Gini Dietrich

Five Step Process for Using the Social Web

By: Gini Dietrich | May 24, 2012 | 

I had a different blog topic in mind today when I read Danny Brown’s, “Being Where YOU Need to Be, Not Where ‘They’ Say You Should.”

He relates a story of a small business owner who went to a conference and the social media expert who spoke advised attendees use all of the social media networks because “you never know where your customer is going to be, so you need to be in all of the places.”

This makes my blood boil. Clearly the speaker does not run a small business or have to make payroll or deal with HR issues or make rain or report to stakeholders. If he or she did, they would never advise this.

Play Where Your Customers Play

One of the things we do, when we begin work with clients, is put them through a five-step process. It’s also the process I use when teaching business leaders how to get started on the social web.

It’s not complicated. You start by listening, then move to assessing the conversations, then engage, then measure your results, then tweak and improve, and then you start all over again.

And, if you have time for only one thing, listening is the most important of the process. It’s the foundation for any communication program, not just for using the social web. It allows you to understand where your customers are participating online, the conversations they’re having, and what matters to them most.


The easiest way to listen is to use Google alerts.

It always surprises me how few people use this free tool from Google. You can set up alerts for your name, the company name, your competition, and the industry…at the very least. If you do those four things, you’ll receive four emails each day. In that email, it will outline where conversations about your search topics are happening online: The web, blogs, comments, discussion groups, social networks, videos, and books.

After a week or so you begin to see a trend. You’ll notice whether people are talking about your search topics on blogs or on the social networks. This begins to give you some intelligent information about which one platform you should use.

Of course, if you have the budget or receive more than 500-1,000 mentions per day (my Google alerts usually have no more than 10 each day), you’ll want to pay for a listening program. Tools such as Spiral16, Radian6, or Sysomos are the best.


Then you can begin to assess those conversations.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, your Google alerts show you a lot of chatter is happening on Twitter. You note that in your brain as one of the tools to consider.

Now you can assess where the people you’re already connected with are participating online.

There are four tools you can use to do this:

  1. Fliptop. Fliptop is a tool that will let you upload email contacts from your computer, an email marketing platform, social media, or Salesforce. It will give you 100 free social profiles; anything beyond that is a paid option. It’s an easy way to test the software to see if it’s something you’d like to consider paying for and using. It returns demographics, title, company, all of the social platforms the person uses, and their Klout score.
  2. Qwerly. Qwerly is a little more sophisticated and should be used by someone who understands APIs and how to insert a key into your Web properties. This is a paid tool that takes the person’s name and location, and returns their bio, social networking profiles, usernames, and influence score (such as Klout).
  3. Gist. Gist is a tool you insert into your email server (such as Outlook or Gmail). Every time you email someone, it returns information such as their most recent blog post, what they’re reading, their shared photos, and their social networks.
  4. Xobni. Xobni is the Batman of email. When installed in your email server, it returns so much information it’s almost scary. It gives you the social platforms, just like the other tools, but it also shows you which attachments you’ve exchanged with that person, what time they’re typically on email and responding, how many emails they’ve sent you or haven’t responded to, and more.


So now you have Google alerts that show (for sake of this blog post) there is a lot of chatter about your company, brand, competition, or industry on Twitter.

Then you find, once you upload your contacts into Fliptop, that most of your existing contacts are participating on Twitter.

It probably makes sense for you to start with Twitter. Not to be on every platform, but based on your research, to start there.

But, of course, you have to have content to use on Twitter. Content that is housed on something you own: Your website and/or blog.

Jay Baer offers the best image I’ve seen on how to begin to engage online.

In the days of old, we would use written customer testimonials on our websites. Now you can take that same philosophy to create videos of your customers telling your company story. Those videos are uploaded to YouTube (which helps with your search) and embedded on your website and/or blog.

Then that link is used to build engagement through content on the one social network (Twitter in this case) where you’ve decided to participate.


Now it’s time to pay attention to whether or not your efforts are working. We use both Google analytics and Clicky at Arment Dietrich, but use InfusionSoft for Spin Sucks Pro and Hubspot for clients to generate leads, measure results, and figure out what’s working and what’s not.

You want to have a benchmark as you’re starting out. Your benchmark may be zero and you may be guessing at what you should measure (hint: It’s not web traffic) and that’s OK. Start somewhere, give it 75-90 days, and move to improve from there.

If you need help in setting up a measurement program, pick up Marketing in the Round. The last three chapters focus on how to do this.


And then you’re going to improve. You now know where your customers and prospects are participating. You’re creating stories and content that allow you to engage online. You’re measuring your results. And now you know where you need to improve.

We always recommend clients (and conference attendees) start by crawling, then walking, then running, and then flying.

