Navigating the Social Media Playground

Social Media is an ever-changing, overwhelming sea of possibilities. For most people, the biggest challenge is figuring out where to get started with social media.

We all have heard the familiar and sound advice to start by listening. Listen to your customers, listen to the community, listen, listen, listen.

Everyone says to listen! Listen to what?

The reality is that there is so much information or noise being generated every second that you could spend an entire career listening and never do anything else.

The trick is to not just listen, but to participate, as well as be able to adapt the voice of authority.

Think back to being a kid on a playground, or go visit a busy playground and observe for awhile. What you will notice first is that it is a noisy place. There are little girls having secret conversations in one corner, groups of boys raiding each other on the equipment, and a group of boys and girls building castles at yet another section of the playground. Each of them are living in their own world and are tuned into their own activities, but the call of an authoritative voice raises their attention and will cause all activities to change directions.

How does this relate to developing your own social media listening program? The social media world is very similar to a child’s playground (in oh so many ways!)

When a child arrives at the playground they will first glance around to see what is going on and who they know. I relate this to casting a wide net to gather a high-level insight of conversations that are happening related to:

  • Your Brand
  • Your Competitors
  • Your Services
  • Problems you Solve

Once we understand the landscape and ecosystem of all the activities going on, we will begin to focus in on what we know best and where we feel most comfortable. On the playground this would be equivalent to saying hi to our friends and checking in on what they are doing. In the social media world it is very much the same thing. We will check in on our customers, prospects, and people who know us that we should get to know.

As we play we begin to learn the rules of the playground. Who is in charge of which activities and which children are committed to those activities as well as which children are just exploring various areas. In social media we call the leaders of certain circles influencers. Social media influencers,  like the children leading various playground activities, were never appointed as leaders and they have no real authority, but they have a personality that entices others to follow along. As we play with them we strengthen existing relationship bonds as well as make new friends.

In business, this would be equivalent to understanding the context of each conversation, the sentiment within each community and the connections among different social ties. Look for who is the center of influence within your market.

The child who wants to lead his own little tribe will be successful only if he or she has tapped into areas of play that children are most drawn to and story lines that they want to act out. Similar to the business person who needs to create messages that resonate with their customers needs and desires and to attract an audience who are willing and able to respond to various calls to action.

Once you are not only part of the community, your community also becomes part of the ecosystem and you will be tapped into new opportunities as well as potential threats to your playground enterprise. You will be able to respond to these opportunities and threats to the best of your ability.

However, there is always the inevitable call from the voice of authority that changes the game. On the playground it is the voice of the parent saying it is time for your best friend to leave, thus shaking up the connections within your group. Online it is the voice of a social networking site enticing your community members away from your chosen channels with promise of better tools, friendly user interfaces, or more efficient ways to track the enormous amount of information we are all keeping track of. The child must be prepared to rebuild or move on, as does any business investing in social media.

However, to keep up with it all, you have to continuously be listening.