Social Media 101

August 31, 2010

Social Media 101
Chris Brogan helps you navigate the World Wide ‘Interwebs.’

If you still call the Internet the “Information Superhighway,” you need to read this. Since the World Wide Web changed the way we work, play and socialize, a whole industry categorized as “social media” has emerged that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Social media expert and best-selling author Chris Brogan built a career on observing how the latest trends and tools in Web networking are changing the nature of business and entrepreneurship.
In his 2009 New York Times Best-Seller, Trust Agents, Brogan explains how business owners can convey their message more powerfully than any public relations firm or big corporate relations department. He is president of New Marketing Labs LLC, a social media marketing agency, and co-founder of PodCamp, a nonprofit community that hosts free PodCamps across the country and internationally for social media enthusiasts, professionals and novices
alike.
Brogan says social media tools such as Twitter enable businesses and brands to listen to their customers’ realtime word-of-mouth and uncensored product opinions like never before. That means anyone, from the Fortune 500 giants to the neighborhood mom-and-pop shop, can benefit from social media tools.
Don’t really grasp Twitter? Most of us don’t; that’s why Brogan’s bite-sized tips for joining Twitter, promoting yourself, finding followers and creating interesting content have gained favor with so many of his loyal readers. Going beyond the “Twitter is cool” hype, Brogan gives the nuts and bolts of making Twitter work for your business marketing strategy and helps you avoid the time trap of wallowing in the Twittersphere.
Since launching his blog in 1998—when it was still called journaling, or later, a web log—Brogan has built an impressive following of blog readers daily. Confessing that he’s not a marketer or a journalist, he became a trusted social media expert with compelling, helpful content that earned him a top-five spot on the Advertising Age Power 150 rank of marketing blogs, and a ranking by Technorati (a search engine for blogs) as one of the world’s top 100 business bloggers.
When you began blogging in 1998, what did you write about?
Chris Brogan: I wrote mostly fiction back then. I wanted to get short stories published and I was having trouble getting them accepted. So, I started a blog and then, suddenly, I had readers. From there, I learned that what people really wanted was stuff about them. That’s how life evolved, and how I learned where the value was.
Being named by Technorati and Advertising Age magazine as one of the world’s most influential bloggers is a feat that doesn’t happen overnight. How did you achieve your blog’s following?
CB: My blog following came when I learned how to be helpful to others. Service. It’s something we hear about all the time in other walks of life. I did the same with my media. My writing helps others find value and delivers success to them. It’s a lot better writing for others than writing about me.
Let’s talk about traffic stats. How many unique visitors daily do you have, how long on average do your visitors stay on your site, and how did you build that consistently over the years?
CB: I don’t know my daily uniques, but I get around 365,000 a month right now (according to Compete.com). They don’t stick around very long, but then, I only want them there long enough to read my post and leave a comment. Remember that my site is more about learning something than it is about buying something, so the stats about sticking around aren’t as important.
How should an entrepreneur make the best use of a blog, and what purpose does it serve?
CB: Blogs have the magical ability to let people get a peek inside your head. It’s magic. You can share with the world how you see the problem that your reader might be facing, and then share insights into how you might solve it, or how you might equip your reader to solve it. An entrepreneur can share his or her journey, can find talent, can talk about the exciting parts of the new project. It’s the best.
How can we make our Facebook pages more efficient as a branding device?
CB: Facebook pages aren’t always recommended. It’s more like a “community” place. You don’t have to serve your community via Facebook, if you’ve got a good platform elsewhere. To me, Facebook hasn’t yielded as many results as other platforms.
Why do you think Twitter has taken so many people a little longer to figure out? I mean, it has millions of users, but you still hear people say, “I don’t quite understand what Twitter is.” Why do you think that is?
CB: Twitter is a bit insular. It’s restrictive (140 characters). It’s a bit more niche. It’s a lot more “you say something and then listen to others say something,” where Facebook has more ways to interact. And that said, Twitter has so much more business value to me because it fosters serendipity in a way that Facebook doesn’t, due to the “you have to be a friend to see what I’m saying” limitation.
Of the lesser-known social media sites such as LinkedIn, Digg, Google Buzz, Delicious and others, which do you think have the most relevance
and why?
CB: I think that Google Buzz might turn into something. It really pulls a lot of the Web together into one space, but I’m not so sure. I think we’re heading toward more private social spaces, spaces where like-minded folks congregate instead of at big commons-like spaces.
What else can readers expect of your upcoming guest blog series, and why should they stay tuned, so to speak?
CB: Readers will learn how to do human business—sustainable, relationship-minded businesses—and they’ll learn how to use these social tools to build relevant, successful online presences that bring out the best of who they are offline.

