"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
— Albert Einstein
I recently asked my niece, who had just started at a new school, how things were going with the increased coursework. She just shrugged and answered: "Eh, it's not rocket surgery." I don't know where she learned it, but I think about that gesture often when I've worked myself into a brain-tangled fit trying to find the answer to a problem. In the end, there is a simple way to approach most everything, and in my world, 9 times out of 10 it's also the best way. Things are confusing enough without my adding to the mystery.
My approach to social management is a good reflection of this theory and one that I feel pays dividends in saved time and stress over the long haul. I broke it down the other day to four key points. I hope that using them will help you simplify your approach as well.
- Know your customer: How? However. Post a survey; do some research; slip a couple of questions into your company's yearly review email; do whatever you can to get that little bit of knowledge that can help you steer the ship. Tools like Flowtown allow you to discover if your customers are engaging in Social Media in a public way. Simply by knowing an email address, the tool can analyze public data and tell you where else the interested parties may wish to engage your brand.
Don't fret, we are only talking about public information here -- open Twitter accounts, public Facebook groups, and LinkedIn profile pages. And lastly, expand your ability to gather information by educating your sales teams. Give them solid reasons to ask the right questions and get you the information that will help you help them.
- Keep records: Once you do discover the information you are searching for, make sure it is represented somewhere in your database of knowledge about your customers. I'm not talking about a tick mark on a spiral notebook here -- this stuff is worth a column in your customer database. It speaks to many things. For instance, an interest in social media tells you your customer is online, open to new learning, probably embracing mobile, and probably interested in connecting with your company in more ways than he or she is currently being offered. That's important stuff to know when making major marketing decisions down the road. CRM tools are becoming social, embracing the concept of social CRM, explained here by Jacob Morgan (@jacobm) on Social Media Examiner.
- Target your messaging: Though this may sound easy, in the social media world the definitions are not clear cut. Those who don't use social media tend to think the distinctions are: "Uses those social media things" and "Doesn't use them." The reality is much different, however. Within the user group you have people who gravitate to the different platforms for various reasons: Twitter people and Facebook people; LinkedIn and Google+ people. They all do what they do where they do it because they have a choice, and they prefer their messaging to come in a certain way. Do your research to know what stories, messages, and voice will fit each platform and craft your messages accordingly. Resist the urge to use the "post-to-all" feature in Hootsuite or other aggregators, and take the time to make that short bit of attention you will get from your visitor count.
- Measure and course-correct: In order to know if you are doing it right, you need to see the metrics. Take advantage of tools like bit.ly or ow.ly and analytics programs like Google Analytics to gather feedback on your campaigns. Solicit feedback when you can. Ask open-ended questions that encourage comments and discussion. Not getting what you want out of your time? Then try something else. Nobody said there is only one way to do this. You are unique and so are your customers. If it's old-fashioned trial and error that leads you to what works, then turn the ship as often as it takes to find the right path.
So, what steps do you take to simplify the model? What areas receive most of your focus when your time is limited? Share your thoughts below.