoming Skepticism

Now that the audience is (hopefully) convinced that even social media requires some basic strategizing and thought, I then try to “make it real” for their particular industry.

For me to be believable to audiences who think that social media is something that other industries do, but oh no, not their industry, I need to show them real examples of real people in their industry getting real value out of social media.

To do that, I go off and find the online places where their industry peers are hanging out.

**  Blogs. I go to Alltop.com and type in some industry keywords. For a recent presentation to the Austin chapter of the SMPS (Society of Marketing Professional Services) I wanted blogs relating to their clientele in A/E/C (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) so I tried “construction,” “building,” “civil engineering” and “architecture.”

That brought back the Construction, Masonry, Plumbing, Architecture and Engineering channels. Some had better blogs and news feeds than others, but it got SMPS started in seeing who’s exchanging what kind of information in their line of work. Here’s the Faith Technologies Electrical Contractor blog, for example.

**  LinkedIn.  I go to LinkedIn and look for Groups related to both the markets and the professional associations for my audience. For the SMPS, I showed them the A/E/C LinkedIn Group and a LinkedIn Answers construction-related discussion.

**  Facebook. I go to Facebook and a few search engines and again search industry-related keywords. For the SMPS, I liked the Sloan Valve Company Facebook Page, “Delivering pioneered products for the complete restroom solution.” Yes, toilets on Facebook. Huzzah!

….and so on, through all the major social media channels plus a few extras that I can usually find.

I love the moment when the audience’s eyes bug out at the possibilities  🙂  but that’s when I remind them to only spend time and effort in a way that makes sense for their strategy and implementation plan.

Below is my slide deck for SMPS; note that many of the slide info bullets are hyperlinked. Here’s the direct link to the A/E/C marketing preso on SlideShare if you can’t see the embed box.

How do YOU convince skeptics?

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