365 Days of Social Media: 5 Steps to Identifying and Understanding Your Audience

365 Days of Social Media: How I Learned by Shutting My Mouth

This is the follow-up to last week’s post introducing my experiences developing a Social Media Learning Plan for RadioShack and the practical steps we took to jump-start our company’s dialogue with consumers. This hands-on approach to figuring out what to do while testing how to do it, came to life in 3 phases.  

The first phase involved identifying and understanding our audience from the outside in. This came to life for me in these 5 steps:

#1) LEARN to learn. Learn to listen

In all honesty, this was perhaps the most exciting time for me personally because I was staring at a blank canvas. Before we wrote the social media policy, before we hired a community manager, before the fan acquisition campaigns and even before I finished reading the social manifesto Groundswell – there was simply RadioShack and the consumer.

It was the perfect opportunity to learn about RadioShack’s fans simply by talking to them, observing and acknowledging their voice. For better or worse, they were more than happy to share their kudos and criticisms. Our Facebook and Twitter updates were incredibly transparent about our mission to mature into social media and I believe consumers respected the candor. Most of all, I think it signaled to them that someone was listening. 

Since then, we’ve worked with the rock stars at our digital agency imc2 to include qualitative listening analytics (e.g., Web Trends Radian6), regular campaign reporting, conversation calendars and a content strategy. Thanks to these tools we’re a little smarter and a lot more informed, but there is no substitute for a good ol’ fashioned conversation.

#2) DO start upgrading & engaging

I’ve always wanted to play the drums. I’ll never be good enough to get paid for it, I just want enough percussion proficiency to sit-in with a local jazz band and hopefully impress my wife. I used to watch instructional videos on YouTube and listen to Bernard Purdie drum solos while envying the ease at which they mastered the kit. It wasn’t until I grabbed my own sticks and took a few lessons that I learned how intensely hard this instrument is. Watching was easy but learning involved doing.

The only way to really get comfortable with social media as an instrument for consumer engagement is to start playing. During this phase of learning our audience and honing our own voice, we took part in relevant online conversations and even hopped in a few that had nothing to do with RadioShack. Don’t worry, consumers will always let you know when you’re off beat.

A critical part of this, however, was ensuring we took the obvious steps to prepare for where we wanted to go. We knew we needed a social media policy so we started writing one. We knew we needed to reclaim all relevant brand trademarks online so we began the process.

The biggest upgrades happened inside the company as I shared the purpose of social media with colleagues and was able to garner immediate support from marketing and cross-functional peers. It was important that they took ownership for our engagement efforts and saw the bigger picture beyond simply Facebook and Twitter.

#3) BUILD dialogue that builds relationships

Conversation drives conversion. The more we humanized the brand and related to fans, followers and even naysayers, the more relevant we became. This increased relevance is what makes social media both profound and mind-boggling to many of us on the brand side. I often used this simple question as my compass in dealing directly with consumers: what would a friend do?

Would a friend recommend an electronics product or tell you about a great deal? Yep. If necessary, a friend may even help you resolve a bad experience, right? Probably so.

Well, why should your relationship with RadioShack be any different?

We also made a concerted effort to engage in expected conversations where we had credibility to speak. This meant tapping into cultural happenings and listening for opportunities to make RadioShack a natural part of the chatter. We asked and answered questions, we retweeted the positive, we engaged with industry gatekeepers and located enthusiasts who were already ambassadors. Oftentimes this meant empowering our store associates and educating them on how online dialogue impacts the in-store experience.

#4 JUMP obvious hurdles (don’t ignore them)

I’ve covered many areas of the marketing umbrella in my career – advertising, online, brand development, sports/lifestyle, CRM, PR, etc. The frightfully fantastic thing about social media is the real-time transparency and reactions. It’s one of the few marketing channels where you can’t simply pretend your efforts are working when they’re not. The sand you would normally stick your head into is now a mirror, forcing you to face the facts.

I believe this transparency ultimately leads to a stronger organization where feedback is valued and decisions are stress-tested. For us, it meant addressing the difficult perceptions of our brand while still presenting the compelling reasons to come and shop us. It also meant keeping the word “consumer” a central part of all conversations, even outside of the marketing and operations teams.

Start by gathering a list of the challenges your brand faces in the eye’s of your existing and potential customers (not your company, your brand). From awareness and consideration to traffic and loyalty, a social game plan must be constructed around your weaknesses as well as your strengths.   

Remember, hurdles are both inside and outside your company so listen closely on both ends.

Hint: I sit right across from the research team.

#5 TRANSFORM… even if it is slowly.

Step 5 makes a big assumption – that you’re using social media to change something. It’s virtually impossible to learn something and not be changed, in any area of your life. As soon as I started tracking my daily eating habits and monitoring the nutritional value of my meals, it was hard to dive hand-first into the box of cupcakes sitting in our employee lounge. Not because I didn’t want one, but because I wanted something else more – to be sexy again. 🙂

Once you truly start to identify, understand and engage with your social media fan base, learning will become second-nature. Every week we interact with thousands of consumers who tell us what they want, how they feel, when we’re wrong and why they’re right. This dialogue is a wellspring of insights and now impacts how we’re approaching consumers in 2011.

A transformative opportunity for RadioShack was establishing credibility & relationships with store associates who participate in social media. By affirming their value and sharing the philosophy of social media with them, they are part of our voice in a positive manner.

 —

Next week I want to share how we worked to translate social media goals into enterprise-wide objectives that mattered to the company. Bear with me as I get back into the swing of blogging.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment and I’ll reply asap. This represents my past year in social media so I’m curious to hear your perspectives and experiences as well.

Thx for taking the time to read and feel free to connect with me on Twitter at @adriandparker.

AP

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1 Comment

Filed under Learnings & Insight, RadioShack, Social Media

One response to “365 Days of Social Media: 5 Steps to Identifying and Understanding Your Audience

  1. This is a great series Adrian. I look forward to listening and learning as you share your experiences going forward.

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