The reason to be careful with this kind of service is absence of the essential element of authenticity as we discussed in an earlier post. You become authentic in social media by listening and participating in a conversation, adding value for others who are no longer a passive audience but equally valued participants in that same conversation.
That’s also why it’s not wise to place responsibility for generating New Media or Social Media content into the hands of an intern or first hire - no matter how articulate, innovative or enthusiastic the person might be. He/She simply does not have the industry specific knowledge and competitive perspective needed to offer significant value.
The same reasoning applies in choosing a person to observe and interpret traffic from customers, suppliers and industry influencers that appear on social media channels. Integration of those signals into actionable form requires a profound knowledge of your company, your strategy and your industry.
Done properly or not, Social Media presence forms a “personality” that your customers, employees, fans, and detractors identify strongly with your brand. Once you set up the right tools and techniques, your team will be able to generate the right voice, content, perspective, and tone that others recognize as your media personality. A big part of the overall job of managing social media and new media communications is training the social media voices that present your company to the outside world. Techniques can be trained, authenticity cannot.
A team led by a manager with an inbound marketing background, ten or fifteen years of industry experience and perhaps five years with your company will be well positioned. Monitoring should be assigned to a team that includes both young talent and very experienced marketing and technical people. If those team members are social media “aware” and open to coaching on techniques, direct experience in New Media or Social Media is not required.
Your monitoring strategy must include a 360 degree approach. You need to identify trusted and trained persons, (not outside companies) for each of the four major levels that impact your organization: Technology, Industry, Company, and Product. Only when you have identified key external individuals with a social media presence can you begin to observe their content and timing, and then to judge their effectiveness and intent. You will also begin to identify and observe people within your organization that are already contributing to the conversation, creating content either directly or inadvertently that will be discoverable by others.
The first step is to find specific individuals inside your company, suppliers, and competitors that you can begin to follow on Twitter, begin to monitor and read their blogs via RSS feed, and bring into an appropriate circle on your Google+ and perhaps your Facebook account. If you employ resources such as LinkedIn (by Company or Group) to find active posters, and then make a conscious effort to cross-reference those people with industry publications and event program speakers and session leaders, you are on the way to identifying subject matter experts for each of the four major levels. In contrast, third party “Media Marketing” companies often advocate a blind approach, using a twitter blast to “add followers”, then following back those who follow you. This approach will assure wasted time and effort and ineffective monitor targets.
A good place to start is to ask subject matter experts in your company who they follow on social media, and begin from that list. In particular look for the individual’s name and twitter ID, and then cross reference to other new media resources such as YouTube, Slideshare, and Quora. Individuals - especially those who are broadly recognized in the industry as a whole - will often use the same username / id on several platforms. If they have responded or contributed in web forums they may also have used the same username. Once you have the username, begin a search on both Google and Bing to locate other New Media channels where they may be active.
The second step is to broaden your search for content from that influencer. Social media activity or Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn updates, blog posts or podcasts are not the only content that may be significant. Key influencers often make their talks available on SlideShare, Scribd, or SlideServ.
Doing a search for the individual by name, and then with the search string “+.ppt” or “+.pdf” to uncover publications that key influencers may have shared as a result of their conference participation or publication, can be productive. A word of caution: Google has recently switched to weighting searches that factor in your previous searches. Biases from your previous searches may reduce the accuracy of the picture you receive. To restore balance you can temporarily correct this or observe the effect: At the upper right on the Google results page, toggle back and forth from the personal (people) icon the world (globe) view to get results that may provide a different perspective or information.
Your assessment should begin with a lot of intelligently guided “lurking” - reading the social media content being posted by others without necessarily signaling your presence. You should observe not only content, but relationships. Your objective should be to identify key influencers by their activity and how others around them react to it.
Twitter is probably the most useful business tool to begin to monitor the social media environment, using tools such as Tweetdeck (available as a stand-alone app or Chrome extension) allows you to monitor both individuals (@aSubjectMatterExpert) or a topical hashtag (#ImportantTopic) in separate columns.
Within a day or two, you will begin to observe patterns in frequency, relevance, re-tweeting, links and quality that will give you a good indication of which “emitters” are worth further attention. Tools such as TweetReach will begin to add quantitative data to the profile of an individual and when mapped will begin to give a strong indication of relationships and influence.
In our next post, we will take a close look at what quality content does and does not look like. With luck, the content coming from your organization will pass the test!