Tools of the Trade

By Kate Pavao, June 2010

According to Chris Brogan, many executives still need basic training. “Executives hear about the tools, know what they’ve read, but haven’t really tried them beyond some casual account-making, and/or over-the-shoulder viewing,” he tells Profit Online. “Using social tools is akin to using the phone at this point. Can you imagine an executive not knowing how to use the phone?”

In Brogan’s latest book, Social Media 101, the president of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency profiles today’s top tools, gives advice to would-be bloggers, and even tells you how to make time for your web 2.0 habit. Here, he talks to Profit Online about mistakes to avoid, how to measure your success, and the new social media tools you should check out.

Profit Online: Profit spoke to you last year about your book Trust Agents. What’s changed since then? Are we getting any better at using these tools?

CB: More people are using social media tools, but they’re not using them well. Many people’s first forays into using social tools start with using them like their old channels: like advertising or brute force marketing.

People have to experiment, have to get their feet wet, and have to test out ways to mix connecting and relationship-building into their repertoire. Here’s a hint: beating your customers with endless letters until they buy doesn’t fly in email marketing. It surely doesn’t work in social media any better.

Profit Online: You talk about the role of the community manager in your book, who is both gatekeeper and ambassador. Can you talk a little more about who this person should — and shouldn’t be?

CB: I find that customer service often turns up the kind of hero we need.

Community managers are often like enhanced customer service people. The difference is that customer service mostly deals with managing problems and exceptions, where community managers should blend their error handling with marketing and other relationship-based connecting. Marketing department employees aren’t always the best community managers, as they are sales-focused.

Profit Online: How do you measure your social media success?

CB: The investment in social media is reasonably low from a dollars perspective, and reasonably high from a labor-intensity perspective. We understand time and money. What we don’t understand well and what doesn’t fit neatly into a balance sheet are those actions that build up good will, that build up loyalty, that build up potential long-term customers. If I buy you dinner and we laugh and have a great time, our next meeting will go better. Return on that kind of influence is a good thing to build, even if it doesn’t immediately translate into obvious dollars. The trick is in knowing where to put those hours.

Profit Online: In your book, you say, it’s not the tools but "what we do with them that “counts” — but are there new tools on the market that you are particularly excited by?

CB: I’m always excited by listening and analysis tools. I want everyone to “grow bigger ears.” Visit my blog and you can get instructions on how to build a free listening station— plus some links to some of the paid platforms.

To me, the next big step for business leaders is figuring out how to “listen at the point of need,” a line I got from Marcel Lebrun from Radian6. People are offering up their interests and requests and desires via the social web every day. If you have what they need, there are opportunities to get into the selling cycle on the spot, instead of waiting.