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5 lessons from the HITEC Social Media panel

Been to any great conferences lately? I was. I was very pleased to be part of a panel a few months ago hosted by the fabulous Cindy Estis Green of Cindy, you might remember, is the author of The Travel Marketer’s Guide to Social Media and Social Networks and does a great job balancing the possibilities for social networks and the realities of business in her talks and panels. The panel consisted of Jeff Senior from Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Isaac Gerstenzang from Destination Hotels & Resorts, Cindy and me. One of the many great things about panel discussions is how much I learn, both from my fellow panel participants and from the thoughtful insights and questions from the audience.

So what lessons rang most clear?

  1. Choose your strategy before your tools. Business owners frequently ask, “Should we have a blog?” or “Should we be on Facebook? Twitter?” and so on. And while they’re important questions, they usually don’t get to the heart of the matter. The best questions you can ask yourself are:
    • Where are your customers on the social web; and
    • What is your strategy for trying social tools

    Sure, you probably should have a blog. And, yes, various social networks will likely work for your business objectives. But only if you know what you’re trying to get from them.

  2. Set your objectives and measure your progress against those objectives. This goes hand-in-hand with #1 above, Once you know what strategy you’re looking to pursue, make sure you have your success measurements in place. It’s hard to know what’s working if you don’t know what you’re measuring. We’ve put together a list of 7 tips to consider when you’re choosing metrics that also applies to social.
  3. Listen more than you talk. One of the reasons many “experts” struggle to provide meaningful advice regarding social is because your customers are still figuring out how they’re using social, too. Admittedly, this is getting less true every day. But don’t be surprised if the tools your customers use – and, more important, the way they use them, is different 6 months from now than today. The best way to keep up with where your customers are? Listen, listen, listen.
  4. Bandwidth still isn’t as cheap as we’d like to think it is. Bummer. With most mobile phones offering digital cameras – either still, video, or both – social media can be a real bandwidth hog. And many corporate IT departments struggle to keep up with the demand. And it’s only going to get worse for those struggling IT departments as more customers put these tools to use. While I can’t remember who said it, it’s only a matter of time before customers start placing video reviews of products and services from their iPhones, BlackBerry’s, what-have-you while they’re still in the store/restaurant/hotel. The best you can do is try to place those bandwidth concerns on YouTube, Flickr and Facebook’s shoulders to try to keep up.
  5. We’re still not sure whose job this is. Staffing your social marketing roles remains a challenge. Who is the right individual/what is the right skill set to best meet the needs of your customer? There doesn’t seem to be any one answer yet. But, the consensus seems to revolve around using someone who’s able to relate to your customers well and represent your brand well. Don’t have someone on staff you feel comfortable giving that role to? Then you might have a bigger problem than just social, eh?

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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