There is no reason on earth you need to be everywhere at once or start with more than one thing.

Start small and grow.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Hey Gin,
    This is some excellent info!
    I’ve heard that “you have to be everywhere online and off” so many times that it makes me nauseous. I hear it from clients, from social media “experts”, from marketing “mavens”…
    Google Alerts is a great way to listen. I have it set up for each of  my clients so that I know what’s being said, when and where.
    However, I wasn’t familiar with Xobni – so thanks a lot :). I have it open in another tab and getting ready to go through it now. As for Gist – although I know it – I’ve never used it. I’m on it now too ;).
    Oh…really like Jay’s diagram. Spot on!
    Thanks for this – always a good reminder and some fabulously useful tools :). 
    Off to read DB’s article.

    •  @Griddy The idea that you need to be everywhere really does make my blood boil. Maybe that works for Fortune 100 companies that have large marketing team, but for the rest of the world, there aren’t enough resources to make it happen.
      I love seeing you here…and can’t believe you were the first comment! Miss you! xoxo

      •  @ginidietrich Miss you more! And I love being here :)!

      •  @ginidietrich BTW – would you recommend I install Gist or Xobni first?

        •  @Griddy I’d do Xobni. Start with the free app.

        •  @ginidietrich  @Griddy Taken out of context, “I’d do Xobni” could be an interesting public admission. 😉

        •  @DannyBrown  @Griddy Oh DB. Do you wish your name was Xobni?

        •  @ginidietrich  @DannyBrown  @Griddy Danny, your response to this one is crucial…

        •  @ginidietrich K thanks :).

        •  @DannyBrown  @ginidietrich Buwahahaha! Umm…sorry, I meant…no comment ;).

        •  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich  @DannyBrown There’s a lot of pressure on this one lol.

        •  @ginidietrich  @Griddy Not with my Scottish accent, I find it hard enough to understand myself as it is!

  • Fantastic outline of the process, Gini!!!! Love it.
    It seems this topic has been going around quite a bit lately. My friend, courtenayrogers just wrote about this for the Nashville Business Journal yesterday – you don’t need to be everywhere! 
    I get asked all the time about which social network businesses should use. Of course, the answer always is, “it depends” because you need to figure out where your people are first. It’s amazing how many people forget that. And then, once you choose, I always tell people to start small. Pick one ort two networks and master them before piling others on. 
    To add to your list of tools, I love Rapportive. It’s a free Gmail add on that gives you social profiles, blog posts, etc. They don’t have it for Outlook yet, so I might have to give Xobni a try. MailChimp’s email platform also has a Social Pro add-on that’s super useful for seeing which networks your email subscribers are on.
    Also, for listening, Social Mention can be really helpful. It’s very similar to Google Alerts, but it often picks up things Google Alerts doesn’t.
    Ok, I’ll stop now. I could go on and on about this…and have. 🙂 Excellent post, Gini!

    •  @lauraclick  Really great additions! I’m going to add them to the list. I’ll credit you, of course.

      •  @ginidietrich Thanks. 🙂 Happy to share!

  • Operative word: Xobni

  • Interesting; I attended a social media PR/Marketing meeting the local Chamber sponsored and Josh Hallett @hyku did an excellent job of explaining your same sentiments on playing where your customers play
    He’s an interesting individual; their company manages like 11 blogs internationally for Play Station and I believe he also has the Disney account. 
    He certainly didn’t tell me anything new, I’m just trying to find what works for me which can be hard because it’s not that I’m lazy, sometimes my ‘want to’ is more geared to fun than work; but’s that’s probably been my MO all the way back to grade school. It’s amazing I’ve made it at all……….:). 

    •  @bdorman264  I’m kind of amazed you’ve made it, too. 🙂
      You do a great job with your blog. What more do you need?

  • Thanks for expanding on my post miss, and great advice

    Quick self-promo (sorry!) – over at @JugnooMe, we offer four free Social Searches around your brand or keywords, with sentiment analysis included. You can reply directly from the search dashboard. Tie that in with our comprehensive Twitter dashboard and web analytics we also provide, and you can get a great understanding of what’s happening with your business.


    •  @DannyBrown Shameless……………….:)

      • @bdorman264 I thought I better say something since our agency never… 😉

        •  @DannyBrown  @bdorman264 I was going to include Jugnoo and then decided it was a conflict so I deleted it. So I’m glad you added it here.

        •  @ginidietrich  @DannyBrown  @bdorman264 I’ll put in my two-cents for Jugnoome. And I WILL be writing a review of it, as promised.

