Understanding & Managing Social Media – Part 1

Getting Started

The rise of the social web has caused profound shifts in the way we consume and share information. Media industries like publishing and music, have experienced devastating disruption. Even if your business has avoided this first shockwave, the relationship between you and your customers has changed forever. If you are not using social communication technologies to engage your customers today, don’t wait any longer. You can be sure your competition is way ahead of you.

But why?

For many, the idea of committing to a Social Media strategy and collaborating with customers is still uncomfortable, but the payoff can be enormous. Well designed Social Media campaigns create a direct channel to your fans; a powerful opportunity to understand their needs, establish trust, and personalize your offerings.

I’m still not convinced…

If you are new to Social Media and skeptical or confused, there are many good books for business people exploring the larger dynamics of this massive social shift. I can recommend a few:

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

The Network Is Your Customer by David Rogers

How To Make Money With Social Media by Turner & Shah

Content Rules by Handley & Chapman

The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

Groundswell by Li and Bernoff

… and anything by Seth Godin who’s book, Permission Marketing was one of the first to identify the significance and dynamics of this global change.

But I’m already on Facebook…

I suggest developing a solid understanding of the principles and underlying forces in social campaigns before jumping into the tools in a big way. Having a million Twitter or Facebook followers doesn’t really mean much unless the relationships are genuine and your approach is aligned with your larger business strategy.

In Part Two of this series I will offer some tips for managing the “always-on” overload that can accompany Social Media.

Book Review: The Network is Your Customer – 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age

Book Review: The Network is Your Customer – 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age by David L. Rogers (@David_Rogers )

When I first picked up this book by David Rogers, (a professor at Columbia Business School), I thought it was yet another introduction to social communication technologies for wary corporate managers. Boy, was I wrong!

What’s different…

  • Rather than organizing the book around the use of specific social communication tools or an examination of the general theory of disruptive social technologies, Rogers builds his book around the behaviors and needs of customer networks. The title is quite apt.
  • The writing is accessible and the book is very well organized and designed to be practical. The first two chapters explain the dynamics of customer networks and social communication technologies. Each of the 5 behaviors he identifies are examined in their own chapters and multiple strategies are presented. Next, Rogers dedicates a chapter to a specific planning and implementation process that will help businesses apply these ideas to their specific situations. He then asks the questions, “What will the organization of the future look like?”and “How do we create an organization that is not just customer-focused, but customer-network focused?” Finally, he systematically reviews each of the strategies in the book, by asking a series of questions in a ‘Self-Assessment Quiz’. Inquiry is a powerful technique for self-reflection, personalizing the ideas presented here.
  • There are well over 100 case studies spread throughout the book. Companies are listed in an Appendix, sorted by industry. Each case study specifically illustrates the strategy Rogers is describing. This is an effective approach that makes it very easy to ‘try on’ techniques with your organization. As I was reading the book I found myself taking these case studies and translating them for my clients.

The Big Idea

Rogers suggests 5 Strategies that any business can use to create new value by harnessing the power of customer networks:

  1. ACCESS – be faster, easier, everywhere, and always on
  2. ENGAGE – become a trusted source of great content
  3. CUSTOMIZE – make everything you offer adaptable to your customer’s needs
  4. CONNECT – become part of your customer’s conversations
  5. COLLABORATE – involve your customers at every stage of your enterprise.

There is a lot here; much more than an explanation of disruptive technology. Rogers provides a road map, demonstrating techniques that will tap the power of customer networks, regardless of your industry or the size of your company. Recommended!

Effectively Integrating Social Communications Into Your Website

“Customers trust each other more than they trust brands.” – Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group analyst –

Two-way arrow graphicI just caught a highly informative webinar hosted by Jeremiah Owyang, industry analyst at Altimeter Group and the folks at janrain and Badgeville. It is a bit long so here are few takeaways…

In a survey of 140 global-national corporations the Altimeter Group found that the number one ‘go to market’ goal for 2011 is the effective integration of social media into corporate websites. In this webinar Owyang describes a hierarchy of Use Cases each with several real world examples.

No Integration – Your website is irrelevant. You are not connected to the trusted discussion happening in social networks. Your investments are not working together well.

Social Linking – This send users off of your site, and while it has made Facebook tons of money, it is not the best strategy for your brand. Owyang recommends skipping this step all together and moving directly to…

Social Aggregation – This comes in Basic, Curated, and Contextual varieties.

Some examples:

  • The increasing use of social sign-ins
  • Samsung’s integration of live social feeds into their event screens at the recent SXSW conference
  • Huffington Post’s aggregation of realtime user comments into article pages

Social Publishing – Encouraging customers to share information, pushing it back out to the social web.

Social Context – The practice of continually updating customer personas based on connections and context. A good example is Amazon’s content recommendations driven by friends’ reviews and buying choices.

Seamless IntegrationThe future… URLs will go away and content will be assembled wherever you are.

Owyang points out the benefits and limitations to each one of these strategies. He summarizes with advise for Product Managers on the shift to socializing product pages and pointers on where to start this integration to maximize the creation of viral loops in which, “Your investments stay constant but your results go up exponentially.”

The second half of the webinar has some strong case studies from partners Janrain and Badgeville.

I  highly recommend this webinar to Product Managers, Web Developers, and Community teams. You can watch the full presentation here.

How are you integrating social communications into your website? What works for your customers and your brand? Please share your experiences!

How do you use social technology to listen?

Ear close upThe social web often seems like a huge cocktail party where everyone is shouting and no one is listening. We all want to be found, and followed, and heard. How can we make real connections that lead to offline friendships and business relationships?

Listening with genuine interest is the key to engaging people. Like anything else, developing this skill requires a great deal of practice.

Platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook are not well suited for broadcast communications. If you are not paying attention when a post appears, it’s gone.

I am experimenting with asking questions in various ways.

I am digging into Twitter Search to find interesting conversations and engage people with @replies and questions.

Facebook feels more constrictive to me. I am trying different ways to converse, exploring groups and Pages. