It’s time to come out of your office and create engaged human-to-human relationships with prospects, customers, vendors and colleagues. The alternative is rapidly becoming unsustainable.
I hate to break it to you, but content isn’t advertising. It doesn’t spring forth from a focus group, brainstorming session or metrics. If you’re developing content based on what you’ve been told your customers want to hear, you’ll become just another part of the background noise. Your ‘content’ will look, and sound, like everybody else. If your goal is to grab attention, deliver ‘buzz’ and reach for the viral, you’ll be too busy and distracted to maintain the relationships you develop. You’ll be yesterday’s news in no time.
The internet of sage social media marketing advice is crowded. There are dozens of social marketing mavens waiting to outline your every step – from researching the customer right down to their most granular affinities, to delivering optimized, digitized, analyzed and thoroughly homogenized faux content. Long form advertising actually. But that isn’t content. Can you imagine The Beatles having written enduring rock classics in this manner? Is this how Spielberg imagines a film?
Great content can only come from knowing what your story – or mission – is, and honestly relating it. Instead of following the well-worn cues from the crowd, you share your unique, human experiences, expertise and insights. Think like a creative artist instead of a marketer. The best content creates a bond that holds readers over time instead of chasing the next viral post, offering the value of your insights and experiences.
Effective content should deliver four things to your fans and followers:
1- Information that educates, inspires and, if possible, excites the imagination.
2- Information that minds the ‘mission’ over the metrics, and is true to your brand.
3- Information that promotes dialogue over monologue.
4- Information that offers value.
Once you’ve fulfilled this promise of delivering value to your customers, fans and followers, then, by all means, optimize that effort through metrics.
1. Know your audience
It sounds so simple, but this type strategic planning is often overlooked when it comes to blogging. Who are you writing for? Your customers? Or is the goal to generate new business? Figuring out who you’re writing to will make it so much easier to get your content flowing.
2. Give your readers what they want
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. What are they looking for? How will they find you and what will keep them reading? If you’re writing for your customers, your posts can range from tips about how to use the product more efficiently to a write-up about how another company uses your product in an interesting way. The possibilities are endless, but always keep your audience in mind.
3. Keep it simple
Don’t overthink the content. Just write! Get the juices flowing and you’ll be happy with the results in the end.
4. Everyone is a genius!
One of my favorite quotes comes from Albert Einstein “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The point is that if you’re not a writer or you despise the thought of writing – don’t do it. Hire someone to write the blog posts for you. Keeping your blog up-to-date will help your company in so many ways. It’s worth the expense!
5. Find Inspiration
Use other blogs as your inspiration. Read, read, and read some more. There are millions of blogs, you’ll easily find content that you’re interested in. Look at the article from another perspective – that of a writer. Think about what you like about the blogs you follow and use that as your inspiration.
Is it better to have lackluster content or an outdated blog with none? That’s a subject for another time, but keep in mind the reason why you started a blog to begin with. Find a way to make it happen. I’m sure you have something interesting to say that someone out there is waiting to hear.
Infographics are definitely the flavor of the moment in social media. They are everywhere and becoming ubiquitous. They are instantly appealing with bright colors and snappy graphical design that delights the eye. They are rich in delicious little factoids and data nuggets. If you are like me – a visually oriented learner – the value of an infographic might seem obvious.
As the researcher and academician Edward R. Tufte has observed, “To envision information—and what bright and splendid visions can result—is to work at the intersection of image, word, number, art.”
What are infographics? They are visual representations of data – aka ‘data viz‘. Infographics take the pie chart, the bar chart and the line graph to dynamic new heights. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts, crafting a compelling – and sometimes entertaining – story from dry numbers and statistics. And, if you’ve ever tried to stay awake through a snooze-worthy powerpoint presentation of data that was merely a series of charts and lines, you knew there had to be a better way.
But are they really useful? Especially, when you stop to consider the time and cost of producing good infographics?
The Value of Visualization
As a graphic designer back in the day, I became interested in better ways of visualizing data when I discovered Edward Tufte and chartjunk. Looking for clearer ways to convey information for slide-driven meetings, Tufte was just the inspiration I sought. He gave me the ‘authority’ I needed to tell my clients and employers that Keeping It Simple, Stupid was the best … and really the only way. I carried around his witty publication “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within“. I was becoming an evangelist.
