Social Media Business Tactics: Do you Shadow?

By @ajgerritson

When I was 11 years old, I remember moving into a new neighborhood with my family during the summer. I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t know where the other kids would meet and play and it was kind of a daunting experience (although, an 11 year old would never say the word “daunting” – maybe, replace with “scary”).

Back then it was the age of “just make sure you come home before the street lights come on” and sex offenders didn’t seem to be hanging on every corner of Main St, USA. So, as almost anyone else would do, I grabbed my gun-metal Huffy with the cool stickers and just rode around until I found where some kids were playing.

Kids_Playing_Baseball

I remember walking over to the kids and how I hoped they would let me play wiffle ball. At first, they told me that they had enough players and that “they didn’t need anyone else.”  Instinctively (even then) I knew they thought of me as an outsider, someone they didn’t trust. So, I sat there, watched them play and shagged foul balls for them when they shanked them down the make-shift third base line.

Eventually, one of the kids had to leave and so they asked me if I wanted to play. Hazaah!

There is a lesson here to be learned for social media and selling. Yes, I said selling. A term that makes people cringe when they see it put in the context of social media.

Before I go any further, I should be clear that traditional selling has no place in social media. The companies that succeed through using the medium are those that provide meaningful interactions, valuable content, and genuine contributions to the social community. With that being said, I believe you are effectively selling yourself and your company every time you engage with others in a genuine conversation online (again, not spamming – we all have no time or patience for that) and/or providing real value to someone else or the community. For example, when you refer someone to a competitor, or a vendor that is completely unrelated to your business, you have effectively sold yourself as credible to the information recipient (Chris Brogan would refer to this as a “Trust Agent” move).

So one might ask, “How does this apply to me growing my business?”

Fair enough question. Let’s first think about what we know.

  • Traditional selling doesn’t work online. To be effective you need to be an expert, a resource and genuine.
  • Not everyone online is a potential customer of yours, so you don’t want to spend all of your time talking to everyone.
  • Technology has afforded us the ability to track the activities of those that may be prospects or existing customers.

With only so much time in the day, you need to spend your time  effectively. One way to do this is by focusing some of your social media efforts on shadowing your prospective customers. By “shadowing” I mean being involved in all of the conversations your prospects are having online, when they are having them, while being an expert who is genuinely part of the conversation (think back to me shagging balls for the neighborhood kids).

So how would you start shadowing? First, you need people to shadow. There are many ways to develop a list of these people. This list could include existing prospects that you are pitching, people with the right positions at the companies you would like to work with, anything really. Next, you are going to set up a monitoring system for these people across the different social networks. This could be as simple as setting up real-time Google alerts to track their comments on Blogs, monitoring their Twitter handles on whatever Twitter client you are using, and subscribing to any content they might publish.

Since many business people are using LinkedIn today, I would strongly advise using this platform to shadow as well. To do so, I would start by connecting with the person directly and monitoring their status updates daily (I prefer using Google Reader for this). If you do not have a direct connection with this person, you still can follow this person’s discussions across groups. (FYI, LinkedIn rolled out this new feature in November, and has made shadowing non-direct connections a lot easier. More information about this process, visit this link: http://blog.linkedin.com/2009/11/06/ian-mccarthy-look-whos-following-you-across-groups-on-linkedin/

Finally, you just have to monitor and join the conversation consistently in a meaningful way. Again, be an expert, be genuine and be a resource.

If you practice shadowing, good things will happen.

Q & A with New Media Marketing Innovator & Restaurant Owner, Justin Levy

justin-lcp-gradsmFor part four in our series of “451 Heat 1-on1’s,” we spoke with the General Manager of New Media Marketing Labs, Justin Levy. Justin, based in Boston, helps businesses understand the potential of new media marketing, including how to use social media tools like blogs and community platforms to listen to clients and drive business revenue. He is the author of a forthcoming book, “Facebook Marketing: Designing Your Next Marketing Campaign,” and the Partner/General Manager of Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse.

To read more about Justin’s experience using social media to the benefit of his restaurant business, his new book, and his experiences working with Chris Brogan and New Media Marketing Labs, scroll on.

What first compelled you to engrain yourself in the world of new media marketing? Did you immediately recognize the potential that these tools could have for your restaurant business?

I have always used these tools as they continued to evolve. It first started out with forums, user groups, chat rooms, IRC and IM. Over the years it evolved into social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. Of course, the number of social networks have continued to grow and now there are a whole host of networks which make up the tools and core of new media marketing.

