Sunday, October 25, 2009
Build Platform and Find Opportunity by Listening to Your Network
Build Platform and Find Opportunity by Listening to Your Network
By Don Lafferty
Most writers I talk with are concerned about the time suck when it comes to the effective use of online tools. When you add up all the resources available to us online, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the constant deluge of updates piling in from email, Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other online community outposts.
Follow these step-by-step instructions to maximize the time you’ve budgeted for online business development. You’ll wind up with a professional-quality “listening post” that will filter out most of the noise, and provide you with an effective tool for building platform, deepening your key industry connections, and creating highly targeted business development tactics.
1. Build a list of Key Words
Do you write YA Vampire books, or health related magazine articles? Heart-stopping military thrillers or political satire?
It doesn’t matter who your target reader is, a growing number of them are out there “talking” in millions of Internet-based conversations every day.
What words are people using when they talk about your stuff? What other authors, titles, publishers and industry terms tip you off to conversations your readers are likely to be having?
Brainstorm that Key Word List and come up with your top ten. Tuck the list away in a folder with your other social media tools. You’ll revisit this important list from time to time to keep it relevant, so remember where you put it.
2. Set up a FREE Google Reader
Go to Google.com [http://bit.ly/82uRW] Click here and take the Google Reader tour. There are plenty of articles out there on the Net that can guide you through the simple process of setting it up. Once you have it set up, check out my instructions for the simple process of setting up RSS Feeds here: http://bit.ly/ZrN23 Click here
Then every time you find a blog or a website you want to monitor, you simply click the little orange RSS subscription button that you’ll find in the address bar of your browser, click through the simple subscription process, and place the feed in the appropriate folder in your Google Reader.
You can also create RSS Feeds for the various searches you do, but I’ll go into more detail on that later.
3. Install a Twitter management application.
I use TweetDeck and it’s awesome. Go to www.tweetdeck.com Click here where you’ll find instructions for downloading and installing the application. Connect all your Twitter accounts to TweetDeck and create groups to which you’ll add the people you follow on Twitter.
I create my groups starting with the people closest to me, and categorize from there: Family, Colleagues, Authors, Indie Booksellers, Publishers, Agents, Reviewers, etc…
TweetDeck arranges groups in columns, enabling you to log on and quickly determine who has tweeted what. So instead of signing on to Twitter via the web and hunting down each person of interest individually, everything you care about is delivered right to the TweetDeck dashboard. You can quickly assess which messages you want to re-tweet, respond to, or dig into a little further.
If managed with discipline, a Twitter application like this will eventually become your primary source of new business opportunities.
4. Set up Twitter Search Feeds.
Grab that list of key words and combinations you brainstormed in step 1, then go to www.search.twitter.com Click here and do a search for the first key word.
You can scan down through the search results as you find them, or you can create a feed to your Google Reader. In the upper right corner of the screen you’ll see an orange RSS button next to the words “Feed for this query.” Click on the link and it’ll step you through the process of feeding the Twitter search for this key word into your Google Reader, where the most recent search results will always be refreshed and waiting for you.
Do this for all the key words on your list, and then again every time you come up with a new key word or key word combination.
Be sure to direct the feeds to the correct folder in your Google Reader so you can easily access the search results during your regular business development session.
5. Set up Google Alerts
Browse your way over to Google Alerts. http://bit.ly/z66No. Click here Using the key words from your master list, create Google Alerts for each term. In the drop-down menu under “Type,” choose “Comprehensive,” and under the drop-down menu “Deliver to,” choose “Feed.” After you click “Save,” click on “View in Google Reader” and finalize the subscription, making sure to direct the feed to the appropriate folder.
LinkedIn provides options to subscribe to RSS Feeds for groups, answers and news. If you’ve done your homework on LinkedIn and participate in these places, subscribe to the feeds and direct them to the appropriate folders in your Google Reader.
Okay, your basic listening post is built. The following description of my work process will give you a feel for the way you can customize this tool to meet your specific objectives.
I open Google Reader. The first feeds I look at are the Twitter Search feeds I built with my key word list to see who is saying what about each key search term.
I scroll down through the Twitter search results, discovering people I should be following (listening to) which usually leads me to more people I should be following, and blogs to which I subscribe using the RSS Feed. I find opportunities for work, people who need help, companies asking questions I can answer, and all manner of material I can use as writing prompts or for research.
As I follow new people on Twitter I keep a text document open where I note their Twitter username for later when I open TweetDeck.
I run through my Google Alert and LinkedIn feeds in the same way, subscribing to blogs, following people on Twitter, and bookmarking websites where I find something I can use later. I do this as time permits, usually for 15-30 minutes, and then I open TweetDeck.
As I mentioned earlier, I work in the publishing world so my TweetDeck groups are designed to capture the activities of publishing industry people on Twitter. Instead of sifting through the tens of thousands of tweets in my network in the hopes of find out who’s doing what, I’m able to go right to one of my TweetDeck groups and engage as appropriate.
This is where I have to filter what I find through the lens of my objectives.
If I’m promoting an upcoming event I may write a blog post about it, find everybody tweeting about the event, or about similar events, or about an author attending the event, or something else related to the event, and engage each -- again, as appropriate. Sometimes I’ll direct a person to my post with a link. Sometimes I’m more subtle, leaving the link on my own Twitter feed with an introductory headline designed to catch my target connection’s attention. Then when I mention my target connection in a re-tweet or a reply, they’ll find my link waiting when they come to check me out.
If I’ve done my homework right, chosen my key words wisely, and engaged appropriately, there’s a high probability I’ll connect with a new group of followers every time I execute one of these tactics. More importantly, I’ll be on their radar where they can engage me when they’re inclined.
This is where individual objectives, personal style, and social skills shape your moves and lead you to a completely different discussion.
Research has determined that you’ll receive 1 piece of social media love for every 12 you give. As you pick up momentum, the ratio shifts more into your favor.
This is why a well designed listening post is such a critical piece of your social media tool kit. It compresses the front end of your business development cycle, providing you with a focused, steady stream of high-value leads based on the key words you created which were, from the outset, designed to find the conversations being had by your consumers, your colleagues, and interested media.
The first step in every Internet-based strategy is finding the people you want to connect with, and the first step in accomplishing this is listening well.
Set up this simple listening post to get a handle on your social media activities, refine it every time you use it, and soon you’ll be hard pressed to keep up with the opportunities that’ll come your way every day.
Don Lafferty is a sales executive, writer and, social media marketing consultant. He's the Social Media Director of the Wild River Review, and the Web's wackiest canine comedy series, It's Todd's Show. You can find his blog, Don Lafferty’s Strategies, Thoughts and Instructions for Including Social Media in Your Marketing Plan, at: