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Social Media 101

Newfangled networking only works if it’s not all about you



It is said that by next year, Generation Y will outnumber baby boomers in the business world, and 96 percent of them are already on social networks. Additionally, if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s fourth largest, between the United States and Indonesia. Think we have a fad here? Or is it truly a trend?

As a franchisor or franchisee, you can’t ignore this growing population of your customers online. According to statistics on the Socialnomics blog, 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations while only 14 percent trust traditional advertisements. And peer recommendations come in all forms—at a weekend soccer game, around the water cooler, and on social networks.

I was talking to a friend of mine who told me he’s thinking about giving up his social networking because he’s not seeing it pay dividends on his time. I very nicely (as only a friend can do) told him that he’s not seeing a return on his time investment because he’s not using Facebook and Twitter correctly. He’s only pushing out information about himself; he’s not connecting and engaging, he’s not building a community, and he’s not listening.

If you were to go to a networking event, a church social, a trade show reception, or a charity dinner and you didn’t know anyone there, how would you begin talking to people? I asked him to think about this and consider that what he’s doing on the social networks, right now, is walking into a cocktail reception, going up to the first person he sees, and saying, “Hi. My name is Troy Smalllittlefield and I just started a new business. We sell wrenches. But not any wrench—the kind you can’t lose because they have the clapper installed in them. You clap if you can’t find them, and they beep until you turn the sound off.”

OK, I changed his name and his business, but you get the idea. How long would you talk to him? 10 seconds? Would you roll your eyes and escape as quickly as possible? Would you tell your friends at the event not to talk to him or they’ll get caught? It’s the same thing on social networking sites. You have to spend time listening, finding reasons to join conversations, and building your community so that you can eventually start talking about yourself.

Let’s talk about how you do that. As communication experts educating franchisors and franchisees on how to use social media — to not only grow customers but to develop new franchise locations—we’ve developed a program that allows you to break down a social media campaign into strategic, realistic segments resulting in the greatest return-on-investment.

Let’s start with setting goals for your social communication program. Do you want to:

•    Create brand awareness?
•    Develop thought leadership?
•    Prospect for new customers?
•    Grow number of franchise locations?
•    Recruit talent?
•    Develop brand loyalty through engagement?
•    All of the above?

Don’t just answer yes to all seven questions.  What are your goals for achieving each? How will you know your communication/social media program is responsible for success? Take, for example, number two. Thought leadership is important to the growth of Arment Dietrich, and not just with me. Because our president is our local franchise expert, in terms of getting out to the conferences, going to meetings and networking, our corporate goals for her as a thought leader are:

•    Develop our president as an online communication subject matter expert in the franchise industry.
•    Increase Web hits to our ‘Scope of Services’ page directly referring from our president’s online efforts.
•    Obtain incoming calls from prospective franchise clients due to online visibility of our president.
•    Have our president be seen as a resource to franchises embarking on social media campaigns.

By thoughtfully answering the above questions, you’ll be able to create a strategy behind your social media efforts. It’s easy to go online and start talking about yourself, but who are you talking to out there? Why should they care? Are you building relationships with the right people? Here you can align and break down each goal with direction, accountability and responsibility. Next you’ll want to monitor and measure where you currently are online to prove success from your program. In this stage, you create benchmarks that allow you to determine where you want to be and what success is going to look like, and to get insight on where your competitors work and play.

Use Twitter Grader to determine where your Twitter account is right now (most people begin in the 50th percentile) and set goals for increasing that number. 

Use Popuri to quickly check your popularity on bookmark sites (such as Digg or Delicious), your ranking on the search engines, and your number of subscribers. 

TwitterAnalyzer gives you analytics for pretty much everything, including tweets, chats, popularity, reach, subjects, friends, mentions and groups. Use this to benchmark where you are right now and then build metrics from there.

Socialmeter scans the major social sites to analyze a Web site’s or blog’s social popularity. It gives you a score, which becomes your benchmark, and you can set goals to increase it from there. 

Compete is a great site to analyze your Web site or blog against your competition. It’s a great tool to overlay on your Google Analytics to determine your unique visitors, change in traffic from previous months, search terms used to find you and top referral sites—and it does the same for your competition.

Web site grader is a free SEO tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of your Web site. The site gives you a score, plus a ton of great information on how to increase your percentage.
Use these tools and overlay with Google Analytics or other Web traffic analytics to both set your benchmarks and monitor your progress. We use benchmarks and check them daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly to align our efforts with increases and spikes in Web traffic. It’s OK if something does not work.  It’s better to discover that after a week of trying than to continue months of traditional marketing and communication that go nowhere. Once you’ve set your benchmarks and have your goals written down, you’re ready to get out there and start listening, joining conversations and building your community.

Gini Dietrich is chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich Public Relations in Chicago. Gini can be reached at gdietrich@armentdietrich.com or 312-787-7249.

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