originally posted on Concept Hub
Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with organizations of all sizes; from projects for Fortune 100 well-known brands to consultations with solo-preneurs. Although there are some basic rules that apply to social media no matter the organization, the approach and expectations are vastly different based on your industry and how your organization is positioned in the marketplace.
This is why I often cringe when clients or peers reference what big brands are doing in social media as an example of how they would like to build their strategy. Besides the fact that big brands tend to have more money to experiment with and access to large agencies, the challenges, and opportunities that a big brand faces are vastly different than what a startup or even a mid-sized company is facing. This is also why, when choosing an agency to help you with your social media plan, it is best to work with someone who has already experienced the challenges you will be facing.
In a recent course I delivered I segmented the types of challenges that each of three different types of organizations faces and where their focus would be.
For big brands, we are not just talking about the size of an organization but also how well they are known in the marketplace. Think Coca-Cola, Chick-Fil-A, Nestle.
For these brands, there is already a large volume of conversation about them happening on the web whether they choose to participate or not. The goal is to understand what is being expressed in order to capitalize on the positive sentiment while managing any negative backlash. This is something that Nestle did not do very well when launching their Facebook Page.
Secondary to understanding the brand’s social strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is to maintain brand integrity while amplifying the conversation, rallying the community around a goal, cause, or product, and measure the effectiveness.
Big brands have a lot to get their arms around when leveraging social media, but creating buzz usually isn’t one of the big hurdles.
I have to admit, I have the most fun working with companies who are building a community around a passionate cause. Oftentimes I get to work with passionate causes through a nonprofit client.
A passionate cause can be anything from curing cancer to running. It is a cause or activity that people are consumed by. They are involved in the community, not for money, but for the greater good (personal or global), to make a difference, and to be part of a community. This is the kind of stuff that social media was created for.
Like big brands, those organizations that are part of a passionate cause have a huge community of people already involved in social media. The challenge is, they may not be involved with your organization. There are so many competing groups, events, organizations, and chatter, it takes work to get people focused in one direction. When working with nonprofits the challenge is compounded by a lack of time and resources to nurture the existing communities. Too many times groups have fallen for the idea of “build it and they will come” hoping that a plug and play social media platform will solve all the problems.
The goal should be to focus on building a community, starting with each person that is involved with the organization. Toss aside the marketing speak and share stories. In the case of the passionate cause, my most relevant twitter-sized philosophy is:
Your best assets are hidden. Locked away in your heart, mind, & experiences. Social Media is a place where you can set them free.
I recall sitting in a staff meeting at one of the nonprofits I was working with and just feeling the passion from each team member. They knew, without a doubt, the difference they were making. When I shared with them ways they could release that energy from beyond the walls of their building I could see the excitement. In a few short months, they have done an amazing job telling their stories and inspiring clients and volunteers to share their stories as well. They have also taken steps to participate in other communities, sharing ideas and stories and thus expanding their reach exponentially. For a passionate cause, the goal is to rally the community to contribute online and to share their passions throughout the web.
No Names could be a start-up company, but it could also be a large company in an industry that no one really thinks about often in their daily lives, such as Retirement Planning.
The challenge is to build trust, create relevancy, provide daily value, and to tie it back to the organization’s bottom line. For me, this is where I wear my consultative, relationship building, sales hat. But it has to be more than a hat, it has to be authentic.
When you are building your brand name you are networking (social networking). You are getting to know people are their terms, caring about what they care about and sharing stories and information that help them achieve their goals. It is all about service. I am reading the book about Zappos, Delivering Happiness. Their story is the perfect example of how to build a brand and build a community through the heart of a servant. Zappos sells shoes, online! and they survived two significant recession and continue to thrive. They did this by caring about people. They cared about people before social media and then through social media. When you are working on a social media strategy for an organization that is a no name, don’t worry so much about building your name. Instead, consult, serve, and entertain, and your network will build your name for you.
No matter your organization, always remember social media is always about people first.
originally posted on Concept Hub
I was sitting at a coffee shop this past week and overheard a conversation between an agency sales rep and his prospect. I wasn’t *trying* to listen, but the sales rep mentioned social media, which for me is likened to someone calling my name.
Basically, the prospect was interviewing a new agency to fix his broken online communications strategy. He wanted to be able to learn more about his visitors and to know more about what makes them buy. He also wanted to know what to do with the information that he is able to collect about his audience. The prospect wisely said that he felt having a website was not enough, he needed to go where his prospects were.
This is when the sales rep brought up social media. The prospect immediately shot the idea down. He said that the *proven* methods of online communications were not working for him right now and that they needed to fix that before they ventured into dubious territory. He had a good follow-up point in that he mentioned he had been looking at various blogs and communities and did not see any two-way communication happening.
This reminded me of a small research project I completed a couple of weeks ago. I was tasked with looking for a well-known brand being mentioned in the blogosphere. The first thing I found were bloggers writing about the case study of the success of the social media campaign for this brand. As I began to dig a little more I recognized that every place this brand was mentioned was basically an endorsement, paid for or positioned within a pitch, to blogs that were acting like online magazines. I was not able to obtain any Market Intelligence from the information that was available.
When I first started this agency, 3 years ago, I was trying to tell people about this new trend called social media that they needed to learn more about. Now people are approaching me ready to jump into the deep end of social media. I have started to ask the question “what do you expect in return for your social media efforts?” I have been amazed at the number of blank stares I have received.
Social Media is not a magic elixir. Even if it was, you would still need to know what you wanted before you applied it. But the reality is that blogs, facebook, twitter, videos, podcasts, rss, tags, sms and whatever else you want to throw into the mix are nothing more than tools.
Or the other cliche’ in sales is that you do not buy a drill, you buy the ability to put holes in a wall.
The same is true with social media. You need to know what you want to do, why you want to do it, and what it should look like in the end.
Basically, before you set out to build anything or go anywhere, you need to know the destination, or to quote Steven Covey “begin with the end in mind.”
The desired “end” should not be a guess however, it should be determined based on the needs of your organization, your customers, your partners, your vendors, basically, whoever is going to be involved in this journey.
You need to survey the landscape. In the case of the research I conducted for the brand, I recommended that we not focus on who is mentioning the brand, but on the types of things, people do with the product, the types of problems the product solves. Our goal was to engage with the customers and to survey the landscape we had to find where the customers were online. This meant we needed to expand our scope.
Once we know the destination, the map is created after we survey the current resources, eliminating anything that is weighing us down and upgrading anything that is getting old and rusty. As I have mentioned before, social media should not be seen as an “add-on” but as an evolution, in the ways we communicate with each other. Then we can learn how to best use the equipment that was chosen to get us to our selected destination.
In regards to the man in the coffee shop, my fear is that he was trying to polish old equipment that he was comfortable with because he had already witnessed so many people fumbling with these newfangled toys without any clear idea of what to do with them.