Todays post is brought to you by the Letter I.


Last week we published our first in a series that details a simple process for planning Social Media based on the acronym L-I-S-T-E-N. This week we move on to the second phase of the social media process: Identifying and Interpreting.

After youve done the critical first step of Listening " see part 1 - you now have the rather difficult task of sifting through all those tweets, all those posts, all those questions from all those conversations and interpreting them so that you can, in a very simple way, identify the following:

WHERE are the conversations taking place? What is the optimal social media mix for this particular challenge? What tools does this particular tribe prefer to use? Is it an older, professional crowd using LinkedIn and eMail? A younger, gaming crowd using microblogs? Or does the product have a visual aspect better suited to YouTube and Flickr? Heres a great example of a concrete marketing association using the How-To visual strengths of YouTube to drive click-throughs in the neighbourhood of 18%. A great example of picking up the right tool for the job.

Concrete Marketing Association

WHEN is it taking place? Youre going to have to build a marketing calendar so Googles Insight for Search or social monitoring tools like Radian6 are great places to identify the ebb and flow of conversation throughout the year.

WHATS the problem? This is the most important thing you need to interpret and identify. How can you ever hope to be of value to to a social community if you dont know the problem theyre trying to solve? So whats the conversation about? What are the hot topics? What are the threats and opportunities facing your brand here? Its what we call pulling the need and, as with any relationship, if you want it to be based on trust, advice & authority you need to figure it out. For example,

  • The need of a gaming crowd might be to simply brag about their high score,
  • The need of a group of parents making a buying decision might be reassurance that its ethical and healthy and
  • The need of a family taking a vacation might be to know what else there is to do in the area besides golf.

The idea is to identify needs that offer potential for a beneficial outcome for both you and the community.

WHO are the influencers? Find those folks who have a lot of followers and who share your cause or, at least, who have interest in it. (Hint: The best are ones who are already customers. More about this is in Step 6.)

Trying to go ahead and have a successful social media program without listening and without identifying the problem " well, its kind of like playing golf on a hole that has no flagstick; any shot will seem good but youre really not going to get anywhere meaningful.