Gaining the awareness, the attention, and ultimately the trust of a community online is a challenge many people are working to accomplish. Whether for your own personal interests or for a business-related use, we look to build relationships using these tools so that we can have conversations with the right people. But where should you start? What comprises a good methodology for using the platform? What’s the proper etiquette. Here are some starter moves to consider when building a presence framework for business communications purposes.
This ran pretty long. Let’s call it part 1 of 2.
- It’s easier if you grow bigger ears.
- Use listening tools to find where people might be talking about you (by inputting search terms your prospective community might use in discussions that are pertinent to your interests.
- Start a spreadsheet or simple database to note where these conversations are happening, and to record info on who is out there in the space.
- Check out Alltop and Google Blogsearch to find existing blogs on the topic. Subscribe. Get ready to start commenting there.
- Keep your listening station running all the time. Tune it all the time. Work hard at knowing where people are talking about you, your competitors, those topics that interest you. This is one of the most important parts of the platform.
In my post, Using Outposts in Your Social Media Strategy, I talk about home bases, outposts, and passports. A home base is the eventual site where you hope people come to interact the most with you. Outposts are places of presence that you maintain for interaction and promotion purposes. Passports are profiles to use on various social sites, meaning that it’s important to have an account/profile there, but you might not necessarily have to participate as a full-fledged community member.
Here are some recommended sites for passports. Some of these might be outposts for you, but that’s up to you.
- wordpress.com – a blogging platform
- flickr.com – a photo sharing site
- gmail.com – for all Google Accounts
- yahoo.com – for all Yahoo Accounts (including flickr above)
- digg.com – a social news/recommendation site
- stumbleupon.com – a social recommendation site
- disqus.com – a commenting platform
- delicious.com – a social bookmarking platform
- blip.tv – a video hosting platform (see also viddler.com and vimeo.com)
- twitter.com – a powerful social network (see more in outposts below)
- facebook.com – a social network (see more in outposts below)
- youtube.com – a video sharing site (see more in outposts below)
- openid.org – a universal account (very useful)
- brightkite.com – a location-based service (not 100% necessary, but recommended)
- yelp.com – especially pertinent to small and/or local businesses
Having these accounts means you can communicate faster should a conversation pertinent to your interests start on any of those sites. From here, we’ll look into outpost sites that have worked well for me.
Outposts refer to those social sites where you might consider maintaining an online presence, but where your participation will be split between interacting with people there, and guiding them gently to your home base (whatever site you intend your online interactions to focus around). Here are a few recommendations. The truth is, you’ll also need to have done your listening homework to find the more focus-specific sites that aren’t as general as these.
- twitter.com – this site is my single most successful point of presence as an outpost. I devote a full 60 or 70 percent of my efforts here, as they pay off repeatedly. Twitter is a great place to build loosely-joined relationships, and to find pertinent conversations using the Twitter Search Tool.
- facebook.com – if you’re willing to mix life and work, facebook offers a rapidly growing user base (over 700,000 a day at this writing), and many ways to interact. I have mixed effect on Facebook, but they do offer many sharing and promotional tools that spread my online presence and then redouble. With recent improvements to business pages and fan pages, Facebook seems to have even more new features on the horizon that will help.
- youtube.com – with over 13 billion videos served a month, ignoring the presence point of youtube as a potential place to build community is no longer prudent. Video isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it might be of value to create at least a few video assets to start the conversation.
- linkedin.com – this isn’t an online resume; it’s a living business connections network. I admit to using the service somewhat differently than officially recommended. I’m a promiscuous linker (meaning I don’t necessarily restrict my connections to people I know well; I save that for recommendations, as I won’t recommend someone I can’t vouch for). Many people find great success devoting some time to the Q&A section. If you’re not necessarily into business networking, you could also check out Yahoo! Answers.
Beyond this, you might check out sites like Ning.com to find like-minded communities. Don’t forget also Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups. Forums are alive and well, too. By searching and listening, you’ll get a better sense of where people are spending time. That’s where you should focus your preliminary efforts, no matter my recommendations above.
Home base is where you focus the most of your presence time. Depending on who you are (or who your client might be) should determine how you build this site. I rarely find a case where blogging software isn’t the best choice for your home base. Here’s what I mean with regards to home base.
In my case, [chrisbrogan.com] is my home base. The goals of this base are fourfold:
- Equip you to be successful with business relationship management (social media and marketing, mostly).
- Share my perspective such that it might appeal to you professionally, either as a speaker or as a business associate through my agency.
- Point you to other projects, products, and people who I think are noteworthy.
- Experiment with business communications and media so I can better equip organizations for success.
Those are my goals. Knowing the goals of your home base will dictate how and what to include on the site. For instance, if I were representing film actor Ryan Reynolds, I’d build a site with these goals:
- Connect people with Ryan’s personality and off-camera, behind-the-scenes world for community relationship management.
- Display Ryan’s body of work (YouTube) and his photo stream (Flickr) for lead generation.
- Provide Ryan a platform to talk about non-film-related interests (maybe BlogTalkRadio and/or Ustream.tv for weekly chats).
Ryan’s not a writer. I’d skew the site towards video and audio connectivity, which also provides a more human connection. Maybe he’s secretly an essayist. If so, I’d give that the stage.
My main point here is that we can’t build a home base to be generic. It has to fit the personality and needs of the person or organization we’re crafting it for.
Summing Up the Platform
We’ve built a 3 part platform plus a listening station. We have a home base, outposts, and some passport accounts, should we need them. The listening station is up and running so that you can be aware of the larger conversation around you, and you’ve got a reasonable platform put together.
In my next post, Make Presence Management Work For You, we’ll talk about what to do with all this, and how to accomplish some simple business relationship management objectives.
Any questions on what’s listed above? Does this help? How are you doing it differently?