So, you're excited about using social media to give your business some more marketing and sales sizzle.
After spending some time listening ( see the last column), it's time to select the tools that will be part of your social media arsenal. The key question is deciding on the right ones to meet your strategic objectives and goals.
Perhaps the most important consideration is getting a good handle on the target audience, what kind of information it is looking to receive, and how it uses the Web. Addressing these issues will offer a good picture of the most appropriate and effective social media tools.
Let's start with your strategic goals and objectives. For example, maybe the biggest priorities are selling products and services and providing better customer service. Then what?
The next step depends on how your customers and potential customers use the Web and where they go for information.
If it is determined that Twitter is popular with existing and potential customers, establishing an active presence on Twitter makes sense because it's a great way to drive sales and provide customer service.
Dell Inc. has more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter who are looking for 140 character (or less) updates about sales on computer and other hardware. Meanwhile, Comcast Corp. has improved its customer service (no small feat for a cable company!) by answering questions and addressing problems in real-time on Twitter.
Many companies may discover that Facebook is a good vehicle given that more than 400 million people use the social networking service.
Facebook is particularly effective for brands that consumers use on a regular or semi-regular basis because they occupy a solid presence in people's lives. Starbucks is perhaps the best example of a company that has leveraged Facebook to build stronger relationships with its customers.
Blogs, meanwhile, are a great way to provide existing and potential customers with insight, perspective and information about new trends, issues and, of course, your company and products. Some examples of companies doing a great job of blogging include Toronto-based Freshbooks , 37Signals and Google .
The thing about social media is that different services work differently for different companies. It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition because companies have different goals and different kind of customers.
By doing research about your target audience, learning what kind of information they want to receive, and figuring out how they are already using social media will provide excellent insight into the best tools to get the job done.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups – Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye – so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences .