While putting your brand on Facebook as a the Social Media representative for your organization is popular, another strategy is gaining ground. Using Facebook as a corporate social responsibility platform. That is, identifying a need (whether it be in the local community or on a global scale), and using Facebook as the platform to address that need.
How ethical is this?
You are using other peoples misfortunes to sell your product. Is that justifiable? As long as you are actually addressing the need earnestly and honestly, then yes. I have been involved in several campaigns that left a bad taste in my mouth. They were nothing but PR exercises where the community in need gained nothing. This was several years ago and it may have worked then, but society has grown savvy rather quickly and attempting this today will either fail or turn into a PR nightmare. Make sure that the spotlight is on the needs of the community and that the brand takes second place. This may not guarantee a successful campaign, but at least needs will have been addressed in the process, and people will remember that.
How long can a campaign like this last? Indefinitely. There are many people in need. If you’ve successfully managed to address a need (eg. a blanket drive), there is nothing wrong with shifting focus to another need.
How do I know if I should be doing this?
This really depends on your goals and budget. If you just want to create brand awareness and you’re on a limited budget, then this might not be for you. If you have a budget (in other words, enough money to actually make a difference), and you want to create more talkability, then approach may be for you. I think this approach should work for all brands, but I personally would like to see this play out in the finance space. I believe that brands that are perceived as dull could get far more mileage out of this.
If you’re ready to change the world, you will find a community of people, both online and off, ready to stand behind you.
But then my heart froze. As I went more carefully through the page, I noticed that the community manager had not responded to ANY of the fans posts. None whatsoever. There really is no excuse for this. The reason that fans comment on a page is so that they will be acknowledged and engaged with. They want to feel that the brand they love, loves them back. If you don’t have a response, simply clicking the ‘like’ button on their contribution is enough.
I realize that at the end of the day, a Facebook page is about moving products off of shelves. So if you don’t respond to a consumer here and there, who really cares? Well, that person does. If you’re too lazy to respond to a consumer that’s posted on your page, you’re probably also too lazy to research your community. You may never discover that the people you’re ignoring are your brand ambassadors, consumers who are vocal and are willing to spread the word. But sure, go ahead, ignore them.
The other argument is simply one of manners. If somebody speaks to you, be polite and acknowledge them.
To summarize, social media is about conversation. So make sure you’re having those conversations, otherwise, save your money and splash out on a few banner ads instead.
I’ve seen some pretty interesting approaches to social media over the last few years. Today I want to look at two of the most common errors and why they don’t going to work. People have a tendency to take workflows out of the industry they come from and try to apply them to social media. It’s a little scary how little thought is put into this medium.
Treating SM platforms like publishing platforms is a common mistake. After all, you’re producing content for the masses right? They’re reading and consuming the written word, albeit in smaller doses. So that means that all the standards of the magazine industry apply. Content pillars and themes, tons of preparation, research for every article and rigid guidelines to help the team through their daily writing chores.
This doesn’t work for one very important reason : control. Unfortunately (for the ex magazine editor), social media is not just about producing top notch content. It’s about conversations. It’s about providing content that suits the community at that very moment. That means it’s incredibly contextual and relevant. It also means that while you can have loose guidelines, you will want to try and keep your content as agile as possible. You must be able to change your theme for the day with a moments notice. The benefit of using live web platforms is that your feedback is immediate, which means your content strategies can be dynamic. They can grow and change with your community. This boils down to letting go of control. For the most part, your community will dictate.
The other side of the coin is the web developer. The web developer sees the platform as just another web site. So the concentration is on unique page views, likes, followers and interactions. It’s all a numbers game. Media will be a huge driving force to growing the community, content will be secondary.
The issue here is obvious. Once again we are ignoring the human factor. While likes and follows are great metrics to show the client, they have very little to do with the overall health of a community. It’s like growing the population of a small country. Is it sustainable? Is the community happy? Are you bolstering your community drop offs with more media to fill the gaps? Numbers are not enough. You need to be checking your communities sentiment with regular polls. Are they keen to participate? What’s the interaction like? What are the concerns? Do you have any influencers?
The best approach is of course a happy medium between the two. Yes, content is king, but keep it dynamic. Yes, numbers are important, but you’re dealing with human beings. Just because you’re in marketing, doesn’t mean you don’t have to care.
A lot of brands are still unsure of what to do with social media. In the beginning, platforms were used predominantly for product push. It didn’t take long for community managers to realize that people weren’t interested in seeing endless product blurbs in their social media streams. Content was either ignored, or the brand was unliked or unfollowed. Community managers started using the platform for general conversation instead. Content pillars were developed which supported the brand, but did not do direct product push.
