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If you have made the step to start using social media marketing for your business to generate sales, leads and to build a community, what should be the first step? Should you start with blogging, Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn? What should you do first?

The first step with any social media marketing is to start listening to the conversation online and to get an understanding of what people are currently talking about that is relevant to your business, products, services and even competitors. Before you start engaging with your target audience, do you know who they are and where they can be found online? Are there any people that are influential in your audience that you can tap into to make your campaign a success? Where can your target audience be found online? There are thousands of social media channels online and it’s important to know which ones you are going to target.

Your priority when starting with a social media campaign should always be to setup a listening process which will allow you to be proactive with your approach instead of reactive. By taking a proactive approach with your campaign you will be able to respond within a couple of minutes to anyone talking about anything relevant about your business. By monitoring the social web for your brand can help you build a solid reputation around your business that you are there to help your customers.

There are many tools you can use to monitor the online conversation. Many of the tools are free and some are expensive depending on what you want to achieve out of it, but if you want to start with a listening process, simply start by doing a search on Google for the terms you want information about. You can also use Google’s Free Tool Alerts to setup key phrases to monitor. Every time Google picks up on one of these phrases, you are notified via email with a link to the mention.

Social media is great for listening. Make it your priority to start with listening before jumping in on the social media bandwagon.