Whether you’re a big company or a solo act, social media has become part of the marketing mix for most organizations. You might be skirting around the edges and wondering what to do. You might have a hunch that your buyers are on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or both, but how do you know? And how should you mix this in with your other marketing? Let’s cover that.

What Social Media Marketing Is Not

First, realize that social media isn’t just a new channel to stuff old marketing down. If you’re doing print in your local paper, you can’t just dump the print ad on a blog and hope that the world beats your door down. Accept that tools like blogging, social networks like Twitter, and services like YouTube aren’t the same as your mainstream efforts, but that they can play well together.

Be Human. Use a Human Voice

Before you begin, realize that the biggest difference in the ‘channel’ of social networks, blogs, and other social media tools is that you have to be much more conversational, much more participatory, much more two-way, and much less salesy. It’s the biggest lesson to learn, and the first one that will bite you upon your efforts to try out social media.

Being human means using a headshot (and no, not that glossy-looking-standing-in-front-of-the-fake-cloud-background thing, and not that cut-really-close-so-you-don’t-see-the-other-person-who-was-there thing, but something in between). People tend to put their logo up as an avatar on their social networks. Here’s a clue: we do business with humans and not logos. Want an example of a nice way to blend both? Look at Robert Scoble’s Twitter profile. That’s his Rackspace logo (company) plus his head. Score!

Human matters. Conversational tone matters. Connecting in 3 dimensions matters.

Prospecting and Lead Generation

One way that social media aids with prospecting is that you can create content for free (or cheap) that drives people toward your funnel. For instance, if you sell consulting, you can provide useful information about your subject matter that’s actionable and yet generalized enough that a smart prospect will know that they need your help to bring it home for their company.

Set up a blog, and post such material (heck, shoot a video and post it to YouTube, but embed the product at your blog), and end it with a call to action. Maybe that call is just a sign-up form to receive a free PDF document containing the next few actionable steps (plus your contact information, plus your pitch for their business).

Do you want to take advantage of some of the best lead generation around? Use webinars to build your email marketing list by offering valuable content in a presentation format. Follow up with the people who signed up for the webinar after the fact to prospect.

Listening Tools and Prospecting

One of the best new social media methods to build marketing value is to use listening tools to build your business opportunities. I tell people it’s time to grow bigger ears. By that, I mean, set up listening tools to hear new opportunities.

Here’s a simple example: If someone on Twitter is talking about visiting St. Louis, and you run a steakhouse in St. Louis, why not drop a line and see if they’d like an appetizer on the house? Just by listening to the phrase “visiting St. Louis,” you’d find more business.

The trick, and how it matches your sales and marketing methods now, is to turn any “affirmatives” into a prospect in whatever way you do this today. So, if you take phone leads, then just call this an online lead, or a lead via Twitter. It’s not that different.

Blogs and Video

If you’re looking for a great bang for the buck, blogging is a great way to put out information that might be useful to your prospective buyers, which could turn into leads and more business for you. A blog allows you to write from the buyer’s perspective. It allows you to talk about how your company is different. It allows people to read your mind insofar as how you think.

Want to really rule the world? Throw videoblogging into the mix. I recently reviewed an online course that gives away a free ebook on videoblogging, called Rapid Videoblogging. If you don’t mind getting some email marketing from that company, the free ebook is actually pretty useful and worth it.

Video converts, by the way. I showed a B2B company how to do very simple interviews with their installers, to show prospective customers the passion that the installers brought to the business. Sales most certainly went up over their old method (cold calling).

The Real Takeaway

If I said nothing more to you than this, it’d be worth your time: these new social tools are just new tools and channels to be integrated into your other marketing and sales efforts. You have to change a bit, from the old overly salesy copy of yesterday, but beyond that, the goals are the same. The drive is the same. The effort is a bit more than the past, but the yield is better, with some practice.

I’m looking forward to hearing how things turn out for you, as you get a few of these social tools into alignment with your next plans for business.

Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at [chrisbrogan.com].

Take control. Start your own business… now.

Jonathan Davis survived rounds of layoffs before the end came in May 2008 when his employer went out of business. Even before receiving his pink slip, he’d gotten fed up with the insecurity, the lack of control over his life and with the work itself, selling subprime mortgages.

