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When it comes to social media, most companies are not actually very social at all. Instead they are stuck in the traditional broadcast, digital and public relations marketing models of talking at customers. They just are using social channels to do it. Here is a short list of best practices to join and develop online conversations effectively.
Know what—and who—you want. Define the goals, strategies, and audience for each channel before you start communicating. Who are you talking to and why? Don’t post the same exact content to different channels.
Set the scene. Work proactively to establish a cultural environment so that your social presence supports your brand, goals and audience. Just as an old-fashioned French restaurant communicates its culture through starched white tablecloths, you will be establishing your company’s brand positioning and feel through carefully programmed content and managed conversation, moderation, and engagement.
Remember that it’s about them. Most companies are so anxious to push product messaging that they crowd out conversation. Thanks to Facebook’s pro-social algorithm, called EdgeRank, and the fundamental social behavior of people, you will get more eyeballs on product-specific messages that make up only 20% of your total messages. For the other 80%, be truly social. Stimulate dialogue about subjects of interest to your customers, even if those topics have nothing to do with your products.
Integrate. Don’t think of social as remote from the rest of your marketing. As more customers come to experience your brand primarily through social media, those channels become the starting point and the center of gravity of your marketing. Social should not be treated as just another channel. The social themes should resonate throughout the media mix.
Make your company an open book. There’s an old saying: The worst thing for a bad product is a good ad. Well, the worst thing for a hypocritical company is an effective social presence. Authenticity and transparency are musts. Try to ignore, dismiss, delete, or control criticism, and customers will create their own forum. On the Internet another place to talk about you is always one click away—and so are millions of other customers who listen instantly to the chatter, good or bad. There is no end to stories of brands that react to trouble with traditional PR command-and-control methods and find those tactics just galvanize more negative reaction.
Of course, authenticity is about more than responding to crisis. Authenticity is developed with trust, over time, through consistent interactions.
Peter Friedman is the founder and CEO of LiveWorld, a user content management company with a platform and services to scale the human management of social media for large brands. You can contact him @PeterFriedman or @liveworld.
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