Social Media Strategy Step 3: Observe and listen to the communities you want to join

If you don’t listen before you participate in an social media community you can make missteps and offend the community. Before you engage in social media marketing or work with bloggers, you should take time to listen. Get familiar with the likes and dislikes of different groups online and respond appropriately. In other words, be human.

When someone is new they often make the mistake of coming on too strong. Establish relationships first, then try the big stunts. Most businesses new to participating in social networks and blogs want to jump in before they have trust or relationships within the community.  They try to be loud or find unique approaches to get attention. It’s all about them, their product or brand. Instead look for ways to make a contribution and add value.

Look for ways to add to the community rather than exploiting it. Share others’ content, leave comments. Look for the key people who are actively involved. Rather than approaching a community directly, approach them privately and ask them to share the information. Information coming from them will be received better than from you if you’re unknown. Over time,  you gain support and trust and then plan events or participate more actively.

How do you listen? Get to know the locals and active participants.

Look for information such as:

  • Where do they spend time online?
  • What Facebook Groups do they belong to?
  • What magazines or blogs do they read?
  • Who they talk to or consider trustworthy?
  • What do they search on in Google?
  • Who do they follow on Twitter?
  • What forums do they frequent and participate in?
  • What web sites do they visit regularly?

After listening you can use insights you have to guide your messages and formulate strategies. Every social community is different. Some are more open and some are very hard on newcomers or marketers. For example: Digg and Wikipedia are not friendly to marketers. If you don’t follow the rules you will be shunned or hated. Know what you’re getting into and observe what works before participating.