August 18, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

How To Get Started in Social Media for $0

How To Get Started in Social Media for $0

In many ways, the state of corporate adoption of social media resembles Charles Dickens — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Many companies (large and small) are realizing that their customers and constituents of all stripes are online and talking with each other. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they often get eviscerated if they make any attempts at joining the conversation in the first place. One recent example is eBay. The company recently launched its official corporate blog at http://ebayinkblog.com, and the first day was filled with vitriol and righteous indignation. Here’s a small sample:
• “I am not even comfortable posting on this blog. I don’t trust eBay. This is the atmosphere you have created with the sellers. A very adversarial one.”
• “eBay cares? Puh-leeez. How did they care when they made an item that was not available from anyone else on Ebay INVISIBLE?”
Of course, eBay is not the only one to receive comments like these. Many corporate blogs are filled with similar venting and vitriol-spilling. It’s worth looking at because social media is about “opening the kimono” (to quote Guy Kawasaki) and letting outsiders see the inside. This kind of “opening up” means creating more personal, meaningful relationships between companies and their customers. Contrary to popular belief, of course, most companies are not filled with megalomaniacal people bent on world domination. After all, this isn’t the movies. Most companies are filled with people striving to do good work that’s enjoyable and profitable. Quite a shocker, I know.
So let’s start with the basic understanding that most companies are filled with decent people who don’t want to be the conversation, but actually want to contribute something meaningful to it. How do they get started?
Getting started in social media is actually quite easy, but it means taking a longer-term perspective. The key to getting started is recognizing that the first step is to listen. My recommendation to any company looking to get started is to make ” listening” the first stage of any social media project for at least three months. This is not expensive. In fact, getting started costs a grand total of $0. Yes, that’s not a misprint. Zero. And it does not consume much in the way of time, personnel, or resources. You don’t need a “social media expert” and it doesn’t take hours to do. Here are the quick and easy steps for “listening” in social media:
1. Put your intern (the one that you stuck in a cubicle to twiddle her thumbs) on a computer with open access to the Internet.
2. Have her go to Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts).
3. Set Google Alerts up to receive emails daily on key phrases like “I love + (your company)” and “I hate + (your company)”.
4. Have her compile a report each day of the most important conversation.
Simple.
Make sure that the keyword search covers a wide swath of topics related to your company and its industry. In a very short amount of time, this will give you an idea of the kind of conversation taking place about you and your company.
Here are some good keywords and phrases to get you started:
I love + (your company)
I like + (your company)
I hate + (your company)
I love + (your brand)
I like + (your brand)
I hate + (your brand)
Your company
Your brand
Your competitor(s)
Responding to and engaging in the conversation is another topic for another time. The key is to get started. Don’t wait, do it today. If you’re a PR agency, you should be doing this for your clients. If you’re the client, you should be doing this for your brand and your company. It really is this simple.
*Michael E. Rubin works as the VP of Community for GasPedal, a word of mouth marketing consulting firm. He helps manage the Blog Council, a private community of the most senior execs in charge of blogging and social media teams. He doesn’t blog (yet), but you can find him on Facebook (Michael Rubin, Chicago) and on Twitter (merubin).*

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