Ellen Pfeiffer was perfectly happy working in business development for a chain of residential centers for the elderly. Then, out of the blue, her supervisor announced her position was being eliminated.

Do these stories sound familiar? If you haven’t faced a layoff yourself, surely you know someone who has. Or you’ve suffered moments of uncertainty when all the scary what-ifs creep into your thoughts: What if I lost my job, my paycheck, my security, my savings, my identity… my future?

Job security is a phrase our grandparents or parents understood. But in today’s economy, it’s gone the way of analog phones and eight-track tapes. Those who have retained their jobs must do more for less—shoulder more of the workload, work longer hours, forgo raises and bonuses. There is no safety net and fewer incentives for staying. For many disillusioned employees, employer-provided health insurance remained the last best reason not to leave and start their own businesses. But benefits like insurance and 401(k) accounts have bitten the dust, too.

So why not strike out on your own? What have you got to lose? That’s what Davis and Pfeiffer asked themselves. Now, they realize they had everything to gain.

Although Davis felt a sense of pride in not getting axed in the first rounds of layoffs, he was tired of the uncertainty. He was inspired as he watched his brother help his sister-in-law start her own business, so he started “brainstorming on paper,” jotting down interests and ideas. He was exhilarated as he allowed himself to dream about all the possibilities.

Among his interests were green business and sustainable living. “I wanted to be involved in something that was giving back to the community,” he says. He tried to do research online, but found insufficient resources in his Portland, Ore., area. And that gave him a business idea: a website for environmentally conscious consumers. From that moment on, there was no stopping him. “It was like I had a fire in my gut.”

Davis’s GreenPosting.org, a free directory for all things green in the Portland area, has been live since October 2008 and generates income by selling ads to businesses promoting their sustainability. And 30-year-old Davis has since developed a promising consulting business, too, helping other businesses adopt green practices and connect with each other.

Pfeiffer’s inspiration for taking the leap came from a random conversation with a friend about entrepreneurship. She liked the idea of starting her own business, using her own creativity to take charge of her future. And she recognized an unmet need for concierge services like running errands and providing transportation to help elderly people live independently in their own homes.

Days after attending a seminar on developing her business, she got the news that her position was being eliminated. Her supervisor offered her a lateral move within the company, but Pfeiffer said no thanks. She’d already turned the corner and was ready to chart her own success.

Since that day near the end of 2008, Pfeiffer, 57, has expanded her concierge services to serve busy people of all ages. Her San Antonio, Texas-based Generations Concierge Service has 10 employees and about 100 individual clients, and works with three corporations. She markets her services to healthcare and corporate clients, and has been successful in persuading them that their employees will be more productive at work if they have help with personal needs.

Successful entrepreneurs aren’t surprised to see their ranks growing. “Owning your own business puts you in control of your financial destiny,” former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach . He followed a successful NFL career by working his way from real estate agent to the helm of an international commercial real estate company.

“Small-business success has no limits,” supermodel-turned-CEO Kathy Ireland, “unless you place them on yourself.” Ireland’s product marketing company, kathy ireland Worldwide, “began at my kitchen table with a few borrowed dollars,” she says, and generated an estimated $1.4 billion in retail sales in 2005.

Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, can create their own success, says media mogul Ted Turner. “People who own their own businesses are their own bosses. They are independent thinkers.”

Indeed, the liberty that comes with owning a business is a major draw of entrepreneurship. Business owners are able to be their own bosses, exercise creative freedom, and achieve financial independence—not only for themselves, but for their families as well.

“Small businesses help enhance the lives of our citizens by improving our quality of life and creating personal wealth,” says President Barack Obama. “Small businesses will lead the way to prosperity, particularly in today’s challenging economic environment.”

On a personal level, the rewards of entrepreneurship are infinite. “To take an idea and turn it into something making money—it’s really amazing,” Davis says.

“I’m in charge of my own destiny completely. It’s just so rewarding to do something you’re good at that’s so appreciated,” Pfeiffer says.

Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway followed his record-setting NFL career with entrepreneurial ventures that include car dealerships, restaurants, endorsements and Internet opportunities. “The responsibility of making important decisions that impact your business is exhilarating,” Elway, “It may be one of the few things that can come close to replacing the high of throwing the game-winning touchdown in an AFC Championship game in Cleveland. If you meet the challenges and make the right decisions, and are fortunate enough to succeed, then there are few things better than enjoying the fruits of your efforts and decisions.”

