2011 starts a new journey for many in the world of social media. It’s a year where people will move on from just talking about why you should participate and get more active and strategic about the way you engage. Let’s face it, we can spend a lot of time engaging directly with our customers and consumers whether it be through twitter, facebook or other platforms, so it’s worthwhile to take some time out at the beginning of the year and really think about what you want to achieve.

Remember the beauty of social media is that it’s often a collaborative platform and all of us are learning, so if you don’t know how to do something or want to discover more, all you have to do is ask and people are more than willing to help out.

Here’s a few tips to get you thinking to start the year…

1) Start with a health check – remind yourself about your reason for being on social media platforms and how it integrates with your broader marketing strategies. What lessons have you learnt from the past that you can optimise and what things do you think you could do better? Now is the time to really think about your social media strategy and how you can integrate with your broader marketing initiatives. Have you done simple things like:

  • Develop a communications calendar so you have some planned content and can integrate a range of your communication initiatives to have a bigger impact.
  • Putting a facebook like button on your website so people can automatically sign up to your fan page without interrupting their web experience
  • Included your social media profiles in your signatures and on your website so people know how to follow you
  • Thought about putting a computer monitor (or ipad) in your cellar door so people can sign up and follow you automatically?
  • Clean up your followers – get rid of those people who have not tweeted for over a year or who you never engage with.
  • Think about the frequency of your posts – there’s no rule about how often you should be communicating as long as you have something interesting to say.

2) Are you truly listening? Have you set up listening devices – it can be as simple as setting up a free google alert for your brand or using sites like socialmention.com or search.twitter.com to make sure you are collecting feedback about what people are really saying. There are some more sophisticated programs to allow you to listen and monitor your brand mentions, but for many small wineries some of the free monitoring tools will allow you to pick up 80% of results.

3) Engage with your followers through extraordinary experiences– Whilst keeping your fans and followers updated on your daily activities is part of the journey, those who are doing things well provide extraordinary experiences – competitions, polls, reasons for people to stay a fan and continue to engage with your brand. If facebook is your main social media platform then have a look at some of the third party applications like Involver or Wildfire or it may be more relevant to have a customised application built for you if the campaign is big enough. Remember you can’t post a competition directly on facebook (eg become a fan and win wine) without it going through a third party application or you’ll risk your page being shut down.

4) Get involved with mobile and geo-location – many are saying this will be the biggest trend this year and it’s worthwhile testing. Many South Australian wineries are reaping the benefits from initiatives like the Great South Australian Wine Australian that SA Tourism and the Qwoff Boys initiatived – If you are choosing not to be active with platforms like Gowalla, Facebook Places or Four Square you should at least understand the opportunity you are missing. If costs you very little to trial and may be a way of attracting and incentivising a new audience with your brand.

5) Think about your influence, not the number of people you follow – There’s been some great recent posts by Brian Solis, Chris Brogan and Rick Bakas, Matthew Creamer talking about your influence on social media platforms being more critical than numbers of people who follow you. Whilst there is some correlation between influence and followers it’s worth having a look at www.klout.com or  http://www.twitalyzer.com/ and understand just how influential you are.

6) Keep your Linked In Profile up to date – many underestimate the power of Linked In but it’s a powerful networking environment not just a way of gaining employment. Join relevant groups and participate in the conversations that are happening. There’s many features being developed for brands and companies so if you have not set up your Company or Brand on Linked In it’s worth doing so.