Having just spent the day at the London Social Media conference and at an IOD event with Ian McKendrick on zero cost ways to drive traffic to your website, I’ve come to the conclusion that many conference attendees were searching for this holy grail. However many of those at the IOD event were just trying to figure out what social media is and how it works and why they had to bother with it at all.
Indeed some brands (even big ones) have decided that they don’t need social media and as mentioned in previous blogs, some of them have banned them from their workplace completely. I think we are forgetting that the new Generation Y have grown up with social media such as Facebook, Bebo and Twitter and those companies banning these networks will be very unpopular places to work in the future. I’ve come to the conclusion that you need to track and respond and ideally have a social media strategy that helps your people to know how best to deal with any blogs, posts and comments made about your business.
The key thing I learnt from Katy Howell from Immediate Future at the conference yesterday is that building a social community is not just a numbers game but about targeting some of the key influencers in your sector such as journalists who can help you to leverage the “Word of Mouth” effect through their networks.
Many directors are trying to educate themselves on this topic but are finding it a struggle on top of all the other daily challenges of running a business so I hope to provide some succinct pointers and tips over the next few blogs.
The learning I’ve taken away is that you should measure the return on any effort you put into building a blog or a presence in Facebook or Twitter, or networking in Linked In, Plaxo and all the other online networks, just like any other marketing activity. It’s all bewildering to start with as there are so many brands to choose from. The key thing to think about is what you want to achieve from this activity and tie the metrics to this accordingly:
For example if you want to build awareness with the key people you need to influence then put the benchmark in place now so you can measure future changes. However if you want social media to directly influence your sales or bookings then ensure that you include in your tracking the important customer question at the time of purchase or enquiry “ How did you hear about us?”.
I hear some of you exclaiming “Back to basics please!” so let me recap on the options which are not mutually exclusive:
Option 1 – Build a network or blog using existing networks and tools
You can choose to build campaigns for Facebook using all the existing Facebook tools and blogging with tools such as WordPress or Blogger, but ensure you support it with activity on Twitter, email and other channels and track it. As the Facebook platform changes a lot you will also have to make sure your application keeps up with all the changes.
There are also a raft of new sites which can help to optimise your use of these sites such as Twellow which is the yellow pages of Twitterers to help target your influencers or Vpype which allows you to host a 2 way video conference on Facebook for up to 300 people for free!
Option 2 – Launch and host your own community branded site
You can opt to develop your own community site and there are a host of companies now offering the platforms to launch your own branded community that will integrate with Facebook and the other social networks. You have more control over the content but as with Facebook be prepared to invest time to answer questions and moderate postings (ideally at least 15-30 mins per day) as timeliness of response is key. There is an initial set up cost and monthly hosting fees from £500-1,000 and some companies will allow you to host the community yourself. Set up costs seem to range from £5,000 to a whopping £37,000 and I could not really see why there is such a huge range between the different price tags mentioned.
Option 3 – Launch a mobile phone application
I learnt last night that you can even build an iphone application for just $US25 per year! If you want to see such an iphone application in action then go to The Business Hub Community on and you will see what they managed to launch for US$25 in about four weeks with lots of videos to demystify the topic of social media.
I learnt the importance of retweets this week as I posted a guest travel blog about Nepal on a well respected travel website at and within 24 hours the blog had generated over 600 hits and 4 comments so if you imagine that each daily posting was doing this every day you could have 18,000 extra hits to your site in a month. Some of this traffic came from a Twitter post which was then retweeted by other networks. A colleague advised me that they had received the travel blog via a Lonely Planet retweet. I’ve learnt that it’s best to ensure your blogger is alerted every time someone posts a comment so that they can respond in a timely manner. Don’t always assume that they’ll respond in the same channel as many use email and other networks to respond. If you want some common sense advice on using social media check out Andy’s blog.
After almost a year of blogging I found that many readers of blogs will not make any postings so you need to have different types of interaction such as opinion polls or surveys which might encourage them to participate anonymously. I’m keen to hear from anyone else wrestling with the social media phenomenon so do send us any questions you’d like to have answered or alternatively take part in our online poll so we can understand where you are on the learning curve.