One of the biggest differences between social media and most other marketing channels is the idea of developing an audience. As a marketer, this may not seem all that new at first — you have a marketing database already, right? But an audience isn’t a database.
An audience chooses to listen to or engage with you. You earn your audience, by listening and engaging, by entertaining or by providing value. On Twitter, @comcastcares, @oatmeal and @thisissethsblog are good examples of each of these. More importantly, unless you are @charliesheen, developing an audience takes time. It takes hours (and hours), but it happens over weeks, months or more. And there is the rub for marketers.
Marketers test new opportunities. They rarely jump in with both feet. In social media, starting slowly is wise, starting half-heartedly is foolish. Cisco has seen huge success from social media (and other non-traditional channels) for product launches, but Cisco was investing in social media for years before seeing these results. More impressive even than the results is the breadth of the audience and publishing operation Cisco has created. This doesn’t happen overnight.
Social programs build momentum slowly, whether through listening and engaging people one-by-one or sharing great content. Every day, your results improve. Every day, more people come to you. More people listen. And every day, you have the opportunity to engage with a larger audience. It happens over time, and time is a luxury a pilot program does not have.
You can start small. But start your social media program with a long-term commitment to that small social effort. It needs time to grow.