As it relates to the restaurant. I began experimenting with these tools because they were free and we needed to find ways to extend our brand. Our issue was never a quality of food or atmosphere inside of the restaurant. But, if no one is coming in and buying your stuff, then all of that other hard work doesn’t matter much. We began using new media marketing as a way to grow our brand, build community and leverage that community to spread the word about our restaurant.

Tell us about New Media Marketing Labs and what sort of brainstorming led to the creation of the popular events, Inbound Marketing Summit and Bootcamps?

New Marketing Labs is a social media agency that was founded by Chris Brogan. We opened at the beginning of 2009. At New Marketing Labs, our team works with medium and large businesses to help them use these tools to move needles that are important to them. We do this by helping them to develop a strategic plan with clear deliverables backed by a strong analytics dashboard. We do everything from strategic development to blogger outreach to manning listening and monitoring stations and a host of other activities related to using social tools to fulfill business needs.

Our Inbound Marketing Summit event is a 2 day conference that was formerly the New Marketing Summit. The New Marketing Summit has been around for approximately 3 years and was run by our parent company, CrossTech Media. When we started New Marketing Labs, we acquired the Inbound Marketing Summit from HubSpot and adopted the name. The Inbound Marketing Summit brings together some of the top thought leaders, marketers, brands, and agencies in the industry to discuss using these tools to take strategy and turn it into action. For 2009 we brought the Summit to 3 cities: San Francisco, Dallas and Boston on October 7th and 8th.

The Inbound Marketing Bootcamps are intensive one-day keyboard level training events. Topics typically include blogging, social networks, social media marketing, listening and monitoring, profile development, reputation management, and how all of this ties into business needs. By the end of 2009 we would’ve held Bootcamps in 5 cities as well as our private Bootcamps we do for brands.

You are currently in the midst of writing what should be a popular book, “Facebook Marketing: Designing Your Next Marketing Campaign.” Even social media savvy individuals and businesses seem to struggle at times to grasp how they should be using Facebook to connect and mobilize fans and prospects around their product or service. Will you address how Facebook should be utilized by B2B marketers to have a more effective reach and engage with potential buyers?

That is exactly the intention of the book. This book is being written for businesses and will, hopefully, provide them the concepts, strategy and tactical information needed to bring Facebook into the fold of their marketing plans. The book will provide a basic overview of features, deep dives into some of the tools that are important for businesses to understand, a review of some of those brands that are considered the “best in class” through their use of Facebook, and how to build a marketing plan that has Facebook as a main component of it.

Every social media marketer seems to have a slogan, or a concept, that they espouse when describing how best to use these tools for business (i.e. “listen to engage’, etc). What is your go-to?

While I have a lot of ways that I tend to explain how I believe these tools should be used by businesses, I tend to return to topics surrounding how these tools allow business to become humanized. Also, that we tend to want to do business with friends. By showing the human side of your business, it allows you to develop these personal relationships with your customers. In turn, they become fans of your business, product, or service and carry forward the message.

I also think that listening and monitoring is the most important thing that any business can do, especially when they’re just starting out. Conversations are taking place all around their brand, products, services, executives, competition and industry.  It’s up to them if they’re going to be part of that conversation.

What have you found to be the most useful social media tools for marketing your restaurant? Why do you think this is the case?

The most successful tools for our restaurant have been our listening and monitoring station, blog, video blog, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and Flickr. Each of these tools allow us to have two-way conversations with our customers and fans. They also allow people to connect with us on a more personal level and get to see some of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a steakhouse. Tools like Yelp allow us a mechanism for feedback about what our customers like and don’t like.

What kinds of advice do you give to people who are just beginning to get involved with social media?

Start reading as much as possible. Subscribe to blogs that you find valuable and start following those people who you learn from on networks such as Twitter. Also, don’t think you need to start everything at once. You should lay back for a minute and observe everything that is going on and then set a plan on how you want to engage. If you don’t have a clear plan of how you intend to use these tools and what your measures of success are going to be, it will be hard to determine if you’re using the right tools in the proper manner.

Chris Brogan is obviously a very popular figure on the social media web. Can you tell us what the most important thing is that you’ve learned from Chris?

I’m constantly learning from Chris. I’m extremely fortunate to get to work every day with someone that I consider a mentor and a friend. Probably the single most important skill that I continue to learn from Chris is how to build community with trust at its core. In everything that Chris does, one of the reasons he’s able to be so successful is due to how hard he has worked to build and nurture his community. He gives everything he has to his community.
For more information about Justin Levy, visit his blog.