In today’s fast moving, information packed and data-driven world, we are bombarded with data about everything. From the latest political race, to How to Get Rid of a Tattoo, to an incredible Mars Rover landing, we are curating information based on what we value or need at the moment. Personally, I can’t imagine trying to digest all of this from whitepapers and online or mainstream broadcast/print news stories. I need more in the way of context and meaning – and I need it in a visually compelling format that drives the data home. Studies seem to bear this out, suggesting that up to 83% of human learning occurs visually.
Welcome the Infographic! Visually compelling, with bright colors, bold charts and captivating graphics, successful infographics are the 21st century version of the baseball card, actively traded on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks and popular blogs. Even better, as they are traded around the web, attractive infographics can help leverage your SEO, improve rankings and improve backlinks to your website, generate word-of-mouth and further extend your PR budget.
Are you ready to become an Infographic evangelist? What are the important points to consider in designing an Infographic?
1- Start with a topic that your readers and brand evangelists will want to share, share and share some more. You want information that can be organized visually – on a timeline or progressive series of visually engaging charts, for example.
2- Include accurate, verifiable data that supports – and extends – your message. Data is more powerful than mere ‘information’.
3- A visually powerful design. Bright, crisp colors. Easily read fonts. Clean design elements. A clear, logical flow of thought/intent/graphical elements. Remember this: Let the data speak. Let the graphics serve the data.
4- Look for ‘Tweetable Chunks’ or statements about that data – Tweetable ‘soundbites’.
5- Find content that triggers an emotional response if you can, for an even more powerfully memorable product.
6- Build your brand within the Infographic – but subtly. Infographic collectors can be shy about those products that seem heavy on the sales pitch.
7- Make it easy to embed, trade, use, send, backlink to. Like the Voyager Intersteller Spacecraft, you want it out there – right out to the edge of the known universe. Don’t forget to include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest buttons! And you might want to include a Creative Commons license so attribution and backlinks always come home to you.
8- Since you’ve probably invested some coin on a really rocking Infographic, promote the heck out of it. Send it out to bloggers that will appreciate and talk it up. Get it onto Pinterest boards for trading. Make sure your Infographic is on Digg, StumbleUpon, Tumblr and every other social site.
At the end of the day, you simply have to let everything revolve around the data and information. It must come first and foremost – with graphics as a supporting player. Merely pretty Infographics – largely free of meaningful content – can create backlash against your brand. The initial novelty of Infographics may have faded, but not the power and reach of those well thought out and executed. Informed and sophisticated brand evangelists are still searching for the next great Infographic to illustrate their points.
You can see some excellent examples of infographics in our Infographic Hall of Fame on Pinterest.
This is why we care.
Okay, so what does a surfing Jack Russell Terrier have to do with social media, you might ask?
1- Jack Russells are dynamic bundles of potential. Just like a great wave.
2 – Getting the Jack Russell an awesome wave to meet and combine that potential won’t happen simply because you forced a huge strategic plan onto it.
Like a lot of really great things in life, getting a JRT to dig riding the waves comes about after a lot of exposure to the fun of riding waves. Boarding the Cluetrain. Jumping into the unknown, with a righteous abandon – but knowing that your buddies have your back. It all comes together best – organically – when you find passionate, evangelist friends who love to see you finally ‘get it’.
We’ve watched far too many entrepreneurs get all fired up to tackle the social media side of marketing – with ‘The Big Plan’. This social newbie formulates a whiz-bang strategy decked out with projections and tricky matrices. This sort of synthetic planning will bog down the whole process, and ultimately, defeat having the authentic ‘conversation’ with the marketplace that the entrepreneur is really seeking. You become so immersed in crafting ‘The Big Plan’ that you aren’t listening. Or doing.
You end up looking like that ‘kook‘ on the beach, frappacino in hand, clueless to the smirks.
“Just dive in. Dive in to Facebook or Google+ or Twitter. Create a personal account and test the water. See what those sensibilities are, and just have at it. This is very different than the typical expert telling you that you first have to set your strategy and your goals and have this massive document and a working plan. I think that’s a mistake. It’s very difficult to create goals and strategies for something like Google+ or Facebook or Twitter if you’re not familiar with Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.”
But if ‘The Big Plan’ isn’t the right approach, then what is? We believe it comes down to finding a mentor and guide. People who aren’t going to bog you down in a lot of flash or minutiae, but help you to find your own authentic corporate voice – and express it clearly amid all the static. People who can stay just close enough to offer resources, guidance and advice, but finally let you get up, hang ten and bark like crazy.
So, get yer baggies on. Paddle out and get stoked for the ride. We’ll be just off to your side, when you need us.
Oh, and being a lover of all things, Jack Russell, I’ll find any excuse to throw a JRT video up for your consideration.
