Thursday, 11 June 2009

Getting your attitude right with social presence is key

I was asked this week by another consultant (yes, we breed like rabbits!) what companies should be doing with social media and whether it is really worth the effort. Instead of laughing at the suggestion that it might be a futile investment, I thought about what is the best way to explain the context of social media to someone who doesn't know much about it. So I turned to the best possible example of how social marketing can engineer both a culture change & drive engagement with new audiences - the Barack Obama election campaign.

I love this quote from Mike Slaby, CTO of Obama for Amercia: "If you tread on people’s space, you’ll piss them off". That hits the nail on the head. To get social media, you have to change the mentality from a brand to a community member. You need to engage people with dialogue, not push marketing monologue at them. On Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc you are an equal member with everyone else, even if you have your own account you do not control the conversation. Why do you want to control conversation? That's not how a conversation works, that is more of a chaired panel session!

The challenge is to understand what you want to achieve from your social media presence, define the information you wish to communicate and then build relationships with key members (find the advocates, those controbuting the most and having the greatest influence on other members) so that you can get your message across without being seen as intrusive.

The other quote I really like from Mike is in relation to Twitter: "If you’re going to use Twitter, you have to have people in your organization who know how to tweet. And you have to trust your people and the people you’re talking about". What I like is the ethos of trust, empowering your employees to take ownership of social channels and giving them the freedom to build relationships and conversations using their voice and personality. By all means provide guidelines (you don't want people swearing and using offensive language, that could damage your reputation) but allow nature to take its course.

In social media I think that your personal voice is really important. People relate more to people, than companies. Establishing who you are and why you are there goes a long way to building trust and with trust comes a more open dialogue that enables you to achieve your communciation goals. Take a look at my last blog entry on Southwest Airlines for a great example of how employee empowerment can be put at the heart of a social media strategy.

Using commercial disciplines to plan a social media program is both sensible and recommended but the delivery has to be personal, relevant & engaging.

So what's my take out from this blog post?
1) Don't let your social program be brand-centric
2) Understand that people relate to people more than businesses
3) Get your employees excited about what social media can achieve
4) Empower employees to take ownership of social channels
5) Engage your community; ask questions, respond to queries, give them relevant content
6) Amongst this, weave in sensible promotions to drive traffic & sales on your commerce website.

Do you agree with my take? If you have any comments or questions please drop by and have a chat.

No comments: