Social Media Best Practice: Be Vigilant

Courtesy of David Dasinger via Flickr Mitch Joel of Twist Image and the Six Pixels of Separation blog/podcast recent threw out an interesting challenge: Name your social media marketing best practice for businesses.

Personally, I don't intend to slice hairs about the phrase "best practices." If you're reading this blog, you probably have a good idea of when things go well in social media and when they don't (or at least you're interested to learn). Let's take our best practices from the times when things go well.

My best practice is Be Vigilant.

Vigilant is defined as "keenly watchful" and "ever awake and alert," but I would argue there is also an element of stalwartness, a sustained resolution to continue onward. In involves keeping an eye on the horizon, but not forgetting to measure each step. To me, it's very British. Perhaps you envision another version of vigilance.

But how can someone stay vigilant when it comes to something social? It doesn't seem to fit.

I contend that there are two ways to stay vigilant when it comes to social media: either it comes to you naturally or it requires great discipline.

You probably know into which category you fall. But let's go through some of the qualities of these two paths and some possible barriers to success that you may encounter.

Social By Nature

Mitch mentions in SPOS #119 that social media is something he likes to do and is probably why he's one of the most prolific social media marketing voices out there. Mitch says:

"This whole chaos thing [of his office move] leads me to the fact that I don't consider podcasting and I don't consider blogging work. It's really my moment to sort of actually relax and take it easy and do something creative, so I enjoy it thoroughly."

Similarly, social media may feel like an understanding of something you have always known - that you quite naturally share information about your life or work.

The struggle I see the most among natural born social media types is one of focus. Business requires focusing on why you are using social media, not just on how cool it is.

Communicating is great, but those who come by it naturally need to remain vigilant about their social media strategy. How does Twitter help my business? Do I really need a MySpace page these days? Is Digg my prime audience?

Being vigilant for you guys means constantly aligning the fun communication tools with your business objectives. Constantly reassess whether social media is helping your business. Consult your website metrics to ensure that it's pulling in the traffic you want. If it's not, social media might not be worth your time.

Those of you who flock to social media because it's "who you are," pat yourselves on the back. Congratulation, you have the far easier task of simply exploiting for business that which comes naturally. Discipline is much tougher.

Social By Practice

Maybe you don't wake up thinking about your next blog post. Maybe you don't feel the need to stay in touch with everyone you meet. Maybe you've always been quieter, more reserved than others around you.

For these marketers, I would first urge you to question why it is you're compelled to enter the social media space in the first place. Sure, social media has been the buzzword in marketing circles for awhile, but that does not require that you jump into the pool. If you sense you're doing it because everyone else is, stop.

However, if your business requires it, there are ways to enter the social media fray, even if you aren't naturally inclined. Try these steps to stay vigilant in social media:

  • Make it easy: Install the del.icio.us and Stumbleupon toolbars to your Firefox browser. This makes it a one-step process to collect and share interesting websites.
  • Put it in one place: Create an account at Netvibes and create widgets there for all of your social media tools. Keep track of (multiple) Twitter, Digg, and FriendFeed accounts (and many others) - all on one easily-customizable page.
  • Create goals (within reason): It's tempting in a post about vigilance to suggest making goals for yourself - X number of tweets per day, for instance. But what if you're too busy? Or it's a slow news day? Get in the practice of sharing only when you have something of value.
  • However, value comes in many forms: Something mundane in your life might be terribly interesting to someone else. Notice all of the news that comes across your desk, share some of it, and then figure out what your audience responded to and what they ignored. Continue to refine your offerings, giving your followers information they value.

The Gist

Social media are just tools. Whether you cleave naturally to them or not is an important question. But remaining vigilant - to stay focused or to stay engaged - is a challenge for anyone in this particular marketing space.

Did I forget anything? How do you stay vigilant? Please feel free to share suggestions and comments below. I can't wait to hear how you remain vigilant with social media.

If you are a blogger, consider writing a post about your social media marketing best practice. Get the details over at Mitch's blog.

In the spirit of sharing, I'm going to tag WMBN founder and admirably prolific eyecube author Rick Liebling, smart and creative web strategist Josh Klein, brilliant marketer and all-around truly nice human being CK, and the impressively tenacious Harry Hoover. They are all people I respect and admire, and I'd love to hear their thoughts on this subject.

Let me know how you remain vigilant with social media!

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