Observe and Listen
Getting started with social marketing is intimidating for some marketers. There is a lot of noise in the social media space that you don't encounter in other marketing channels. Finding your place among the chatter can feel like a daunting task, but don't let that stop you from joining the conversations. (If you're starting with very limited knowledge of social media, watch this short video "Social Media in Plain English" by CommonCraft.)
Simply start by observing the online social activities of people you admire. Follow your competitors, customers, and industry leaders on Twitter and network with them on LinkedIn. Subscribe to their podcasts and blogs. Watch their YouTube videos and friend them on Facebook. You don't have to spend a lot of time with this; half an hour at the beginning or end of the day is enough. Doing so will help you become familiar with the different social tools that are available and how they're being used to conduct business. You probably already receive email newsletters from these same people so research time should be kept to a minimum.
It won't take long for you to begin identifying important conversations that your customers, prospects, and industry experts are having. Listening to these conversations gives you exceptional insight into your audience and you'll learn details that you can use to target them with more relevant information and offers.
Sandy Carter, vice president of SOA & WebSphere Marketing, Strategy, and Channels for IBM Corporation, gives a great example of how you can listen and react to social conversations on episode 12 of Listrak's Email Marketing Today podcast. Sandy mentioned that her hairdresser set up a Facebook page and linked into his community. He noticed that a lot of women were discussing a particular hair treatment. He offered the treatment in his shop but was only performing three per month until he posted a 10 percent off coupon on his Facebook page. Within weeks he had sold nearly 70 treatments. This is a perfect example of how you can use the social media channels in a simple, productive way. The hairdresser could have taken the campaign one step further and emailed it to his entire clientele to get an even greater response.