In Loving Memory – Asta
February, 1990- December, 2010
Thesis No. 12: There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
That’s right. Millions of customers are buying goods and services on a daily basis. They are going to have a wide range of experiences, from outstanding to dismal. And, they will share those experiences in the exploding public forum we call ‘social media’.
Online review websites, and even your own website, are the new stage where happy customers will become your brand evangelists and banner carriers, and disappointed customers will vent their frustrations. Online customer reviews are becoming one of the most important drivers of consumer behavior. According to Nielsen, 84 percent of people say online reviews influence their buying decisions. While internet search engines like Google and Bing were the first stop for more than half of consumers surveyed, 40 percent of those went on to social media to complete their decision making. Consumers are increasingly looking to online peers to make buying decisions from where to have dinner tonight, to which car to buy, or which B2B software vendor to favor.
As a business, you can’t hide from this. You can’t stand in the way, hoping to block the barbarians at the gate. Successful – and, yes, visionary – businesses are learning that this sometime raucous discourse is the best market research they could possibly hope to have. It amounts to a real-time focus group. What’s more, it’s largely free!
Are there ‘best practices’ that you can use in moderating and responding to this conversation? You bet there are! Having a strategy in place is essential.
Here’s your checklist:
Monitor online reviews – If you are a service business, you must monitor such sites as Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, Google Places, CitySearch and similar sites. For other businesses – B2B, for example – monitor Twitter and LinkedIn. Consider setting up Google Alerts to monitor what others are saying about your business or products. This is your only chance to stay in front of the conversation.
Business owners who take a daily survey of the online review sites, or at least check in with their own Twitter feed and Facebook pages can head off a lot of problems. Try making it a part of your routine to quickly survey these sites, taking one or two to respond to personally – with a “thanks” or a mea culpa.
Respond Quickly – Don’t allow the situation to become worse through neglect. Acknowledge the situation, and offer the customer an apology for a legitimate complaint, in the public forum. Responding to a complaint with empathy, and a resolution, goes a long way toward turning a bad situation into something good.
Personalize your response – Be prepared to send the customer a personal message, sweetened by a discount, an exchange or genuine discussion of how you plan to prevent similar problems in the future. Consider this just the cost of running a business in a very crowded and competitive marketplace.
Check your ego, and temper, at the door – Face it, not everybody knows how to effectively frame a complaint in order to get the best result. Try not to get sucked into a running online argument, or become defensive. Public complaints can feel like a slap in the face, but the feeling will pass. If you can’t let it go, let a trusted associate issue a measured response in your stead.
Learning to welcome this feedback is a win-win for the customer and the business owner. Customers have their concerns validated, and business owners have the opportunity to initiate a productive internal discussion about their own procedures, products and policies.
A recent study reported that nearly 80% of customers report changing their minds about a purchase based on negative feedback found online. The way you handle concerns or dissatisfaction can demonstrate that management is responsive and confident in their ability to make positive change in the face of adversity.
This effort is what will put you, and your business, up front in effective reputation-building, and word-of-mouth marketing.
“You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind the facile corporate words and happy talk brochures. Or you can join the conversation.”
– David Weinberger, “The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.”
For anybody who has been participating in business – and particularly in marketing –this statement resonates and rattles us to our very core. That ‘happy talk’ is why some of us ran screaming to other jobs – any job actually – just to get away from the mindless noise. Discovering that there could be a new way to communicate with other thoughtful human beings in regard to enterprise was an epiphany which allowed us to come home again.
The realization that there were like thinking folks out there came into sharp focus when I saw the Cluetrain Manifesto. It was the ‘aha’ moment.
Often wild and wooly, the internet has morphed into networked marketplace, almost unrecognizable from the sterile, mass produced broadcast media megaphone days. Hierarchical corporate messaging, enforced brand loyalty, exclusivity of thought, purpose of vision, and lockstep cubicle conformity has lost ground to those who welcome the convergence of technology and humanity.
The internet of today is both a marketplace and the global brain – where we have amazing access to the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of generations. It’s a playground of possibilities, where customer choices are nearly endless.
Technology, in this case, has granted us unprecedented freedom. Intranets compete with internets as people collaborate, sharing ideas and information on a global scale. These rollicking forums are producing new ways of looking at problems. Idle surfing is generating new perspectives that are antithetical to command and control marketing models. Risk is welcomed. The words are genuine, if sometimes abrasive or unsettling, as ideas route their way around obstacles. The destination is a vibrant renewal of the conversation between seller and buyer. They are both the new audience now.
