Much has been written about staking out a presence in social media and how this marketing platform is not a fad but rather the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution. Many brands have diligently gone out and planted their stake in an attempt to be social. While the strategy is sound and these businesses have the best of intentions, execution leaves a lot to be desired. This divide generally manifests itself in a focus on the “media” rather than the “social”.
Part of this is due to the nature of advertisers to see locations like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter as fresh media outlets; new places to distribute and broadcast their message. As such, it is easy to perceive success when a Twitter follower count reaches a certain level, or a Facebook contest succeeds in sparking some momentary activity. However, as social is not a passive broadcast media, it is not enough to simply have a presence or even to populate that profile with compelling content pointing back to your corporate website.
Results come from interaction. Not the initiation of conversations but rather the practice of responding to existing threads, and preferably hosting some of those conversations on your own site. That said, community gatherings take place organically where a community gathers, and you need to take part in those conversations, at least in part. Do not react to everything. Reply just enough to let the community know that you are part of the conversation, but not to the point where you are saturating the environment, or worse yet, generating the perception that you are present there purely for commercial reasons.
The tactical difficulty is that it is time-consuming to monitor and reply to conversations. It is thus important that employees across the organization be educated in using social sites and are encouraged to interact within the confines of provided corporate guidelines. Postings and more notoriously, comments sections, are going to contain factual errors, be they deliberate or on accident. Your team can use the opportunity to step in and correct errors as a way to take part in the conversation.
Often, the community is grateful to learn that the business is listening and, even better, attentive. Comments like “it is so rare for someone from the inside to respond” reflect the appreciation these steps generate. This helps a company build a brand and goodwill. Reaching out with a comment on a blog or a post on a social network also can hold the potential of having someone read of your activity and suggest new business leads and contacts.
Social is a conversation, and conversations by definition involve multiple speakers and listeners. It is not enough to just show up and broadcast your advertisement. You need to dive in, listen, and respond robustly.