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Businesses, both large and small, are at an interesting juncture in South Africa with regard to social media.  There is a sense of anxiety about it.  Businesses are aware that they should be “doing” social media – the numbers are just too overwhelming to be ignored. But all too often there is a knee jerk reaction to it – slapping up a Facebook page, opening a twitter account and working desperately to rack up the followers and ‘likes’.

After a rush of excitement the pages go stale and the Twitter account lies dormant. Or worse, negative sentiment takes over and sits unresolved. (Examples are SAA’S Facebook page and @AltechAutopage’s Twitter account)

Like any failed plan the homework was left at home.

Before any business can implement a social media plan that will actually be sustainable there has to be a period of observation – listening to the conversation that is going on.

What crowds are talking about your industry, your brand, your competition?  Where are they having these conversations?

Only by having the complete picture can you then make the best use of the appropriate tools.  These days social media tends to be synonymous with Facebook or Twitter.  Yet there are so many platforms that focusing on those is like trying to see the entire room through a keyhole.  There are blogs (and there are at least 4 major blogging platforms); video sites, group buying and many more.

As when we were at school it always home work that ruins the afternoon. Often we would leave it for later only to be frantically scribbling on the bus the next morning to school.  The result was generally the same. Trouble. The most obvious solutions often tends to be ignored.  Do the homework and then spend a worry free and fun filled afternoon and evening doing what you want.

And so it is.  Doing your social media homework can be tedious and it can’t be rushed.  Patiently searching and looking and noting results.  Over a period of two weeks, or even a month the picture emerges.  You will know where you are.  And only once you know where you’re located can you figure out how to get from there to the destination.

Without this step you are squandering your investment in this platform.

The results that will come from proper observation will be clear.  Before long you will have built a community that is engaged enthusiastically with your product.