Today I’d like to hone in on one guy. The guy who shows up to the island with NO IDEA how to build a fire. There’s always one. He claims to have watched every episode, knows who Johnny Fairplay is, and yet he didn’t even try to learn the most basic skill you need on the show—starting a fire. As for me, the millisecond I was cast on the show, you’d better believe I’d be enrolling in the Learning Annex “Master Firestarter Class.” And, for the record, I’m sure there is such a thing.
What does this have to do with marketing or social media? Everything.
If you know that your chosen career is somewhere in the realm of social media marketing, community building or community management, you’d better learn how to build a roaring fire from scratch. Yes, it’s hard work gathering up those fallen sticks on the beach, shaving the kindling and building the teepee, but marketing isn’t for sissies. And in the name of all that’s holy, learn what you need to know before you get started—then, don’t go off and leave your fire untended after it’s going. Consider these takeaways to keep the flames blazing:
Learning is Everything
Just because marketing is supposedly a “soft skill,” doesn’t mean you don’t need to study the actual craft. Trust me, career marketers can—and probably will—eat you for lunch if you show up on their turf and don’t know your stuff.
Social media community building and digital marketing is not “playing on Facebook” all day. Sure, sometimes you get to hang in the hammock, but most of the time, you need to be proactively maintaining the camp (or you’ll be voted off). If you’re working on social media community building or management for a client, you’re contributing to (and responsible for) that part of their marketing efforts. And, if you’re doing that but know you don’t know as much about marketing as you’d like, learn. Seek out books, blogs, and practitioners to model. And then, don’t stop. Learning, that is. Marketing is an ever-evolving medium, so if you decide this is what you want to do, you’d best prepare to keep learning all the time.
Goals and Strategy Should Be In the Driver’s Seat
There is an art to pulling together an integrated marketing plan. This can’t be overstated. It needs to have an orderly progression and strategy, rather than simply hacking away at the magnesium bar, hoping something will spark. Don’t get started in the social media space on behalf of a client if you don’t have your goals clearly articulated and a strategy to reach those goals in place. If not, it’s like getting in the car, turning the key and pressing on the gas—all without any idea of a destination in mind. If you don’t know what your goals are, have a plan to reach them and/or why you’re using a certain social tool, then you need to get those pieces in place before doing anything.
Humanize, But Be Professional
How you present yourself matters. Even if you’re a consultant working from home and running around barefoot while wearing a tattered pair of shorts, be sure that you’re the only one who knows that. Make sure you comport yourself properly in the social media space, both personally and on behalf of your clients. You can have fun, but make sure that your knowledge, authority and leadership shine through. Put your personality forward, but make it mesh well with the brand you’re promoting. Authenticity matters. But never forget you’re accountable to the people who are putting their brand in your hands in the social media space and act accordingly.
Data Drives Good Decisions
Once the fire starts roaring, it needs oxygen. Keep feeding your social media marketing strategy with listening and feedback, and pay attention to data, analysis, and insights. The best decisions and strategies are data driven—and that is (and will continue to be) an integral part of effective social media marketing strategies.
If you keep all of these steps in mind, you’ll end up with glowing embers that you can use to start another fire! Oh, and you just might not suck at the final tie-breaker challenge.
Rosemary O’Neill is Co-Founder/President of Social Strata, which makes the Hoop.la online community platform. For the last 14 years, she has been evangelizing the social conversation. You can find her online via Twitter (@rhogroupee) and as a regular contributor to Liz Strauss’ Successful and Outstanding Blog. She also makes a mean blueberry pie.
Lead image by C.K.H. via Creative Commons