At Humanized Communications, we welcome this sea change.
To this end, we will be introducing readers to more thoughts and observations inspired by the 95 Theses, from The Cluetrain Manifesto, in future posts. The hope is to stimulate thinking, and conversation. We want you to take it, steal it, use it, move it. Apply it in new and unconventional ways. Then tell us about it.
Be the instigators.
In the meanwhile, browse through the 95 Theses:
1. Markets are conversations.
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in
a human voice.
4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting
arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural,
5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were
simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees,
people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social
organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized.
Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better
information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for
corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies
do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they
13. What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A
metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing
between the two.
14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked
conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound
hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of
business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as
contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the
dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to
watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked
person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in
conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow
it, it could be their last chance.
20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They
need to get a sense of humor.
22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the
corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight
talk, and a genuine point of view.
23. Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position.
Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
24. Bombastic boasts—”We are positioned to become the preeminent provider
of XYZ”—do not constitute a position.
25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the
people with whom they hope to create relationships.
26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid
of their markets.
27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build
walls to keep markets at bay.
28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see
what’s really going on inside the company.
29. Elvis said it best: “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”
30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is
inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets
are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked
knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own
“downsizing initiatives” taught us to ask the question: “Loyalty? What’s
32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be
“picked up” at some tony conference.
34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their
35. But first, they must belong to a community.
36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no
38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about
39. The community of discourse is the market.
40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring.
Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own
market and workforce.
42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly
inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But
only when the conditions are right.
44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies
and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to
45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built
bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far
more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its
effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open
intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist
the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules,
the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the
conversation of the networked marketplace.
49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully
understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work
orders could be handed down from on high.
50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on
knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce
bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
52. Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But lack of open conversation
53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with
54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably,
the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and
55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken.
Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge
workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking
the same language. They recognize each other’s voices.
57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen
58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very
few companies have yet wised up.
59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are
actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is
usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that
rings false—and often is.
62. Markets do not want to talk to flaks and hucksters. They want to
participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to
64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and
strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle
for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but
lacking any substance.
65. We’re also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to
customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a
66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our
information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports
and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to
be speaking a different language.
68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your
conferences—what’s that got to do with us?
69. Maybe you’re impressing your investors. Maybe you’re impressing Wall
Street. You’re not impressing us.
70. If you don’t impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don’t
they understand this? If they did, they wouldn’t let you talk that way.
71. Your tired notions of “the market” make our eyes glaze over. We don’t
recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we’re
72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
73. You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you
want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something
interesting for a change.
76. We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better
service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
77. You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic
self-involvement, join the party.
80. Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only
thing on your mind.
81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and
boring? What else can we talk about?
82. Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your
corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your
CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?
83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter
from The Wall Street Journal.
84. We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do
you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?
85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t
have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the
people we’d turn to.
86. When we’re not busy being your “target market,” many of us are your
people. We’d rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock.
That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar
website. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing’s job.
87. We’d like it if you got what’s going on here. That’d be real nice. But it
would be a big mistake to think we were holding our breath.
88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in
time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to
be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
89. We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some
other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more
fun to play with.
90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than
most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly
more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.
91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and
acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part
in this world, also have no future.
92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can’t they hear
this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
93. We’re both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that
separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they’re
really just an annoyance. We know they’re coming down. We’re going to
work from both sides to take them down.
94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear
confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they
are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are
As a supporter of mental health causes, I follow various mental health and psychology resources and mavens via Twitter. One particular Tweet from @PsychCentral struck me recently. It pointed to a short article by Gretchen Rubin on the PsychCentral website titled, How to Make Friends, or At Least Think About It More Clearly.
In a previous post on this blog I pointed out the correlation between successfully participating in life and successfully participating in social networks. The more I play with the notion, the more it holds true. Especially after reading Rubin’s article. With that I bring you Part 2 of what might become an ongoing series on the topic: Everything I Needed to Know About Social Media…I Learned in Therapy.
As I read Rubin’s article (she is also the author of the book, The Happiness Project) I couldn’t help chuckle at it’s significance when viewed in the context of advancing one’s cause, one’s career, one’s business, or one’s personal brand within relevant social networks.
Rubin’s article starts out talking about helping children cope with bullies, but it soon discusses what is needed by anyone to make trusted allies. Because participating in social networks is becoming a necessity for every institution, it means what were once closed, authoritarian organizations and executives are now compelled to engage constituents in a healthy, well-adjusted way: Invite input. Be a good listener. Respond with openness. Be inclusive. Keep one’s word. Don’t manipulate people.
