By Nichola Stott, theMediaFlow
As a small or medium business owner, you’re already someone with a lot of balls in the air (if you will pardon the juggling analogy.) You might be the advertising department, the accounts department, the new business team and customer service all rolled into one. Even if you have grown your business to such a size as to now have staff to specialise in the essential functions and disciplines you need to service and grow as an organisation, social media may still come under your remit.
Who is your company spokesperson? Who is the person most qualified and authoritative about your business ethos, products, ambitions, developments? If you were interviewed on Channel 4 news – who would you send?
Not the summer intern, right? Not a Social Media Management agency?
If you run a small to medium size enterprise you are your business. You are the face, the brains, the heart and the core of your organisation; and social media gives you the ability to position all of that directly to your potential customers. Sure, if you have budget using a social media agency to help you form a strategy and messaging plan will help you maximise your participation – but to make the most of all the opportunities to engage, involve, inspire and connect, your social media participation should come from you.
“But I am insanely busy!” (I can actually hear you thinking that…)
No problem. Here’s a bunch of tools you can use on auto-pilot to save you time and maximise your participation. A little bit of practise and soon it’s just like breathing. But first, let’s revisit some goals in order to focus on which tools might be most suitable for you and your business.
Social Media Goals – What Can I get Out from What I Put in?
- Grow an audience
- Communicate with your audience (free market-research anyone?)
- Establish yourself as an authority in your sector
- Generate awareness for your brand
Of course there’s loads more uses but let’s start with some of the main ones. This also allows me to categorise tools into how they can help you with these goals.
Tools for Growing an Audience
Unless you’re a particularly well known-consumer brand or business owner it’s unlikely you can just start broadcasting on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and have people hunt you down. Social media is about give and take, therefore start out making your presence known by first finding people to follow and pages to like. Get something back from Twitter by following people who might be useful and relevant to your business, like authority writers; industry figures, related suppliers etc. A number of specialist Twitter directories exist that allow you to search for people in your sector by their interest or even location. Many of the people you follow may even follow you back immediately, or perhaps wait until they’re sure you have something they need to listen to!
- Wefollow.com allows you to search by tags and cities
- Just tweet it sorts Twitter users by directory categories
- Whilst Facebook pages are no longer called “fan pages” and extend to different types Fan Page List is the best collated resource of the top pages for brands, organisations, celebrities and more.
Communicate with Your Audience
So this sounds a bit duh… I mean; we’re talking about social media, and you already know how to type – so what’s there to help that process? In reality the Twitter web interface can actually be a bit clunky in terms of functionality that helps you to follow conversations, start conversations and monitor and respond easily to conversations that you are a part of or want to join. That’s where client applications come in…
Here’s a screenshot showing some of the columns I’m monitoring (with content blurred deliberately).
With my Tweetdeck I’ve chosen to display a column for mentions (i.e. conversations) including me @NicholaStott; my Inbox (which are direct messages that can’t be seen by other twitter users), mentions for my company twitter account (@themediaflow) and a search column, which shows results for the official hashtag used by an industry conference I recently attended.
Now this is a great feature.
Imagine the possibilities if you set up a search column for e.g. “[competitor product]sucks”? Or “good [your product] provider”, “professional [your expertise] speaker”, or “[your sector]advice”.
Using a desktop client you can also schedule tweets and cross-post a message to other social media accounts such as LinkedIn or Facebook. There are some social media types that would baulk at the supposed inauthenticity of scheduling a tweet or cross-posting a message, however as long as these features are not over-used, or used solely for self-promotional commercial messages then I think these are great time-saving features.
Tip: Cross-post only selectively and from Twitter to other platforms (not the other way around) as Twitter’s 140 character length is the most restrictive.
Your Mobile Phone
Even better news; client apps like Hootsuite and TweetDeck are available for most smartphones. Facebook and Linkedin have custom apps too. Catching up with your social networks via your smartphone is actually a great way to save yourself time as you can do this on the train on the way to meetings, or whilst attending an event or conference (using the event hashtag).
Establish Yourself as an Authority
So much of the “how” to establish yourself as authority is another post in itself, but assuming you’re already in-the-know and well-positioned in your industry, translating that to social media shouldn’t be too difficult.
One way to position you for opportunity to increase authority via social media is in following and interacting with journalists and PRs, mainly via Twitter. There are already some great curated lists available, such as this one originated by Journalism.co.uk and curated on Peer Index by Sarah Booker (herself a journalist).
PeerIndex isn’t just a directory or list curation service, but is a proprietary ranking and data intelligence tool that evaluates qualities that might be considered social capital, to determine authoritative individuals; useful for tapping into the illuminate within your business sector, or identifying bloggers, mover and shakers to get to know.
Klout is another influence measuring tool that will combine data-measures from a range of social media platforms, including Google+ to present you with a range of data and tools to help you grow your audience and authority with sectors. As an example feature, the topics section lists the topics on which you are most influential (as determined by a proprietary algorithm). In my case Klout reckons I’m most influential about SEO and social media, which is as it should be given it’s my chosen field for eight years now.
Generate awareness for your brand
Whilst there are no tools to help generate awareness for your brand (that bit is really up to how well, how often and how far you communicate) but there are certainly a number of tools that can be used to help you monitor and measure awareness quickly and efficiently.
I’ve already mentioned how you can create custom columns in Twitter clients like HootSuite and TweetDeck to monitor tweets that match a specific search, however using some simple syntax you can collate a group of searches into one column. This is really useful if you want to monitor all the tweets that might reference either your brand or any products.
Tip: Check your Google Analytics keyword referral traffic to see what search terms already bring traffic to your website, to see if there are any particularly common misspellings of your brand name.
If I wanted to monitor any conversation that might be about my company I would do a search as follows:
themediaflow OR the media flow OR the mediaflow OR themedia flow OR #themediaflow OR @themediaflow OR mediaflow
Google Alerts are email alerts that notify you to mentions of your query criteria on the indexed web. Remember not all web content is indexed and this often applies to social media. Facebook in particular restricts how much member data can be crawled by search engine spiders; but still this is an extremely useful feature and will pick up a lot of mentions across most other social media.
You will need a Google account to set this up (via your Google Mail) at this url.
You can use the same advanced query operators here as when using the Google search function, thus combining or refining your query to combinations of brand/product name, or even to a specific site. If you are unfamiliar with advanced query operators this is the best place to start.
As an example if I wanted a specific alert to find mention of my brand on Quora I would input the search field as follows:
site:www.quora.com theMediaFlow OR the media flow
Socialmention is a whole other level further than Google Alerts reason being it is a custom social media monitoring tool. You can search for anything you want (so spy on your competitors) and not only do you get the results themselves, but there’s additional analysis into the context including measures like “strength”, “sentiment”, “passion” and “reach”.
The best way to get to grips with socialmention is to have a play with it using your own brand, competitors, brands you love, brands you hate, famous people, politicians, z-list celebrities etc.
So, there you have a collection of completely free tools and resources to help you get the most out of social media participation and most importantly save you time and effort in trawling the web. But here’s the thing; we have only just scratched the surface of all of the time-saving tools available and I could have written a book on Twitter tools alone. Once you start getting involved you will begin to discover many new ways of using social media sites and assorted tools to help you do this.
Nichola has worked in online communications for over fifteen years, most recently specialising in search and social media. Formerly Yahoo! head of UK search partners, Nichola left Yahoo! in 2009 to found theMediaFlow, a boutique search and social media agency offering high-quality strategies and solutions across a range of business sectors. You can follow Nichola on Twitter here.
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