I’ve been reading a book by one of the world gurus on social media – Engage! by Brian Solis. As you might guess from the title, it’s about engaging with your audience – as opposed to pushing messages out as corporates often do through their marketing and advertising.
The first part is a recap of the principles of social media; the second part what he calls the new media university with his MBA modules of learning. The final parts are about developing blueprints for new marketing.
There is a lot in here that is basic, common sense for anyone working in social media – yet I find it is still useful to read a lot of this in different language and from a different perspective.
I would recommend it for businesses who understand the basics of social media (this really is not a book for beginners). Here is what I’ve taken from it that could help our clients
- First step in engaging with social media
A lot of businesses struggle with the concept of social media to start with. Here are some phrases I liked
– The best communicators always start as the best listeners
– (Engagement) starts with respect and an understanding of how you connect with and benefit those whom you’re hoping to help
– Messages are not conversations
– Conversations happen with or without you
– Negative commentary already exists – in most cases you just aren’t encountering it
- Social media is one component of a broader communications and marketing strategy
This is so important. Social media is not something to do instead of – or to be cheaper than – other marketing activities. It is just another ‘route to market’.
Brian Solis says ‘the best communications programs will reach out equally to traditional media; A-, B- and C-list bloggers and communities because while newsmakers reach the masses, peers and customers also reach other in the communities where they congregate. This requires a new mindset and a new era of metrics’.
- We are forever students of new media
I could not agree more. ‘We should never strive to master something that evolves much faster than our ability to fully grasp its lessons, benefits, insights….’
It is reassuring that even the ‘gurus’ feel they have to keep up all the time!
Brian lists dozens of social media sites, some of which were new to me. The one that particularly interested me is Plaxo, which he lists as the only other one alongside LinkedIn for business networking.
Bearing in mind that Brian is American and steeped in the American market, maybe we should watch out for this next in the UK?
- How to make your blog credible
Solis refers to a report published by Forrester Research which ranked blogs lower in trustworthiness than every other form of corporate marketing and media tools – even below broadcast, print media, direct mail and e-mail.
This is because so many corporates have used blogs as another version of press releases or to ‘push promotion over value’.
This is an opportunity for your business – if competitors in your field are using blogs as poor quality advertising, you can take the field by making your blog useful and relevant.
The most popular blogs mentioned are Google, 37Signals, FreshBooks and Dell.
I am absolutely certain that blogs are the most useful social media for businesses – for giving value to customers, driving traffic to your website and making your online presence fresh and relevant. This is particularly so for the business-to-business market. Reassuringly Solis says the same thing.
- Should you ghost write blogs?
This particularly interests me. I’ve heard a number of social media experts say that corporate leaders should write their own blogs. It’s important for everyone to hear their voice and thoughts.
I don’t see why a PR team can’t interpret their thoughts into blogs – just as we do for bylined articles in the press.
Solis says marketing professionals have been begging their senior influencers to blog as often as possible. But his view is ‘it is not realistic to expect these busy and oft-preoccupied business leaders to assume the role of blogger’. He does think it is important for leaders to share their vision and experiences in the ‘most prominent platform for sharing that company voice and persona – the blog’.
- Blogging must be planned
Blogging for the sake of blogging is meaningless.
His tips are:
– You need an editor in chief for the blog and blog network
– You may have sub-editors for different product or business divisions but they should report to the editor in chief to ‘marshal the brand and ensure integrity’
– If your organisation has tens, hundreds or even thousands of corporate-run or endorsed blogs, there should be guidelines, best practices and standards – otherwise ‘social chaos ensues’
– You have to promote your blog actively to find followers and people who comment. ‘Just because we host a grand opening doesn’t necessarily assure or imply that we will host any guests’. You must hand-deliver related information to relevant people through unobtrusive, empathetic and co-operative means
– Use BackType or similar to see comments about your business/blog across the ‘entire blogosphere’ – the search engine checks keywords and names in the comments sections of blogs
– ‘As you blog or contribute to blogging initiatives, make sure to link to all channels of influence each and every time they share something of significance – even if it’s an older entry. This will send trackbacks to any outside blog post that may have inspired your post (s) and so builds tunnels between blogs, allowing new readers to discover your content’
- Social bookmarking
I confess we’ve not put a lot of effort into this in the past – but we need to do more.
Solis says you should get people to bookmark the same thing (ie a blog) so that it gains momentum and makes top lists.
Just as you can ‘bookmark’ interesting websites, pages, media and clippings, so you can bookmark interesting blogs and comments.
These are sites such as del.iciou.us; Diigo and Stumbleupon.
We need to bookmark our clients’ blogs and comments and ask others to do the same for us. Solis does warn – be selective, which sounds sensible.
- Build networks
I’ve heard something on these lines several times recently. You need to have a presence in all the key social media.
Liz Cable of Reach Further said she signs up to numerous sites but on many says something on the lines of ‘I do not keep an active presence on this site. Find me on LinkedIn or Facebook’ – with links to her account on these sites.
Solis says he does not promote any brand spreading itself thin by applying an dedicating resources …. in each and every network. It is typical to establish and promote presences in multiple, targeted networks. So a Facebook update could trigger updates to Twitter, Plurk, Identi.ca, Posterous and other networks.
- Keep learning!
If all this is exhausting you, take heart (or not) from Brian’s comment ‘we are learning and sharing together – not about what we think we know, but mining for knowledge we don’t yet possess’!