But what about the risks of starting a business in these unstable times? Successful entrepreneurs resoundingly agree that now isn’t just a good time—it’s the best time.

“Times when everyone is confused and stunned present enormous opportunity [for entrepreneurs] because no one is really doing anything,” writes Dell Inc. founder and CEO Michael Dell on his company’s blog. “So I think this is the time where the seeds of really successful businesses will be created.”

Best-selling author, radio host and wealth expert Dave Ramsey puts it this way: “There’s been a lot of doom and gloom in the media this year. The truth is, many people were laid off from jobs they hated anyway. Many people, instead of sitting home and sulking, have used the opportunity to think about what they really want to do when they grow up. You have ideas—go do it!”

Finance guru and best-selling author Suze Orman points out that starting a home-based business is “an incredible way—without risking any money, so to speak—to see what hidden communication talents may be uncovered that could create an independent income stream.”

And when it comes to risk, successful entrepreneurs say taking a chance on yourself is a much safer bet than gambling your financial future on a corporate job.

“I think a lot of people are worried about making mistakes, but if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not taking enough risks,” says Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh. “Taking risks and making mistakes is how you grow, on both a business and personal level.”

“Entrepreneurship starts with a passionate person who is willing to take a risk,” Elway says. “It doesn’t have to be a big risk, as sometimes it may be as simple as getting out of your comfort zone. Sometimes the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude can force people to pursue dormant dreams,” he says.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he took a big risk in acquiring the franchise. “I didn’t sleep for two and a half years, but it was probably the most exhilarating time of my life.… It was a gamble, but there have also been some pretty big rewards.”

For wealth expert and best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki, risk is actually part of the enticement. “Just as Tiger Woods seeks the challenges a golf course offers and Lance Armstrong craves the challenges the Tour de France offers, I seek the challenges entrepreneurship offers. I seek long-term business challenges, and today’s economy is offering all of us challenges we’ve never seen before.”

Mark Cuban, chairman of HDNet and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, points out that some of the best businesses are built in recessions. “Money is easy to find in boom times, which leads to far too many businesses getting out of the gate that don’t deserve to be started. When money is scarce, better ideas face less competition and better execution can lead to greater success.”

Indeed, more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market, along with nearly half of the firms on the 2008 Inc. list of fastest-growing companies, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Would Davis and Pfeiffer have taken the leap if not for losing their jobs? Possibly not, although both are awfully glad they did.

“Starting the business in these tough times and seeing it grow is reassuring because it’ll be poised for greater success when the economy rebounds.”

Pfeiffer admits she would’ve waited until the economy improved, but she says that would’ve been a mistake. With more people downsized, those who remain employed are responsible for more of the work, so they need her services to keep their personal lives on track, she says.

Davis’s young business is still growing, but “I can pay for my life,” he says. As his own boss, he sees unlimited earning potential and personal fulfillment. Sure, he puts in a lot of hours, “but it’s like that adage, ‘Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day,’ ” he says.

And he has time to volunteer playing chess with kids through an after-school program, has started a nonprofit called the Bicycle Business League that promotes pedal-powered transportation. And, “when it snows on Mount Hood, I’m able to leave at 2:00 and get there in time for night skiing.”

Pfeiffer also works long hours, but she’s only really given up TV, “which isn’t such a bad thing.” For anyone thinking about entrepreneurship, she offers this advice: “If there’s something you’re passionate about that you’re not doing, make every effort to attain that dream, pursue that goal. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.”

Lisa  Ocker / Mary Vinnedge

If you have self-employment income you may be able to claim a health insurance deduction on your tax return for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent.

Health Insurance Deduction Calculation

In order to determine your allowable health insurance deduction, you have to subtract half of your self-employment tax, and any retirement contributions you make to an IRA, KEOGH or other retirement plans from your earned income.

After these deductions, you may claim the full cost of your health insurance expenses- as tax deduction from the amount left.
Eligibility

If you have medical insurance coverage through an employer (having another job) or through your spouse’s employer, you are not eligible for this tax deduction.

If your health insurance payments exceed your earned income for that taxable year, you cannot deduct the expenses for health insurance.

