You Just Can’t See It. Or you don’t want to see it.
Over the roughly two decades that I’ve been involved with business, either as an entrepreneur, an executive director or a social media strategist, I’ve heard the same frustration voiced over and over again, in almost every market I’ve worked in. After hours, weeks or sometimes months of seemingly endless meetings, late-night war room strategy sessions and presentation after presentation of focus group reports, eventually the people in charge of making the decisions for the direction of an organization bury their face in their hands and declare in frustration and defeat, “if only we knew what everybody wanted from us, we could just give it to them“.
This has applied to product development, marketing campaigns, service implementation…anything and everything a company (for profit or not) could possibly put together to offer a group of people. “If only we could find out what our customers want…”
Studies are ordered. Thousands of dollars…or millions…are spent on consultants and burned up in labor hours. When the senior management team meets to discuss, debate and dissect the data, 20% of the organization’s labor dollars are being paid out for each hour they cannot figure out what their audience wants. At some point or another, late into the night, one of the people around the tables feels the frustration of a seemingly insurmountable task. They want to be home with their family, they want to get back to the work they were hired to do instead of trying to figure out puzzles…they want to solve the mystery of how to move forward. But how? And then the idea is presented:
“We should try social media. I know we already have a Facebook and Twitter page, but instead of just posting something once a week, why don’t we ask the people that follow us what they want, and then listen to them? Also, why don’t we pay for a monitoring service so we know what people are saying about us and even our competitors? People are already telling us what they want, we just need to listen, reply and implement”
The silence only last for a moment, before a chorus of “we will lose control of the message” and “we can’t create a forum for negative comments” starts. The boss makes an expression that is a combination of fear and patronization and simply says, “that’s too risky, we’re not doing it” before starting a discussion about when the best time to meet again will be to tackle this impossible chore.
Sometimes what you need is right in front of you, you just can’t see it…or worse yet, you don’t want to see it.
As somebody that develops strategy for large corporate brands, I often work with different types of brand advocates in various social media channels. A common tactic of many marketers and PR professionals is to try to go after “influencers” to get them to talk about their product. Sometimes these influencers are individuals, sometimes they are communities, but a common denominator is that they have substantial audience sizes. The typical way of approaching these people or groups is to ship them a sample of your product and include a note that says something like, “Hope you enjoy this, please blog about it”. I think this is a good shotgun approach to communities, it’s a good step up from a press release and it gets your product information out to a lot of people very quickly. For individuals, I think we have to look at a more measured and personal approach.
To truly be effective in social media with influencers, I think you need to build a relationship, not ship a press package. You also have to recognize and understand the different groups that exist in social media, so you know how to develop and target brand programs and exposure. In case you fear that I’m starting to sound a little too professional and polished in this approach, I submit for your approval a hand drawn diagram in the picture to the left. Fancy, isn’t it? I put this beauty up on our office white board this morning while talking through the concept with a client.
Before we discuss what to do with these various groups, let’s start by defining them.
I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do. This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those. Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.
Know Your Audience
Your audience is not “everybody” unless you are selling oxygen or religion…and even then there are plenty of people that don’t want either. If you really think you can reach everybody, you are sorely mistaken. You’re also going to be working 24/7 and going broke, because you cannot target everybody. Now that we have established that, this is another great conversation to have with your client. They probably have a pretty good idea of who their target audience is; make sure you understand who they are going after. If you’ve done your homework (by knowing the product) then you can and should add to this conversation. Once you understand the person that you are trying to reach you can start developing a strategy that will include some social media channels but not others. Your strategy should also tell you when you should be active online (based upon when the target audience is), how often to engage them and what sort of external resources you should link to that will add value to the community. If your client has no idea who they are targeting, I would suggest that you consider working this out with them before you start, it will prevent a lot of frustration from both sides.
I recently wrote a paper for a client called “Best Corporate Blogging Practices” as they are about to launch their first company blog. There were more than a few questions about what do do and what to avoid when blogging for their organization, so I want to share my thoughts with you.
This short guide should serve as a set of suggestions and ideas for corporate blogging. Please do not think that these are hard and fast rules, because your blogging style should be unique to your organization. As you get a little farther down the blogging road, you will naturally develop a voice and style that is true to your company, and that is what will keep people coming back for more.