Applying Social Media Best Practices: Key steps to success from @mwdonnelly

by Margaret Donnelly, Director of Marketing, Meltwater Buzz

For all the thought leadership, case studies, and best practices guides available today, many businesses are still having a hard time applying those principles and practices to their own unique circumstances. At every social media conference I attend, I overhear the same type of comments by puzzled or frustrated marketers.

For instance, I recently overheard this comment while I was waiting in the queue for the shuttle bus: “The Dell Outlet success story is very inspiring. But I really don’t know how that success story relates to my chain of senior residential communities.”So what’s the “average” brand or business to do? How do they translate the “steps” to building a social business to their particular circumstances? Let’s take the example of the chain of senior residential communities and see how best practices principles apply.

Start With the Basics: Listen for Brand Mentions

Everyone talks about “listening,” but not much about how to listen. In the case of social media, listening relates tosearching various social networks for relevant conversations and storing them in a format where you can analyze and understand the results. Using a monitoring and analysis tool like Meltwater Buzz will help you easily create those searches across social networks to find those relevant conversations.

Relevant is the key word here. In the case of the chain of senior residential communities, they had a pretty generic brand. Initial searches would bring up a lot of irrelevant results. To find relevant conversations, they should limit the geography of their results. They should also analyze their results to find common keywordswithin the relevant conversationsand refine their search criteria using these keywords. Listening for brand-related discussions will provideone metric to measure the results of their social marketing efforts.

Also Listen to Find Your Target Market

How do you find potential customersand advocates if you don’t have a strong brand? The key is to define what solutions or value you provide or what problems you solve and then search for the conversations within those areas. In our example, the chain of senior residential communities probably didn’t have a lot of brand mentions. To find their social community, they should start searching for conversations about “retirement,” “retirement living,” “senior lifestyle” and other terms relevant to their business. Since they are focused on serving a geographic area, they could include the mention of their target geography (Florida) in some of their searches. They should also look to filterthe non-specific results to a geo-targeted area. Why?They want to capture both the people talking about retiring to Florida (from someplace cold, like New Hampshire!) as well as those living IN Florida and talking about retirement!

The information they find here will help them in their next step—engagement! They can use their results to figure out the baseline volume for their brand and determine the topics of interest in their social communities.


With this knowledge in hand, it’s time to start engaging people. How? There are five simple steps that will help the chain of senior residential communitiesprioritize their activities AND resources.

1. Promote. Once they have established their social accounts (Twitter, Google+, Facebook), they should promote their presence on their websites, email and print newsletters, brochures, ads, blogs and other core marketing activities. Asking customers to engage and using tactics like contests are a great way to build a following.

2. Respond. Having a social presence means being social! Responding to direct comments and communications are a must.

3. Follow and Follow Back. Finding relevant conversations through listening also means finding potential customers in various social communities. The chain should follow new Twitter contacts they found through their searches. It’s a “soft” way for the business to expose their brand. The chain should also follow people back, but do so in a focused manner. They should use social profiles to determine if a contact fits in a specific category or geography, follow them if they fit into the larger social community, and tag and segment that person as appropriate (easily done in Meltwater Buzz).

4. Create, Post and Curate Content. The chain should use the content they find in their searches as content to share with others! The social searches are a great way to find interesting things to share—articles, guides, white papers, pictures, events and more! They should re-tweet others and develop a helpful and honest presence in the senior social community! This will draw others to them and will enable the chain to develop a following on the basis of their “giving.”

5. Directly Engage. Another great way to “softly” engage people is also related to content curation. When the chain finds conversations in their search results where they can share their knowledge or resources they’ve created or found, they should respond to that contact with that resource. Being a helpful member of the social community enables the brand to drive recognition and presence—and trust!

Who To Engage: Influencers and Advocates (Free eBook!)

And that’s what we’re talking about here—a trusted relationship between a business and its current and potential customers. Brands are challenged with developing that trust, and there has been a lot of focus on Influencers and Advocates as a way to develop brand and product credibility. However, learning the difference between an Influencer and an Advocate—and the impact it can have on a brand’s social success—that’s one of the topics covered in “Smart Business, Social Business.” We’re offering a Free excerpt of the book to help you get to the next level. You can download your copy here.

I hope you’ve found this helpful!  What challenges are you finding in applying best practices to your unique business?



About the Author

Margaret Donnelly, the former VP of Marketing & Business Development of JitterJam, spearheads the marketing efforts for Meltwater Buzz. Meltwater Group acquired JitterJam in March 2011.

Margaret has over 25 years of technology marketing and business development experience in the social media, telecommunications, services, and computer hardware and software industries at companies such as Firetide, ArrayComm, SkyTel, Commtouch and Pyramid Technology.

Margaret co-founded the Personal Broadband Industry Association and has served as an industry analyst and marketing advisor for a diverse set of businesses. A transplant from Silicon Valley now living in the wilds of New Hampshire, Margaret is active in the local arts community.

Workshop delegates can catch up with Margaret and chat further on SMWF Connect.