Central Wisconsin Social Media Conference CWISMC wausau Jim CarlsonYesterday, October 20, I had the privelege of attending the Central Wisconsin Social Media Conference held at the Westwood Conference Center in Wausau. Presented by the UWSP Small Business Development Center, the conference went beyond the mechanics of social media, but presented the opportunities and challenges in putting together an effective social media plan.

Biggest takeaway of the conference: Social Media is a changing field and you can’t get stuck on one particular platform, be it Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. You need to first look at where your customer, fans, and followers congregate and engage with them on the forums and places that they hang out. Does it make sense to spread your resources between Facebook and Twitter when the majority of your customers are just on Facebook? Or does it make sense to develop a presence on Google+ even if your core market isn’t there yet.

Now I’m not advocating that you don’t just focus on one channel at the expense of others. Social media is still a relative newcomer in the grand scheme of things, and even though Facebook seems to have thoroughly penetrated our mindshare,  there is still potential for a newer and better social sharing platform to come along. (remember MySpace or Friendster?)

Thanks to Jim Carlson and Michelle Rothmeyer of TMA Peritus, two of the presenters at yesterday’s conference, getting ahead in social media marketing is to build a plan, monitor it’s effectiveness, and adjust if necessary. Figure out what your goals are for social media. It could be to convert lookers into buyers, drive people into your storefront, or create a online conversation that puts your product at the top of mind.

Once your goals are established, research where your customers and potential customers hang out, and start engaging with them. Build a conversation and listen to their feedback. Social Media is a two way forum, you can’t just push out media. You need to actively listen and respond to your fans.

Finally, monitor and track the results. Is Facebook or Twitter driving traffic to your website? Are people coming into your store mentioning your online specials? Do people stop you on the street and say “I love your blog?” Take this data and make adjustments to your plan.

Finally, the one thing I can’t stress enough is to not “be that guy” on social media. Just like the overbearing person at a party that monopolizes the conversation, If you are constantly plastering your community with nonstop messages, people will leave.

Does your business have a social media plan? How are you engaging with your customers?