Field of DreamsI talk to people every day about social media and there is a common theme: “I don’t understand why I care what people say on Twitter” or “I have a Facebook fan page, but no one is talking to me there” or “I have a LinkedIn profile, but I own the company so I don’t see a need for updating it.”

Everyone is so focused on the tools, and not the philosophy or the strategy, that it’s no wonder it’s overwhelming and exhausting…and that it’s not working for some.

So let’s start from the beginning. If you’re thinking about social media, from a tool perspective (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, Google Wave, Yammer, etc.), you’re not ever going to achieve what you want, both from business and personal points of view.

Social media is about having better relationships.

* Better relationships with your customers/clients.

* Better relationships with employees or colleagues.

* Better relationships with prospective customers/clients.

* Better relationships with stakeholders.

* Better relationships with potential talent.

Better relationships, on a one-to-one level, using the tools that are available to you (right now) to make you more efficient.

Most of us that spend time daily in social media understand the value and power of it.

* A customer who is unhappy can be turned into a brand ambassador, just by listening to what they have to say, responding to them, and making changes.

* A new product or location can be launched by crowdsourcing ideas from your community in order to make them feel like they have ownership in your brand.

* Someone across the country or even overseas has access to your product or service.

But none of these things happen if you build your social networks and expect people to come to you. Or if you use the social networks as just another way to sell your wares.

I want you to do two things:

1. Listen, listen, listen. Listen to what people are saying online about you, your company, your competitors, and your industry. Tools such as Google alerts, Backtype, and TweetBeep will help you do just that and will send you alerts so you don’t have to go out and get the information yourself.

2. Think about social media as a way to network 24/7. What is the first thing you do when you go to a networking event (after you get a drink)? You introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. You join a conversation. You ask questions. You listen. Then you decide if the people you’ve met are going to become a referral source, a new customer, a new employee, or a new friend.

If you listen and if you network, once you build your channels (on the platforms where your audiences already are) they will come.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich