You have to love social networking. It’s not only a great way to keep up with friends and old classmates; it’s also a great way to get pearls of wisdom from former clients. Mitchell Savage works for a cool start-up company called Vidoop, which has an innovative approach to web and password security. (In the interest of disclosure, they’re not only a former client, but I am a daily user of MyVidoop.) Mitchell’s last blog post about joining the social media conversation seemed especially timely, and a topic I can readily relate to having finally convinced a long-time client to launch a social media program.
As I’ve said in this blog in the past, one of the hardest things for marketing people to understand is that to become part of social media, you have to stop trying to control the message and just join the conversation. As Mitchell says,
The reality is that people are talking about you, your organization, your products and services, and the complete experience of your company. They’re doing it right now while you’re reading this. So the question is not whether or not the conversation will take place. The question is whether or not the conversation will have the benefit of including you.
I sometimes have a similar argument with my clients about press coverage. Some say all press is good press, and other only want the good news and blame you when they see the bad news in print or online. In a sense, all press coverage is good coverage because at least you are being included in the conversation. You can’t address negative press if you don’t get any press at all.
So if people are going to talk about you, then the least you can do is joint the conversation so you have some control over what they are saying. It’s not so much damage control as it is being proactive, being positive about promoting your brand message, and being seen.
So what’s the best strategy for proactively joining the online conversation? Mitchell identifies the four cornerstones of effective social media:
- Listen – Before you engage, put our ear to the pavement. Listen to what they are saying about you. As Mitchell points out, social media is a great place to hear from your customers, for free. Most comments about companies are normally positive, so see how you fare in the ratings. Are your customers “yelping” about you? Is it good news or bad? The answer will help you form a response.
- Speak – Once you year the comments, good or bad, you can formulate an intelligent response. Show your customers that they have been heard and that you care, and you will get their loyalty for life.
- Provide value – Don’t just be defensive, be proactive and be positive. Don’t just cover your ass; promote your assets. Give away information, offer insider tips, give away freebies, be a mensch worth following. The more positive your contribution, the more positive the feedback and the more followers you can expect.
- Build community – From the positive response of your followers, others will follow them. It’s a pied piper effect, or the same thing that happens when you stand in the middle of the street and look up. Everyone else will follow you to see what all the fuss is about. Take that positive feedback and share the love through multiple channels. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Digg it – shout it from the rooftops and let people find you and follow along.
You created your own brand image, and all your customers will do is share their experience as it is mirrored in that brand image. If you give them a positive customer experience, they will sing your praises and invite others to join the chorus. Social media is merely the amplifier that lets your customers sing louder than ever before. Don’t try to shut them up; help them. If they are going to talk about you anyway, then listen to your customers, hear them, and give them something good to shout about.