You are eligible for this tax deduction, even of you do not have itemized deductions.
More information can be found online at http://www.taxproblem.org/income-tax-breaks/above-the-line-deductions/health-insurance-deduction-for-self-employed.html

Twitter…The auto DM

August 10, 2010

Let’s say you’re attending a social function at which you meet a lot of new people. Do you greet each person the same way? Do you actually say, “Hi, pleasure to meet you. Please be sure to check out my site” and then spout off the web address? I don’t think so. Instead of greeting someone with “hello, nice to meet you”, do you decide to share some “cute” saying that is supposed to make me think about the meaning of knowing you? I certainly hope not. Neither of these greetings will make someone want to talk to you for very long. Now let’s apply this toTwitter. It’s better known as the automated direct message.

I decide to follow you. Obviously, I have decided to follow you for a reason. Maybe you were recommended by a fellow twitterer or you just tweet about a topic of interest to me. Moments after I click the button to follow, I receive an email. I’m notified of a direct message sent from you.

So, the first response I get from you is a direct message? Why? We haven’t had any communication yet? What could you possibly need to say to me in private? Oh, you wanted to send me a link to your blog or company website. Maybe you were trying to sell something or maybe you wanted to share what you think is an intelligent quote with me. Stop.

This should not be our first communication. You should not send me a preconceived message that you send to every other twitter follower that you have. You definitely shouldn’t send me a link pushing a product or site. One of the things Twitter is supposed to be about is sharing information; not shoving it at me without me asking.

A true entrepreuer thinks about strategies and approach, before just going out there and trying to shove his goods down someones throat!  It doesn’t work anymore!!!!!  That is old school technique…..the game has changed and so should those that are involved in online marketing of anykind!

Think before you strike.  People like to do business with people they know….and getting to know someone online is different.  So, work it out…and play right and you will win!

As the tax deadline comes and goes, it is a good time to reflect on and act on proper tax planning for today and the future.

Are your books in order and is your business structured properly? Are you taking all the legal deductions you are entitled to? If not, there is a good chance you are paying more taxes than necessary.

Many new small business owners struggle with whether or not to form a corporation or remain as sole proprietors for their businesses. Forming a corporation allows for some tax benefits that small business owners should know about that could save them a lot on their annual tax bill. Knowing the advantages of forming a corporation for tax purposes can save you tons of money in the long run. And a properly form business entity is an asset that holds it’s value and can be sold for a profit in the future when the business owner is ready to move on.

A major benefit of incorporating your business allows for greater tax deductions for the business, your employees, and potentially for family members of business owners. Even if you’re the only shareholder and employee of your business, benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, travel and entertainment expenses may be deductible. For example, corporations can deduct 100 percent of medical insurance premiums. Incorporating may also eliminate self-employment taxes and lower your payments for social security tax and Medicare tax. Your individual tax liability may also be reduced, as you will become an employee of the corporation.

The following illustration shows how one individual, who has $60,000 per year in revenue, can save almost $7,000 in taxes just by incorporating.

Joe the independent contractor:

*revenue          $60,000

*total tax due   $14,054

Joe the employee of his own corporation:

*revenue          $60,000

*total tax due    $7,280

The difference is in the power of being able to determine what you pay for yourself, what is subject to additional self employment taxes and what stays in the corporation for future expenses of the company.

These kind of benefits of incorporating rather than running their businesses as sole proprietorships is what draws so many people to build a simple corporate image. Not to mention other fringe benefits and lower state income taxes.

Today (Aug.4, 2010) at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA, the first panel featured Google CEO Eric Schmidt. As moderator David Kirkpatrick was introducing him, he rattled off a massive stat.

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Schmidt. That’s something like five exabytes of data, he says.

Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.

The real issue is user-generated content,” Schmidt said. He noted that pictures, instant messages, and tweets all add to this.

Naturally, all of this information helps Google. But he cautioned that just because companies like his can do all sorts of things with this information, the more pressing question now is if they should. Schmidt noted that while technology is neutral, he doesn’t believe people are ready for what’s coming.

I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that will be happening to them soon,” Schmidt said.

Building Your Wealth

Tax advantages when starting a business

Business owners have a definite advantage over employees when it comes to taxes. Employees work for wages. The employee has to pay the government first through federal and state income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes. After that whack, there are not very many deductions left for the employee. Even if they incur unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, employees are limited on deducting such items on their personal income tax returns.
On the other hand, the business owner has many deductions available and a lot of flexibility when it comes to tax planning. But for now, let’s review some of the key expenses that business owners can deduct, and thus, lower their taxes.