        •  @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 Or disclosure. 😉

  • What if you don’t have an email server, per se? How do you go about installing those? Gist sounds a lot like Rapportive, which I use as a browser extension within Gmail. it gives me all the info associated with that email address, pulls in a picture of the person, their social channels, klout score, and more. 

    •  @KenMueller Gist and Xobni both work with Gmail.

      •  @ginidietrich I’ll check ’em out.  Now I’m curious how much info this Batman gives me. Could be very helpful these days. 

        •  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich He ain’t a patch on the Silver Surfer.

        •  @DannyBrown  @ginidietrich Well, I like this Xobni thingy. Was hoping to get more info out of it, but it does have a lot!

        •  @KenMueller Just try the free app to start. It’s pretty amazing what you’ll learn. I’ll email you so you can use me as an example.

        •  @ginidietrich well i already have your emails in my system. i’m just kinda ticked that im not connected to your wish list at Pottery Barn.

  • coffeewithjulie

    This post is a breath of fresh air, Gini. I manage the communications for a small high-tech company. It is literally impossible to be everywhere (and still produce content, and consult with internal stakeholders, blah, blah, blah…). We had a young fella working with us who insisted that we needed to be everywhere, but since he’s left, I just can’t keep up with accounts and they are getting stale fast. Another “marketing guru” type also emailed me directly to ask where our Google+ account was (and that we really *should* have one). Talk about making my blood boil! 
    Anyhow, like I said – breath of fresh air — thanks.
    And here’s a question that came to mind reading Baer’s “Social Media Success” graphic … I “get” that social is personal/storytelling, but did you catch the article in HBR May 2012 issue titled “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple”? It caught my attention because it seemed to go against the grain of constant content creation based on storytelling. Would love to hear your take on it if you need a topic for a blog post 😉 

    •  @coffeewithjulie The ONLY reason I’d say you need a Google+ account is for search. But there is zero need to have from a social networking/engaging perspective. 
      I haven’t gotten through my May HBR issue yet (still on Wired), but I’ll move it to the front and let you know! Thanks for the tip!

      • coffeewithjulie

         @ginidietrich Ah yes, the search. *sigh* (Oh, did I just sigh out loud. I meant to use my inside sigh voice.)

  • G- you rock and your advocacy of Google Alerts is monumental

    •  @faybiz I have a Google Alert for @ginidietrich she has more mentions than Obama does each day.

      •  @HowieSPM  @faybiz Ha! Not true. Maybe two a day.

        • rustyspeidel

           @ginidietrich it scares me you know.

    •  @faybiz It makes me crazy that no one uses them! They’re free and SUPER effective.

  • Hey Gini! GREAT post.  Listening is so important. If you’re not listening, you’re broadcasting. And that’s not very social at all.
    Also love how you’ve distilled it down to Twitter and Google Alerts. That’s an easy and super-useful way for SMBs and NPOs to get started with social.

    •  @fitzternet I don’t necessarily think it should be Twitter for every SMB. I used that as an example, just to illustrate my point. It may be LinkedIn and its groups instead.

  • This goes to the heart of @DannyBrown ‘s post. I stopped going to the Social Media Breakfast meetings because a whole industry of speakers has been created pushing the BS because it helps them more than the listeners. But the listeners think this is so complicated they buy it.
    One thing you left out Ms @ginidietrich is an analysis needs to be done regarding what you have to offer people on the social web if you decide to participate vs just listen. Is it networking? Is it showcasing new products? is it customer service? Is it relationship building with customers? Because that might also dictate what platforms and content you should focus on as well.

    •  @HowieSPM  As you know, I always say anyone with a Twitter account and a keyboard is a social media expert.
      Your second paragraph is an entirely different blog post. I was already at 1,000 words, with just the process.

      •  @ginidietrich I need to start charging you for your blog post ideas! 8)

  • I’ve been working with Streak CRM. Integrates with GMail and builds a pipeline right within the native interface.  Great way to track email conversations related to prospects. customers, and (for me) job opportunities. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski I’m gonna check out Streak. Thanks for the tip.
      Ever hear of Wrike? It seems like more of a project management tool that adds on to Gmail. I’m still messing around with it.

  • Whenever I read these, just love the fact that I keep on learning. And that a business is so open with its education. Continued thanks (whenever my wifi allows). I would say more, but it’s Saturday night here and the 80s party awaits – think Springsteen in the middle east and ya got it….

    •  @Nic_Cartwright Wait. How is it Saturday night there??! Are you on Mars?

      • @ginidietrich It’s the only way to rationalize the weekends. No matter what they say, I cannot start work on a Saturday…. So Saturday is Monday, Wednesday is Friday and tonight….. Is party night!!

        •  @Nic_Cartwright  LOL!!!! Ohhhhhhh. That’s hilarious!