At one point in the article after listing “the essential elements of social competence that children need to use at school,” Rubin laughs at herself: “I found myself thinking — marriage! work! family! These skills aren’t just for children, and just for school. I struggle to work on these precise skills, every day of my life.”
As I work with clients to implement social media programs within their marketing efforts, I tell them the rules of the road for engaging social networks are really as simple as embracing the skills outlined in Rubin’s article or those reinforced on “the couch.” It is interesting to see clients struggle to reformat the marketing and business areas of their brain with this concept, but as with many things in life, sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to integrate.
Right up front (okay, nearly right up front) I want to acknowledge that the inspiration for the name of the Engage or Perish blog was partially ignited by a book written by one of today’s leading minds in marketing: Brian Solis. His book, Engage!, leads off with the injunction, “Engage or Die!” Given the current transformation marketing is undergoing, I consider these words to live by (or die by). Solis’ indispensable book goes on to present the critical mechanisms and processes of social media/networks through a series of easy-to-understand lessons. But most importantly, Engage! exhorts the reader to use social media mechanisms to create meaningful interactions with key communities so as to build and nurture trust. In other words: engage people in a human way. Don’t lecture. Don’t make people squirm and shun you because they are hit with a sales pitch the minute you meet them. Invite input, listen, respond, educate, participate. Behave as you would like a friend to behave. Social media means the Golden Rule is expanding it’s realm from personal relationships to marketing and business.
For surprisingly little money an organization can engage social networks (yes, it does require an investment of time, but don’t all meaningful relationships?), and through consistent efforts you can contribute significantly to the #2 goal of marketing: make your brand positively recognized and remembered in the marketplace. This automatically feeds the#1 goal of marketing: deliver “A” leads and generate sales revenue.
Because of the growth of social media, increasingly organizations are not able to fulfill marketing goals #1 and #2 by traditional means. In fact, because of the growth of social media, organizations are also less able to efficiently function by traditional means. Employees, suppliers, partners and all other stake holders are demanding to be heard, to be included, to be engaged. The channels for multilateral communication are now in place because of social networks and if they are ignored, it will be at an organization’s own peril.
The good news for small, unknown and modestly funded organizations is they have a significantly greater opportunity to compete on equal footing with larger, more established ones. No longer is the size of marketing budget and the splashiness of a campaign the formula for success. Customers and prospects are judging who they want to do business with by the quality and consistency of a company’s humanized engagement processes (of course, quality products and services are foundational), and are in-turn ignoring the cleverness and loudness of the megaphone monologues that come from traditional marketing.
Many of the rough patches in my life got easier as a result of spending a good deal of time and money on “the couch.” What I find remarkable today is that the valuable lessons I learned in therapy and other self-help adventures are at the foundation of what it takes to successfully engage social networks–whether it’s individually or organizationally. Here’s some of the highlights:
Communicate openly and honestly. It is impossible to build trust if one comes off as self-righteous, hedging or calculating.
Keep one’s word. Follow through on what is promised. In social media if you don’t, you’re on the fast track to a poor reputation.
Be consistent. Being consistent in keeping promises is important, but consistency is also valuable when giving out praise and criticism (a big lesson for me as a parent and a manager). It is also important when giving attention to people and communities that are valued.
Take responsibility. Apologize quickly and sincerely when wrong. Nothing helps build trust in relationships more quickly than owning up to shortcomings, problems and challenges, then doing all one can to make things right.
Bring something of value to a relationship. Simply talking does not on its own bring value unless what is said is helpful, useful, informative, enriching, or at least entertaining (but not just relying on being entertaining).
Spend more time listening than talking. This one stands on its own.
Invite input. Don’t assume someone will say what they want or describe how they are feeling. One can learn a great deal as well experience more enriching relationships with one simple request during a conversation: “Tell me more.”
Give some amount of sincere attention. When I give my spouse or children or friends my undivided attention (instead of multitasking as I am prone to do) it has a huge, nurturing effect.
Be open to new ideas. Try to look at situations and information more objectively. Be patient and get all the facts before jumping to judgment. Valuable opportunities come from keeping an open mind.
And finally (for this post anyway – more to come): Take nothing for granted. When relationships are taken for granted they start to unravel. A fundamental law of nature, and the currency of social media, is this: The more one puts into relationships the more one gets out.
If your organization is struggling to find success in its social media efforts, perhaps consider enlisting a therapist!
What else would you add to the list?