Startup Expenses—You are permitted to write off $5,000 of startup expenses in the year business begins, and the rest can be deducted over a period of 180 months. Startup expenses include expenses incurred to investigate the business, to actually create the business, or to engage in a forprofit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business. To be eligible, an expense must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after the business
actually began.

The Home-Office Deduction—In order to qualify for homeoffice deductions, any one of the following must be met:
• Your home office is your principal place of business, exclusively and on a regular basis.
• Your home office is used for meeting patients, clients or customers.
• Your home office is located in a separate unattached structure on the same property as your home. (For example, an unattached garage, artist’s studio, workshop or office building.)
You may also deduct the cost of space in your home used for inventory or product samples.

Automobiles and Other Vehicles—The cost of operating and maintaining a vehicle is deductible against business income to the extent the vehicle is used for business. You may use actual costs of operation to determine the amount of the deduction, which would include depreciation or lease expense, maintenance and repairs, tires, gasoline, oil, insurance and registration fees. Or you may deduct an IRS-prescribed rate per mile (which is currently 55 cents per mile), but you cannot use both methods. However, parking fees and tolls attributable to the use of a vehicle for business purposes may be deducted as separate items. The business use of an automobile is determined by the mileage driven for business purposes, compared to the total miles driven during the year.

Record-keeping requirements to substantiate automobile deductions are fairly stringent. Taxpayers claiming deductions with respect to automobiles and other vehicles are required to furnish the following information for each vehicle:
• Total mileage driven
• Business mileage driven
• Commuting mileage driven
• Other personal mileage driven
• Percentage of business use
• Date vehicle placed in service

Employee Fringe Benefits—Group life and disability insurance, qualified employee retirement plans and similar fringe benefits may be deducted as business expenses by a C corporation. The corporation’s owners and employees receiving these benefits are not taxed on their individual returns for the value of such benefits. On the other hand, in flow-through entities, such as S corporations and LLCs, the owners must pay taxes on the value of the benefits received.

Be sure to work with competent advisors to make sure you are not missing eligible deductions and are saving on taxes through your business entity.

James  Reed  Garrett  Sutton

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Social media for fun does not require planning. You go with your guts and emotion and start joining places where it feels right for you. However, social media for business is at the other extreme, and to succeed there is a real need for proper planning before the execution.


Steps

Starting with a Strong Purpose

0.Know your purpose. Like any good corporate program or initiative, a strong purpose and a good set of objectives is important. This set of purpose and objectives has to be relevant and aligned to your other corporate objectives.

0.Know the limitations. It is important to know that not all objectives or purpose can be served by social media and it would be foolish to assume so, just because everybody is in social media. Social media is effective not only in PR, marketing and brand building but it is also effective when use for innovation crowd-sourcing, building corporate culture and market engagements.

Knowing Your Social Media Landscape

0.Know the landscape. Before engaging social media for business purposes, it is important that the people involved in the social media initiative have a clear understanding of the attributes of the field they will be playing in. Know the landscape before you start constructing. The social media landscape generally consists of the following attributes that should always be in the mind of social media strategist or planning team:

0.Community-driven where people not only listen or view ads and news but they participate in this new media.

0.Conversation is the new content king aside from videos and images. As David Armano said “It’s the conversation economy”.

0.It’s viral where people spread, shared and transmit content readily. That’s what makes social media contagious.

0.Personal spaces are even more pronounced, if you got no permission don’t enter. Nobody wants to be spammed or get ads-bombed.

0.Authenticity is what makes social media real and human. Don’t bother with high cost production houses; real is soul here.

0.Build relationships. At the end of the day, these attributes are what builds relationships among friends. Get acquainted with people who were previously a stranger to you. These attributes build a strong fan base for your brands and business. Small businesses and unknown musicians become famous because of them too.

Build A Road – The 4Es of Social Media

0.Build a road. After you have understood what social media landscape attributes are, you will need to build a road before you can travel to your destination. The road here is acquainted to the 4 primary social media strategies that your company can deploy in your social media initiatives. These are the 4Es of social media:

0.Education Strategy – Enriching your target community’s knowledge with information and resources for them to better understand you.

0.Entertainment Strategy – You create fun, sticky and memorable content that allows them to associate the image or message to your brand or business.

0.Engagement Strategy – Your purpose is to engage the community by recognizing their presence, contributions and inputs.

0.Empowerment Strategy – A space and role is created and provided to your target community to play an active role in what you are doing.

