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Opinion: Online public opinion is the key to a successful social media strategy

To be successful in this market, online agencies must be looking at all other avenues of the "buzz generation" like organic word-of-mouth campaigns, supporting audio and video content, social networking platforms, more traditional support and that darling of social media, Twitter -- however, we must recognise that not all avenues will work.

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A well-rounded campaign will get your advocates talking, your detractors to change their minds and your unawares to take notice.

Finding the online tactics for different (often opposite-minded) audiences in one overarching creative concept is difficult, but not impossible.

The key is getting it in the right order -- and the only way to do that is to know where to start listening.

Every social media campaign should start with an analysis on all social media sites to get the full gambit of what the public is saying.

From there you can deduce which avenues are likely to be the most effective and which ones you should be staying away from.


Here's a bit of what you're likely to find.

Twitter

Will always work best for companies that actually want to talk with their consumers.  You can't hide behind a corporate logo here.

Corporate Twitter is all about interaction, customer satisfaction, sharing and gathering information.

If your intended public is complaining about you, why not step in and make things right?

For inspiration, take a look at US cable and broadband company, Comcast's Frank Eliason, who's taken customer service to new levels.

Facebook

Facebook is by nature a closed community and takes the threat of spam by companies very seriously.

Generally, to see any success, you need to have a lot of money to invest, a very well-known name and a relatively positive reputation online.

Users are not likely to align themselves with any group or campaign that they do not fully support, so make sure there's some interest before you invest too many hours.

For inspiration take a look at Burger King's recent work with the Whopper Sacrifice.

Corporate Blogging

Ever since GM paved the way with Fastlane in 2005, corporate blogs have been instrumental in corporate communications.

For large companies in particular, there are few transparent ways to distribute news, respond to issues and interact with employees, members of the public and shareholders.

But that's what corporate blogging is about -- information.

The corporate blog can be an effective tool for all companies -- from those seeking to change public opinion to those wanting to reinforce their positive reputations.

For inspiration, check out all of GM's blogs.

Viral Content

How many disastrously unsuccessful viral videos have you seen?

I'm willing to bet the answer is one to nil. The only videos that are passed around are the ones that are really good or really bad. There is very little joy in the middle.

For a video to make it, it has to be edgy, unique, thought-provoking or at least giggle-provoking and fresh.

The good news is, it can work with any company, any brand and at any time. The bad news, it's really hard to do correctly.

For inspiration, check out the 'Little Gordon' campaign from Catering.com.

Social Networks

Believe it or not, there are social networks outside of Facebook.

Many of them are hosted on Ning -- a sort of DIY social network portal.  Anyone with an account can go in and create a social network page for any topic or group.

For companies, this resource tends to work best with niche or cult brands which have a following and are talking, but have no place to gather online.

For inspiration, check out another one of GM's gems, IM Saturn -- the social network for Saturn brand car enthusiasts.

The most important thing to remember is not to put the cart before the horse.

We all know by now how important it is to be involved in social media, but what's the point in spending tons of hours following people on Twitter who don't care what you have to say or setting up a Facebook Fan Page for a brand everyone hates?

Listening to what your audience says about you online is the only way you'll know how to talk to them.

Graham Lee, co-managing director, onlinefire.

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