7 Steps To Being A Successful Social Media Influencer

Published: January 22, 2014

By Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Online Marketing

To be effective as a modern digital marketer, it’s important to develop certain habits. These are tendencies or even routines that often result in desired and positive outcomes — over and over again.

By Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Online Marketing

This article originally appeared on the TopRank Online Marketing Blog.

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To be effective as a modern digital marketer, it’s important to develop certain habits. These are tendencies or even routines that often result in desired and positive outcomes — over and over again.

Information overload and fast changing technology make social media a perfect candidate for developing productive habits. Otherwise it can all become a blur of noise without meaning. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has felt overwhelmed at some point or another.

At the same time, structure and routine are good but not too much though, or you won’t be adaptable. Being able to recognize real-time opportunities is equally important as having a plan and optimized social media best practices to follow.

The reality is, for every business person who really has a grasp of social media marketing fundamentals, there are probably hundreds or even thousands that still feel lost. If you’re not in this situation yourself, you probably know someone who is.

Successful, accomplished business people all over the world are not as confident or as competent with social media marketing as you might believe — especially with all the social media hype.

Curating on the social web is not the same thing as creating value. Most of what social media marketers create is simply echo chamber noise. It’s understandable. The easiest starting point is to find and share what others are sharing.

Most business people asking about starting points for social media marketing often look for specific things, like “How many times should I tweet” and “What should I blog about.” But if that’s all you focus on, you can run out of steam pretty quickly.

Developing tactical expertise is important, but understanding the bigger picture of why, for who and what are even more important. We’ve covered plenty of social media marketing tactics here in the past few years, so this post is focused more on some of the important habits to consider.

Step 1. Define Goals

What happens if you’re successful? You can buck the trend of all the social media lemmings out there who are auto-scheduling curation and sharing by simply making a commitment to answering, “Why?”

There’s more to it than just “grow sales.” Steps in between where you are now and where you want to be will be a big part of your answer. For example, grow networks and influence around your solution area amongst prospective buyers to increase inbound leads. Or the same amongst industry bloggers and media to increase media coverage. Whatever it is, think about what growing a network of relevant people paying attention to you will do for your business. Think about what business goals can be achieved and start your journey towards better social media habits there.

Step 2. Listen For Topics And People Related To Reaching Your Goals

While participation might feel like you’re gaining insight, it’s important to leverage listening tools that can collect and organize large amounts of data to help you identify topics, conversations, centers of influence, advocates, dissenters, competitors, partners, media, content and many other factors that go into social media decision making. Whether you’re just getting started with HootSuite or Sprout Social to more advanced tools like Sysomos and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, just make sure you get started. Consult a pro if you need to set this up.

Step 3. Take A Stand And Make A Social Content Plan

Create and curate. Also take regular steps to grow your own influence and known subject matter expertise by developing a content schedule involving creation, curation and engagement in alignment with how you want to be known. This is daily activity that can be managed with a plan and social curation/publishing tools. Be clear and consistent about your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) wherever you publish and interact online or offline. Influence is the ability to inspire action amongst a community. It is not simply having impressive social proof in the form of high fans, friends, and follower counts.

Step 4. Romance Influencers And Make It Easy (And Compelling) For Them To Help You

Influence — find it, understand it. Then work simultaneously to connect with influentials and thought leaders operating on the social web in your industry. Find opportunities to create value and schedule time daily to connect with one or two through email, social engagement, comments on blog posts or media coverage. When you see a momentum of people acting on the advice of a single source, that is an influencer. Be useful to them and they in turn, will be useful to you. Identify relevant influencers you want to connect with and spend a small amount of your daily social engagement time, creating value for them in a way that shows what you’re about.

Step 5. Be The Brand

How do you want to be known? Focus on your community, finding ways to be interesting and engaging. Focus starts with being specific about what it is that your brand stands for. Spending time consistently with your network is like making little promises about your brand. Every time you keep your promise (about what your brand stands for) through sharing useful content and engagement, then your network grows larger and more confident. Listening, engaging, sharing and being useful in ways that align with how you want to be known are all actions that contribute to the brand you’re building.

Engagement comes from sharing useful, engaging and increasingly, compelling content. Raise the bar on content quality and creative packaging. Dig deep into customer insights (data) to find unique stories and keep revisiting to keep the narrative fresh.

Step 6. Engage

Share, ask, answer and recognize – daily. Creating value is one of the most important things a company can do on the social web to attract and engage new business. Social network participation that involves asking, answering and sharing useful information (not selling or self promoting) is an investment that scales far more than going after the conversion with every tweet, update and over-saturated Instagram photo.

Sophisticated digital marketers will identify the unique buying journey for each customer segment and use insights to drive content and daily engagement. If you’re not there yet, focus on being a great source of information on relevant topics and someone who is credible, trustworthy and talked about by others in your industry. The easiest way to do that is to answer questions. Find people asking questions on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and, if appropriate, answer them!

Then take the next step and do your best to be both informative and entertaining = infotaining! Competition is too tough on the social web to win by sharing facts and tips. They’ll need to be packaged creatively as well. Before all that, make a daily effort to engage on and off your networks.

Step 7. Optimize

Be accountable and continuously improve. With the goals in mind that you set forth at the start, be sure to use your social media management and analytics tools to track network size, rate of growth, quantity and quality of engagement and topical focus. Look at social content quantity and quality and how that content is engaged with by your growing community.

Look for correlations between your daily social activity and both quantitative and qualitative trends. Are you growing networks? Are your networks engaging with you and with each other? On what topics? Do those topics contribute to how you want to be known? Does the social content, engagement and community activity contribute to the business goals you set out to achieve?

Use your monitoring tools as feedback mechanisms to test, refine and optimize your social messaging, creation and curation. At the same time, see if there are broader correlations between overall social network and content activity and an impact on business goals. Make strategic optimization changes accordingly.

For some readers, this is all academic and not new. The question is, how many of these habits are yours? How many other habits do you have that get in the way of truly being productive with your time on the social web?

Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency specializing in strategic Internet marketing consulting, training and implementation services, including: Content, Search, Email and Social Media Marketing.

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