What does it take for a brand to successfully ‘socialize’? Anyone who has ventured into this line of inquiry knows that there is a lot of noise out there, and very little signal. I spent the better part of the last two weeks reading, talking, and thinking about brands and the social web, and I thought it would be helpful (definitely for the writer, and hopefully for the reader) to distill my learnings into a few choice nuggets.
1. Listen more than speak
Use brand monitoring tools like Radian6 to listen to what customers and prospects are saying. Engage with a human voice that is more interested in conversation and support than sales.
2. Provide a platform that enables your customers to be your advocates
Brand and promote those customers who use social media most effectively to engage with your company. Rewarding these leaders will signal to others that there is a very public benefit associated with engagement.
3. Leverage social-savvy employees
Make your employees famous. Chances are, they are already engaging successfully in this space. Create a human face for your brand by including them in the conversation and encouraging them to build thought leadership. It’s much harder for a critic to attack real people than a faceless corporation.
4. Consumers of content visit your site with expectations for basic social features
Sharing, liking, commenting, RSS, retweeting. A content site without this functionality looks ancient in the eyes of a social web user (i.e. 400 million people). Any YouTube regular will fear comments, and rightfully so. Reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior. Reward thoughtful comments with a response, or a link, or points, or moderator privileges. Ignore the flamers and allow your thoughtful commenters to manage them on your behalf. See Fred Wilson’s blog for a great example.
Any company that is serious about leveraging the social web to further its corporate objectives must come to terms with the crucial reality that authenticity is a requirement. And yes, being authentic means being wrong in public. Being authentic means giving your employees a megaphone and allowing them to speak on your behalf. Being authentic means hosting a comment on your site that may better belong below a YouTube video.
There is certain risk in authenticity, but the failure of a social media strategy that does not engage with an authentic voice is just as certain.
I highly recommend the following blogs:
These companies are doing a great job: