Engaging with the media in an interactive manner is no longer a “nice to have” – it is a necessity. But, how much is enough and what are the true consequences of doing “just enough?” And, what if “just enough” isn’t? More often than not, “just enough” is anti-social, if not anti-business.
Here’s an example of “just enough” thinking:
Client: “Yes, we are even more active on Twitter and LinkedIn. We even post a blog now and again. We are with the program and making great progress. Let’s move on to talk about upcoming press releases.”
It was another one of THOSE meetings. You know — the one where an agency PR professional sits down to talk with their client about the next 90 days and beyond.
Me: How are your customers responding? What do the web analytics tell you? How often do customers respond directly? What insights do you glean that enable you to better meet your customer needs?” What road map changes have you implemented in response?”
You get the picture. In the not so rare scenario above, social media is a dreaded activity. Somehow this client is “using” social media without “getting” social media. Weird, eh? Not really.
The challenge is that for the past 40+ years, companies big and small have been comfortable with the press release, contributed article, op ed and other one-way tools. Twenty seven revisions, lawyer approved, every word analyzed and scrutinized documents that by the time they are “final final final 3.1.2” it is hard to understand the news. And good luck trying to understand the value proposition or dare I say, why a customer would want to purchase the product or service.
That old school mentality has led those types of companies, employees and corporate cultures to find a way to implement social media as one way. It is a check box.
The transformation that needs to take place is an understanding that PR today is a verb, not a noun. Engaging in social media just for the sake of “checking the box” is completely useless. If what you are saying isn’t growing followers, getting responses or making the phone ring, you’re not taking the verb approach.
Here’s another case in point:
Client: “We produce a technology that is used by only 20 companies worldwide. Why do we need a social media campaign? We know who our customers are and they know us.”
Me: “Exactly. You produce a chip that is put in a device manufactured by 20 companies that in turn is being used by millions of people. These are the same people who live in your community, buy your stock, and want to be sure that the products they buy contain parts from responsible companies.”
Yet another conversation that takes place more than a lot of people realize. There are only a dozen TV manufacturers or so, but we all have TVs. When we stand at Costco looking at TVs we think about brand, reputation, and community and how we feel about those products. We think about the people we know and if any of our friends work at those companies. Additionally, a vast majority of us went online to conduct research before looking at TVs.
What will customers find when they want to buy a product containing your technology? What is their relationship with the online community discussing the end product? Can you engage in an online dialog?
Q: So how much IS enough?
A: Enough social media activity that allows you to engage with your customers, provide access, differentiate yourself from the competition, build community and provide transparency in an open, engaging, fluff-free dialog.
For each company, “enough” is different. To find the answer consider the following:
1) When are your customers most active? What is the purchasing cycle? Is it tied to design cycles or consumer cycles?
2) Where are your customers? What online forums do they prefer? Is there a variety? How do customers get their online data? What sites do they deem as credible?
3) What content is most valuable? A contrarian point of view? A challenge of the status quo? A competitive analysis? An educational perspective? Humor? Analysis of recent development? CEO point of view? Field report from recent trip overseas? Man on the Street interview?
Now that you’ve thought about it, have key answers, and are ready to move forward, here are a few tips to get you started, or improve where you are:
- Build your base, know your followers.
- Evolve your message and engage in a dialog.
- Be conversational and down to earth.
- Be original – content, content, content!
- Implement web analytics.
- Count your “comments” and learn from them.
– If you don’t get any feedback then you don’t have followers or the content isn’t rich enough. If you get feedback keep going.
– Reply to comments as appropriate. Let readers know you value their insights. Good or bad, thank them for taking the time to respond and add to it.
– If you MUST clarify a point, do so in a friendly, open manner. Being defensive is a huge step backward.
If you’re new to social media, baby steps are okay. It’s okay to start slow and build up. Is there a story you read that you particularly liked? Comment on the story. This could be as simple as a more specific version of this:
“Great post, Bob. Thanks for addressing an issue few others have written about. It’s good to see this topic addressed and I hope others will follow. FYI, I have retweeted your story to my followers.”
Conversely, if there is something missed, by all means, add value and content. Here’s one example:
“Bob, your story was spot on from a US perspective. Recently, I was in Rwanda and was delighted to hear that customers feel vastly different about governments’ role in regulating the use of the Internet….”
Other baby steps you can take include:
1) Follow your key stakeholders including vendors within your supply chain, partners, competitors, press and analyst community on various social media platforms
2) Retweet stories from sources you value
3) Build your company’s LinkedIn profile
4) Build your own LinkedIn profile
5) Encourage others within your company to do the same.
In summary, social media is only social if you engage in two-way conversations. If your efforts are one directional, you are antisocial.
About The Guest Author: Marla Kertzman, Senior Vice President at Racepoint Group, has more than 20 years’ communications experience in corporate and agency environments, including startup, pre-IPO and Fortune 500 companies. She provides practical and aggressive hands-on expertise in day-to-day strategic and tactical programs. Marla’s specialty is helping clients transform and evolve messaging while improving brand awareness.