The buzz on social media keeps growing. Asok scored a book deal this morning. He’s the engineering intern on Dilbert. As the Pointy-Haired Boss was blathering on about customer non-service, the engineering team is tweeting his comments. Dilbert’s company hired a social media marketing manager. Marketing people evidently are under increased pressure to find new ways to promote the company message. Like converts to a new charismatic religion, they generate lots of energy.

People want to communicate. “Blogging” was developed merely as a method using the power of Web technologies for an individual to publish her thoughts. Others wrote articles speculating about just what it was–but that’s all. I can publish my thoughts on manufacturing, society, innovation, soccer…and need not be a magazine editor or famous author.

Then the energy took off–can we share photos (Flickr), videos (YouTube), short thoughts (Twitter), locations (FourSquare). It’s all about self-publishing and sharing.

Now for your advanced marketing course using social media–think back to “The Cluetrain Manifesto.” Markets are conversations, they said. Customers want to be treated like adults as part of the conversation, not to be talked at like so much that passes for marketing communications does.

Many rush out and start a blog. Start a YouTube channel. Get a twitter account and hashtag search term. Man, we’re in the forefront now. Some large companies have one person on twitter. Some have none. Some don’t know if they have customers and prospects who read their blog, check the LinkedIn or Facebook group.

Like everything, if you want it to work, you have to work it. A blog takes time to develop. I probably wrote for six months before many noticed. I’ll shortly complete seven years. Some tips:

If you are thinking about tools to promote an event, don’t start a blog three months before kickoff and expect to have a huge impact. Find a good writer with a clear voice. Start writing about cool things happening in the company, market, among customers, developers. Write several times a week. Promote the blog on the company home page. Link to it on your external and internal communications. Write informally with lots of information–not in marketing speak. Don’t be obnoxious. Try to engage your reader’s attention.

If you are doing Twitter. Sign up lots of people. Get 50 internal people. Get the important media people to recognize it. Get 100 customers. Teach them how to tweet. How to search. What those darn hashtags (for example coming up are #EMRex and #OpsManage–they are not case sensitive) are for.

Get people to put photos on Flickr and tag them to your event.

Most of all, like all marketing communications–be consistent. This is a year-round endeavor. Just giving a shot once in a while–like consumer coupon marketing–won’t give you the juice you need.

Take, for example, Jim Cahill at Emerson Process Management and the proprieter of the Emerson Process Experts blog. Last year his group put out clear instructions about using twitter during Emerson Exchange. I must have gotten at least 50 new followers from that. And, we could keep a conversation up during the event–cool things we saw, cool topics to hit, where to go. This year, he’s building on that success with even more instruction.

Check this out from a recent blog essay:

Visiting the Emerson Exchange Live and Virtually

For those who can (and can’t) attend this year’s Emerson Global Users Exchange in San Antonio, Texas, Jim Cahill is conducting a Twitter 101 Live Meeting session on Friday, September 17 at 10am CDT / 15:00 UTC. Click to join the meeting.

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