  • Billy_Delaney

    thanks Gini. As I move into the actual game of building an audience and a profile to speak too, this information gives me a leg up.

    •  @Billy_Delaney You’re doing all of the right things…and asking all of the right questions!

  • belllindsay

    “And if you have time for only one thing, listening is the most important of the process.” – LOVE this! Can we get tee shirts made…?? Great article Gini, very important to not get bogged down – or worse completely overwhelmed – by the sheer number of places and spaces people tell you you need to know about. I think that’s what keeps most SMBs away from the social space. They simply don’t know where to start – or even how to figure that out! Great tips and advice here. xo LB

    •  @belllindsay Tee shirts! Brilliant idea! Can they be pink?

      • belllindsay

         @ginidietrich Only if they’re *hot* pink! I don’t wear pastels well. 😉 

        •  @belllindsay Deal!

        • belllindsay

           @ginidietrich Tank tops – to show off your gorgeous tan…!? LMAO!

        •  @belllindsay NOOOOO! We have to do tee shirts.

  • Amen, Gini, amen! 🙂 

  • Good stuff.
    We talk about “listening”  and immediately turn to programs (Google Alerts, Radian, etc). Let us not forget the best way – ask a question, shut mouth and actually listen.
    Most business people I’ve worked with know far more than I ever will about their business/industry and they didn’t learn it from an alert. They learned it by have a conversation with customers, prospects, and vendors – and really listening to what they have to say.

    •  @ClayMorgan Totally agree! That was my point with it’s the foundation for *any* listening program. These tools are great, but it should start with, “How are you using the social web?”

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  • Start small and grow is good advice.I would add relax and breathe to it. Been a part of more than one business where they spent far too much time freaking out about progress because they failed to understand that organic growth is almost always superior to overnight fame.

    •  @TheJackB OMG! You are so right. Thank you for that addition. 

    • belllindsay

       @TheJackB Can I quadruple like this…!? 😀

  • geoffliving

    Love the charts! Well done.

  • This is a great and generous resource Gini, thanks! Would you recommend using Xobni over Gist or would the amount of information returned be overwhelming?
    It IS a lot of work and a long process. I’m all for walking first, or was it crawling? 😉

    •  @Lori I would use Xobni over Gist. I like it better, in terms of what it returns for you. You can try it out for free and see if you like it.

  • Great post Gini. I use mainly Twitter and even if I don’t write myself many tweets I use it a lot to retweet others’ stuff or to share where I leave comments, thanks Livefyre, so that I get two doves with a stone. Share the post and use my account. 🙂

    •  @Andrea T. H. W. You’re so funny! We all use social media differently. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it.

      •  @ginidietrich Well this consoles me a lot. 🙂
        Hoping wordreference has translated correctly. Happy weekend!
        P.s. tweeted and facebooked again. 😉

  • 40deuce

    Got to say that I mostly agree with your disagreement of that speaker @ginidietrich , but not completely.
    I do agree that you should do extensive listening to find out where your customers are and then put your efforts into being there as well. However, while not agreeing that you should be using every social platform, it is sometimes a great idea to try out different networks and see how they work for your company. There’s always new networks popping up, or you may have interested people on a certain social network, but they may not be talking to/about you there. By experimenting with the different networks you might unlock a hidden subset of people that you didn’t even know that you had. They may be on a network and just waiting for a reason to talk to/about you. Sometimes that will work and sometimes it won’t, but one of the beautiful things about social networks is that they’re still relatively new and allow for experimentation.
    Also, of course I always thank you for recommending Sysomos in here!
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    •  @40deuce I agree with you IF you have the resources (time or staff) to allow you to do this. However, most small business owners are wearing multiple hats and have to figure out where their time is best spent. 

      • 40deuce

         @ginidietrich True.

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  • alekswalsh

    Thanks for a great post Gini. I especially liked your focus on small business – it really helps me focus on what is truly important (and realistic) to do when it comes to social media.
    The 5 step process makes it easy to get started.

    •  @alekswalsh It’s sooooo easy to get overwhelmed! I know I’m feeling that with an email marketing campaign we’re starting. But if we take it in bite sized pieces, it’s a little bit easier.

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  • jenn_seeley

    Great post! I could not agree more with your five step process. And thanks for the Radian6 mention – we appreciate the love 🙂
    Jenn Seeley – Community Engagement, Radian6

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  • taylorsstafford

    When developing a social media strategy, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the process of implementation and measurement. Your blog post sheds much needed light on the overall process of the functionality of a social media strategy. Listen, assess, engage, measure, and improve, is the fundamental groundwork for using the social web to reach your target audience. I think that if more companies laid out their online outreach in this simple manner and then strategized within each category, they would be successful on a more consistent basis

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