Some brands have adopted this approach with open arms, while others have stuck to doing pure product push to get their message out there. As with most things in life, the happy medium is somewhere in the middle. Am I suggesting that brands intersperse useful content with product information? No. What I am suggesting is a new approach to dispensing product information.
When you enter a store, does the salesman leap out at you with his arms full of product? Generally, you are left to browse by yourself. A salesman will approach when he has noticed you taking an interest in something. Usually he will begin with, “Can I help you with that?”
How do we take this approach to on-line? The difficulty is that we cannot really see what our readers are looking at on our page (unless they click, comment or like). So how do we know what they’re interested in? We put out bait. We ask a question.
For example, if you are a brand that specializes in dive equipment, you could ask your community what their favourite part about diving is. Based on your responses, you could then suggest products to enhance the experience or make it safer. If you were an insurance brand, you could ask your community what they value the most. People might say friends or family, but some may talk about material possessions. You can remark on the value of friends and value, but you could also take the opportunity to talk about how to insure those valuable material possessions. You’ve successfully given your brand a personal touch as well as subtly talking about the products you offer.
Monitoring the conversations on your page is important. Participating in them in a constructive, non-threatening way is even more important. People will tolerate you marketing to them in their personal, social media space only if they’ve invited you through conversation. Keep this in mind. The fact that the user has liked your page is not a right, but a privilege. Treat it as such.
Don’t forget to have your brand’s persona all set up before you start these conversations!
The first post about what I’m actually interested in. So here we go :
Brands see you as a number.
They count how many times you visit a web site, they count how many times you’ve clicked ‘Like’ on their Facebook page. At the end of the day, you’re just a number. When a brand seems to be reaching out to you to help you with your query or to tell you how to do something, they don’t actually care about you. They’re just bolstering another number, a number they call ‘engagement’. So it’s all just a numbers game. In the grand scheme of the universe, who cares?
Except you should care. You invested your money into that brand. You’re supporting them and you clicked on the ‘Like’ button. They should give a damn about you because at the end of the day, you’re paying the bills for that fancy new building downtown. So why don’t brands see you for what you are? Why are you just a number and not a human being?
It’s something I like to call the growth dilution. When a company is small, it sees its customers as very important. It will put in a lot of effort to maintain good relationships with it’s clients because it is looking to grow. However, the downside of this growth is that customers that used to enjoy a lot of attention will find that the attention is being spread to other customers. Eventually systems will be put in place to manage expectations and client conversations. That, ladies and gentlemen, is where the proverbial shit hits the fan. Systems are amazing in that they cater for a general populations needs, but a system will never cater for an individuals personal needs. And so, the little company-that-could becomes the soulless corporate.
Along comes social media. Social media allows brands to begin having those conversations with clients again. To allow the customer to experience the ‘personal touch’. But there are three huge problems :
1. Most brands don’t understand social media, mistaking it for just another channel to push product.
2. Most brands are so bogged down in process and bean-counting that their customers are not seen as human beings.
3. Most brands are unwilling or unable to understand the basic principles of human relationships.
Brands believe they are experiencing great results in social media because ‘the numbers are up’, but very often this is the result of poorly targeted media which has driven people to ‘like’ a page based on false pretenses. Other brands believe they are doing well because ‘engagement’ is through the roof, but once again, engagement is a poor measure of how effective a social media community is.
So what are we supposed to measure?
We’re supposed to measure the contextual quality of the people we are bringing to our pages. We need to answer the question : Do I have the right fans?
I’ll go into detail on how to measure the right fans some other time, but for today I want to talk to you about DCS (Dynamic Conversation System). Most brands will ask a social media consultant for a ‘conversation plan’ or a ‘theme plan’. This is basically a list of themes that will be explored for a certain time period. This is a rather rigid approach to generating conversation and ‘engagement’ so it is probably best to avoid doing this.
The alternative approach is creating a DCS. A DCS is not a list of rigid themes. Instead it is a fully fledged brand personality chart.
What is a personality chart?
Every novel writer knows what a character sheet is. When writing a book, a good place to start is with a character sheet. The character sheet details a characters history, personality traits, interests, quirks and emotional states. Once the novelist has created character sheets for all the principle characters, the novelist can then think up situations to put his characters in. Using character sheets he/she can guess what the characters reactions will be and how they will adapt to their new situations.
That is exactly how a DCS works. A brands personality is mapped out and once that is done, it is no longer necessary to come up with themed conversations. The brand can react to its community in an organic fashion. It can react to news and ideas in an organic fashion. Conversations are no longer contrived. Best of all, the brands persona remains absolutely spot on character no matter what is happening in the community or the outside world. A DCS means better conversations with the community, better documentation for the community manager and a stronger brand identity.
So how do we build a DCS? What information do we need to do this? Keep your eyes here.