You may not blog, tweet, or plank, but if your customers are interested in any of those then you need to understand them and figure out your company’s position. I often hear from clients or audience members at my presentations when I show Twitter or Planking that neither is something that they do. My response is that it does not matter what they or I do, but what their customers do. Just because their customers might tweet or plank, it does not necessarily mean that they have to, but they should at least understand the behaviors and drivers with respect to their customers when it comes to social media.

Are customers looking for information? Sharing information? Socializing? Playing games? Whatever they are doing, companies need to know and understand so that they have a better idea about where and how to engage them. The sales mantra “fish where the fish are” applies here. If a company’s customers are to be found in the more predominant social networks or in niche networks or sites, then that kind of information needs to be gathered so that the outreach to customers can be planned appropriately.

What if your customers are not on Facebook or Twitter but have a strong presence on LinkedIn? What would such an insight mean to your marketing and business development strategies? What if customers were in a number of smaller niche sites like NingViadeo, or something else? Are you prepared to manage multiple community initiatives to achieve a cumulative effect with customers?

These questions cannot be answered properly without some research and preliminary engagement on a number of social networking fronts. Some customers will make their presence obvious while others will only be discovered through some social media monitoring efforts looking for keywords, brand mentions, and customer service-related discussions. If companies do nothing else in terms of social media strategy, they should at least listen. By doing so they will come to understand what is being said, by whom, where, and in what context. As a result, companies will gain valuable insights regarding improvements to their products or services, what people like or don’t like about their competitors, and new ideas for unmet needs. Who wouldn’t find that valuable?

Companies have to adjust their behavior, proactively or reluctantly, in order to meet their customers where they are, even if it means breaking convention. Customers want companies to be more social. After all, it is “social media.” The onus is on companies to stop being wallflowers and get out there and dance — or plank, if necessary.