Social Media: A Virtual Cocktail Party

February 18th, 2009

We all know the feeling. You walk into a cocktail party, scan the room and everyone is a stranger. You tell yourself that your clients, colleagues or whomever you’re there to see, will arrive eventually. Yet, how do you avoid looking like a wallflower or feeling out of place until they do?

The first order of business in an unfamiliar situation is to observe the room, listen for conversations of interest and find an appropriate opportunity to enter the conversation. With a little time and tact, your party will arrive and you just may meet someone interesting in the interim. These same cocktail party rules apply to conversations in the online world.

Many companies and organizations know that they need to be in the social media space, but aren’t sure of how and when to participate. They know that social media is becoming an important part of the marketing mix, but the potential risks and requisite transparency often seem daunting. However, just like a cocktail party, patience and persistence are paramount to making important connections in the online world.

Observing and tracking the conversation is a vital first step in developing an effective social media program. By first listening to the conversation, you will find what’s being said, who is saying it and who is listening. Like traditional marketing communications campaigns, you’ll be able to craft unique messages, target specific outlets and enter the conversation in an unobtrusive way. But just like you wouldn’t scream your name over a bullhorn at a cocktail party, you shouldn’t blast your sales message to the entire online world.

Evangelists and influencers are looking for value, information and a reason to listen to you. They want to interact with organizations and people that are knowledgeable and genuine. Participating in any conversation — both traditional and online — is about appropriate dialogue, interaction and exchange of information. Listening and observing first will give you the best chances of success.

So don’t forget the cocktail party rules when developing your social media strategy. You never know who you might meet.

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