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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Product

222-facebookThis is part 2 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do. This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those. Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know The Product

I think this is the single biggest mistake that I see over and over and over again…lack of product knowledge when you are doing work for somebody else.You may be running a campaign for a durable good or a service. Sometimes it’s just brand awareness so there is not one thing you are pointing to, just the brand. No matter what it is, if you don’t know the ins and outs of what you will be marketing you are doing your client, their customers and yourself a huge disservice. I’ve been invited in to too many conversations that go something like this:

Them: Hey, we’re working on social media engagement for Product X, would love your advice on where to start.

Me: Sounds good. What do you know about the product, what is the community going to be talking about when we open up the social media channels?

Them: Well, I know it does blah blah blah, and our initial benchmark report shows that people mostly want to know about blah blah blah.

Me: Super. What is your personal impression of Product X? What do you like and dislike about it? What do you know about it that the general public does not, something that would be helpful that we can discuss with them?

Them: Ummmm….what?

Me: What’s your hands-on experience with it? Who are the competitors? What do the real fanboys of Product X think about it?

Them: I don’t know, I haven’t actually used it.

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Get To Know The Product Or Service You Will Be Promoting

Don’t let this be you. If you’re dealing with large agencies and brands you can probably rest on your laurels for a while without being discovered, but once you start the engagement process with the consumers of the product or service, you’re going to be eaten alive. You won’t be able to join conversations, you’ll essentially be an observer, pushing out information but not truly being able to engage. The result? You’ve just turned social media into traditional media, the one way podium of information pushing. Please don’t do this, it’s bad for you, it’s terrible for your client and the customers that you manged to attract during your initial jump into social will either stop engaging your or simply go away.

Before you get into the world of social media, do your homework. What is the market share? Who is the competition? If this is something that you are able to use (service or good) personally? Try to get your hands on it; if it’s too expensive or unattainable for any reason, don’t be afraid to ask the client for access. The most effective campaigns and programs are those that are run by people that understand and are passionate about what they are talking about. This is often misunderstood on the consultant/agency side, and the results are made obvious quickly: when it comes to engagement in the channels (especially Twitter), you will get called out as a phony pretty quickly. You need to have knowledge of what you are talking about. If you need inspiration, go watch some episodes of Mad Men. I’m serious. When Don Draper and his team really try to understand the product, the creativity starts flowing and the campaigns are successful. The big difference? Their audience couldn’t talk back to them in real time…the world of social media isn’t quite as forgiving.

Want to know how to really close a deal with your client? When you’re at your face-to-face meeting, pull out their product or call it up on your computer, then talk to them about what you like about it personally and how you are going to engage their audience based upon YOUR experience. Of course there are other factors that will determine the program and who they chose for the work (like cost, reputation, etc), but I can tell you from personal experience, this never hurts. Your client wants to know that you’re more than a shill…they want to work with somebody that believes in what they are producing as much as they do. Prove to them that you are that person.

In the next post I will talk about what it means to know the audience.

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Photos used under Creative Commons License. Facebook photo from Laughing Squid and Zune from Joe Wilcox
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By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to http://singleymackie.com