Better Late than Never – Using Social Media (Part 3 of 3)

It’s been awhile since I last posted – and I am due to post the third installment of my social media series. For those of you that do not know, I’ve undertaken a new venture this fall – I went back to school to work on my PhD. It’s in Communication with a focus on digital and behavior change. So needless to say, this fall has been busy and that third installment fell to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, but finally, the semester has wrapped and I have had to work on the third and final part. And here it is…

Have you been reading more and more about social media? Seeing it pop up everywhere including your morning news, your kids’ homework assignments, your doctor’s office?

Want to use it but not sure where to get started? Ever wonder what social media is right for you? Well here are my tips for getting started in social media.  

  • Listen and Learn. This is a “dipping your toe into the social media pool” approach. A place to get started. There are tools out there like Radian6, ViralHeat, and Google Alerts that will allow you to input taxonomies and they will search, or scrape, online content for mentions of these terms and phrases. It’s a great way to understand what audiences are saying about a topic or product; what their pain points are; what they love about your product; and track trends over time.
  • Research & identify audiences. Before you jump to platform selection for your social media, e.g. “Let’s do a Facebook page!,” you’ll want to understand where your audience is online and what platforms and tools they use most.  There are a number of research tools out there that can help you with this – eMarketer, Forrester, Quantcast and Compete. Some are paid and some are free – and of course, you get what you pay for with this. Check these out as your planning your first – or your next – social media initiative.
  • “Seed” your program. A valuable tool in social media is the idea of leaking something online before its official launch or “teasing” your audience with something special that they get a first peak at. Consider what you have to “seed” your campaign or product online with – this will help you garner excitement and buzz ahead of an official launch.
  • Recruit study participants and retain them. There is a lot of work going on in the area of using digital recruitment to recruit participants to studies. The reason for this is multi-fold. First, traditional recruitment methods are not necessarily achieving the results they used to. Fewer people are signing up to be in studies and if they are, they are the repeat study participants. Digital helps supplement this by targeting more non-traditional or hard-to-reach audiences. It also works well because the data you can collect through digital allows for better optimization than what is possible via traditional methods. Now there are drawbacks to this – it’s hard (maybe even impossible) to know that you are getting a representative sample – but it can be valuable in certain circumstances.
  • Supplement traditional campaigns. While we are often hot to jump into social media, it is important to remember that traditional methods are still important. However, what is most important is to think about branding across the initiatives – social doesn’t live in a vacuum and should be built to be part of the overall campaign it is supporting.
  • Extend value of real-life events. Great brands in social media like Red Bull and Coke-a-Cola are all about the offline-online connection. They look at their real-life activities and projects and use those as fodder for social media content and discussion. Consider taking a page from their book and looking not just at your digital assets but your in-person, live events as opportunities to enhance your social media initiatives.
  • Extending materials distribution support. The need for print materials is in decline. Fewer and fewer people today want to order hard copy materials – unless there is a specific purpose. Therefore, thinking about how an organization can extend the reach of their materials through social media is an important strategic advantage. Consider where social media fits into this work and leverage to enhance what you are currently doing.  
  • Make it fun. Social media is meant to be fun. It’s about celebrity gossip and funny cats and entertainment. For those of us working on more serious issues though, it can be a challenge to figure out how to successfully tap into this aspect of social while maintaining the credibility of our topics. Some work has been done in this area including CDC’s use of virtual networks like WhyVille and SecondLife to promote preventative health issues. As well, they have used mobile ad networks to reach and engage audiences. And there are many more examples but the ideas
  • Change behaviors – really! As it relates to businesses that seek to change consumer preference and behavior, the ability to translate online behaviors to real world action is critical. For brands, this may mean implementing mobile couponing initiatives or user generated content (UGC) contests. For health-related campaign however, this becomes a bit more challenging. Finding ways to make that offline-online connecting more concrete is critical. Check out what CDC is doing with MeetUps to achieve goals such as these.

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