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Pam Springer and Manta help companies gain their footing with social media Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2010

So you’ve bought in to the hype and you want to take the plunge into social media. Do you have a plan for how you’re going to do it? If you don’t, you may want to grab the aspirin bottle because you’ve got some tough days ahead of you.

“If someone is not organized in what they want to get out of the initiative, it’s probably going to look like a disorganized implementation from people on the other end looking at it,” says Pam Springer, president and CEO at Manta Media Inc. “One day, you have a voice that sounds like this, and the next day, it sounds like that. I would just be clear about what you want out of it and work your way into it.”

Springer is no stranger to the online world. Manta is the largest free source of information on small companies, with profiles of more than 64 million businesses and organizations. The company launched in 2005 and now has 53 employees, and Springer says the key to succeeding on the Web is having a plan.

“The Web is very forgiving, so it’s not like you have to have everything lined up,” Springer says. “But be mindful that once it’s out there, it’s out there for a while. Try to stay organized and deliver pertinent, salient information that you would like to see as opposed to unorganized commentary that doesn’t add a lot of value or potentially even alienates yourself.”

One of the first steps is to figure out what audience you are trying to capture by using social media.

“Is it for my customer?” Springer says. “Is it for my industry? Is it for my business peers? Am I trying to get contacts? Am I trying to get more revenue? Am I trying to get more industry visibility? Be consistent with who you assign it to. Those goals are all different. Just the awareness of that will help you evolve what the priorities are for that site as opposed to another social media site.”

If you’re struggling to get past this stage, you might want to begin by looking at what other companies are doing with social media. Jot down some things you like and some things you don’t like about what you see.

“It does allow you to participate reactively so you don’t have to have a proactive program going,” Springer says. “You can just participate and watch, which can give you a lot of knowledge. You can watch your competitors and your industry peers. You can watch the trade people within your industry who write articles or reports.”

Another good starting point is to find a site such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Manta and build a profile for your company. Some of the business sites, such as Manta or Jigsaw, may already have a profile started for your business.

“Go out and see where your company is visible,” Springer says. “See who is reporting on your company and participate in that. Get it accurate. Get it better. Use it as a form of promotion. When you go on the site, there are lots of features you can choose to participate in to add to those promotional capabilities. Do a vanity search and see what comes up.”

One thing to remember is that it will take an investment of time to really make an impact with social media.

“You have to do something today and tomorrow and the next day to keep it going,” Springer says. “It’s very much event-based. You have to think about what is it going to take to get to critical mass to make this a worthwhile initiative. You have to continuously care for and feed these programs if you want to market yourself that way. If you’re going to step up to the plate, I would first observe and watch my industry and watch my competitors before I jump right in and try to market it.”

How to reach: Manta Media Inc., (614) 807-5105 or www.manta.com

Find your voice

If you feel like you have an idea about the technical aspects of social media but find it still isn’t working for you, perhaps you haven’t found your voice yet. You need to give people a reason to want to come back again and again to see what you have to offer or read what you have to say.

“You get a following if you have some grains of wisdom, whether they be about business in general, like operating tips, all the way to industry tips,” says Pam Springer, president and CEO at Manta Media Inc., a 53-employee company that operates a massive online database for information on small businesses.

“People can say they agree or disagree, but they appreciate insight or comments. A lot of people are starting to see success. They are building their own voice around the capability or competency that they express to an audience. That starts to follow them around as some of these tips and techniques are helpful to individual users and to other companies.

“To the degree you can extend it and make it personal and release granules of wisdom every day, that’s a very compelling way to at least start building a social media following.”

If you’re still struggling with what to do, you have time. But the longer you wait, the more you’ll have to play catch-up.

“If you haven’t participated, it’s going to be that much more foreign,” Springer says. “It will transition to something. It’s a continuum. The continuum will go, and you’ll have a lot more work to do to catch up.”