Thanks for Coming! We have no idea why we invited you... It's kind of funny to watch companies and agencies flock to social media right now because in some ways it resembles a junior high school dance. Everyone is standing around the room unsure what to do with themselves. Or perhaps more accurately, companies are like the adults at a young person gathering. The kids are mingling and interacting and the adults in suits, clearly not fitting in, are making awkward conversation with each other.
Don't Worry, Everyone Else is Clueless at this Stage Too
To a large degree Social Media Strategy is a meaningless term because the strategies are currently being discovered. It's very much in the experimentation stage, and that's ok. It's an exciting time to try new things and watch as others make mistakes and breakthroughs.
This piece from the BBC supports the idea that we (companies and marketers) are in an early stage of amassing followers without strategic direction yet. In the piece they show Starbucks's cup so full of followers there's no room for milk, but you don't hear any plans for their followers other than to have a "dialogue".
Although, in this piece is a lesson from what BP went through when others via Twitter and YouTube trounced them online and at first their only reply was a clumsy push via one-way media.
If Old Ideas Abound, New Strategies Will Come Around
I suspect that many commercial entities entering Twitter and Facebook and collecting Followers and Friends are thinking along the old model of data capture, which is to build a mailing list from which to test and rollout the best promotions. Some of these old school marketers may have a vague notion about "conversation", "dialogue" or "relationship" but I wonder how many old school marketers are strictly planning their A/B tests of copy, art and offers.
But they'll figure it out quickly. Ideas will emerge once the pieces are in place and the best use of the tools of the technology become more apparent.
If They Come, You Will Build It
Here are some very quick thoughts on the basics of why it is important now to get a Facebook Page, Twitter account and blog and make at least monthly updates.
DO Acquire Friends and Followers Now - Even if currently unsure what to do with them, it is a good idea to get online and get the friends and followers and blog readers right away.
There are three reasons for this:
- Your competitors are trying to sign up many of the same group
- Once you have them, it will become clearer what to do with them. It's like having a little brood, you'll want to care for them so they don't go away!
- You'll want them when you need them - and when you need them it will be too late to begin gathering them.
Have a great new social media strategy idea? If only you had a following! Or use them if your brand needs input when facing a crossroads, and perhaps most importantly to communicate with them in tough times. Facebook calls them "friends" for a reason.
Which bring us to our next point...
Relationships - At this time the best overall concept of this new media, two-way world is indeed relationships. This broad term is packed with meaning all the nuances of which are yet to be revealed.
Relationships and trust are built over time. While strong bonds can be forged in emergency situations, what are the chances you and customers will together face an oncoming tsunami, survive a plane crash, or go to war?
However, there is a greater likelihood you will need them at some point. And if you have those fans and followers that you've taken time to build a relationship with by casually chatting and getting to know each other, you can rely on those friends when you have a breakthrough social media marketing idea, have important news to share or perhaps face an emergency during which you could use their support.
Listen and Respond, Analyze and Ponder - This is really what is meant when we hear about dialogue, relationships and conversation. They (consumers) say stuff, we (brands) listen and respond thoughtfully and the trust grows.
And along with listening and responding and noting themes in their complaints, praise and topics of conversation, we can analyze things about our friends such as who else are they Friends with our Following, etc.
If you're not sure yet how to act, just listen and take everything in.
Why didn't the guy from Starbucks just say, "We invite them to join us for coffee and conversation"? (© Right Hand Planning 2010)