Three years ago, I was contacted by a marketing representative of a large European company to write a white paper describing my vision for social media within businesses. Now that the social media boom is looming, I have decided to revise and update my recommendations:
- Communities are important, but not every brand has one. Communities are built around a common interest and the need for people to help each
other. Just because some people are merely buying products doesn’t mean
that they are part of a community. Companies need to foster community
feelings before thinking of orchestrating a community. For detailed
tips on how to foster communities refer to Hagel and Armstrong’s “Net Gain“.
- Don’t confuse comments with collaboration. Collaboration is about working together and from the bottom up. This includes encouraging people from the shopfloor to come forward and
letting clients talk to one another. Not all companies are prepared for
this, and it may take a while before they are.
- Avoid the meatball sundae effect: Before launching a social media initiative, make sure your brand can be
aligned with the social media spirit of transparency, openness and
willingness to engage with visitors. If your brand is incompatible with
this and refuses debate, suggestions and criticism, perhaps social
media is not for you.
- Facilitate, facilitate, facilitate: To create an effective collaborative website, it needs to be kept up-to-date and
refreshed continuously, especially at the beginning of the initiative.
You need to respond to suggestions or comments as soon as they have
been added. The social media etiquette approves of prompt
replies because it shows the interest that your organisation has in its
- Respect your community and no hard-selling: Social media users come to your websites to gather information, to exchange,
share and receive too, but they will not stick around to look at your
product descriptions, unless they are particularly interesting
or tempted to provide feedback on them. If you want to sell your wares
on social media, use permission marketing and disclosure.
- Great causes can work wonders: It helps to think big and adopt a stance on the big questions. If all you do with social
media is talk about yourselves and your company, you will attract a
limited amount of traffic. A great example is Kaiser Permanente’s story on its fight in favour of healthier eatin....
- Think user-benefit vs. company-benefit: Put others first and your business interests and objectives second. Your tone of
voice has to be very straightforward and very honest and you have to
avoid patronizing your visitors.
- Openness, transparency and disclosure: Collaboration implies transparency. Avoid creating fake blogs, fake posts and fake
reviews at all cost. Infiltrating social media with your hard sell
message is frowned upon and will be detected quickly by the people you
are trying to reach. Check the SMBC disclosure page for details.
- Execution is everything. An effective social media initiative requires a strong company commitment involving many
different people in the organisation. The more commitment you get from
the people you work with, the more it shows through to your audience.