0.Tailor to your size. If your company is large enough, you can opt to deploy all at the same time (hey! you got a super highway) but if your company is small choosing the most relevant and effective route will be your best investment and keeps your resources focus.

Build, Hire but Don’t Steal A Vehicle

0.Build slowly. You need a set of wheels to move forward. Once the road is ready, in order for you to move forward you will need a set of wheels. Depending on the size of your company, it would mean a bicycle, tricycle, motorcycle, car, F1 sports car etc. The set of wheels here that we refer to are the social media tools and widgets that you will need to decide on what to use, how they can work together and when to use it. There are thousands of them around and there are few that are most popular like Hubpages here. In general the sets of social media tools can be divided into 4 major categories:

0.Networking tools – blogs, microblogs, social networks, etc.

0.Collaboration tools – wikis, social news, social bookmarking, etc.

0.Multimedia tools – videos, images, interactive contents, etc.

0.Entertainment tools – virtual worlds, online gaming, etc.

0.Select according to need. Selecting the right combination of tools is important and helps you build expertise on this tools over time, because frankly you don;t want to be managing 20 social networking sites at one go.

Guide Your Journey

0.Set up road signs. Whenever anyone goes on a long journey or to unfamiliar places, one of the most important thing to have when he/she is travelling is to be able to refer to the roadsigns on the side of the road. It tells you your destination, the dangers, and other necessary information to make sure you don’t get lost or end up in a road that has no gas/petrol station. The same logic applies to social media. It is important that your social media initiative has a good set of metric or measurements that will tell how you are doing at any one time. Nathan Gilliatt of Social Target LLC categorizes measurements into 4 distinct types: 

0.PR/media measurement – Viewing social media as media for their ability to reach an audience.

0.Word of mouth measurement – Viewing social media as online interactions among people.

0.Web analytics – Interested in people’s usage patterns, as both audience and customers.

0.Opinion research – Mining online opinions as the world’s largest focus group.

0.Translate into equity. All these are important to consider but even more important to actually measure is to be able to translate the measurement information above into what we called the “Social Media Equity”, a set of fundamentals that are important for companies to make decisions about their social media investments.

0.Strength of relationship (size, quality, relevance of type of activities etc)

0.Degree of familiarity (with your business, brands etc, not just awareness)

0.Degree of efficiency (where and how efficient is your viral logistics)

0.Value creation (are there any?)

0.Be aware that measurement via loyalty is but one aspect. Loyalty without social media equity nailed down, it is hard to say whether your investment in social media has actually work or not. This is because having 100,000 readers in your blog only says so much as 100,000 eyeballs of awareness but is this sufficient as a measure for performance?

Don’t Forget the Fuel

0.Get going. So you understood the terrain, you got yourself a road/highway, bought your wheels, set up the roadsigns, so let’s move it. Hold on a sec! Have you fueled? Fueling your social media initiative is no small task because when your company wants to take social media seriously, you got to really invest in:

0.Time – yes, time to know how to use the widgets, set up your blog, create content, filter content, participate in conversations, spread your virus.

0.Fresh Content – needs to be cooked up periodically whether it is from your company or from other sources. Social media is not a corporate website where you can stick up one article and let it stay there for time immemorial.

0.Dedicated Team – yes, social media is no part time job for your HR manager, corp comm or PR or marketing team. If your guy has a business card that reads:

0.Mr So and So Sales, Marketing and Social Media Manager; your fuel is going to run low real soon.

0.Creative Juices – to create value relevant content and conversations. Creative here does not necessary equate to fantastic designs but to content and conversations that delivered in ways that are of use. If you can put aesthetic make-up to that, this is even better.

0.Good Design – because nobody wants to stick around a 1.0 design site and initiative.

0.Widget Familiar – This is given. Anybody that wants to be in social media has to get themselves familiar with at least 10 to 30 different widgets and how they work and inter-work with each other.

0.Get involved; be active in getting it moving. If your plan is to ask your IT department to hook it up for you via a memo or official request and then put that task to a queue of other stuff that the IT department has to attend to; that is really not going to work.

The Take Back

0.Always be aware that there is nothing to lose when social media is done for the fun, but in business a lot is at stake and you certainly don’t want your company, brand or initiative falling short.

Tips

0.Start with a purpose

0.Know your social media landscape

0.Build the road

0.Get yourself a set of wheels

0.Put up road signs to guide your journey

0.Don’t forget to fuel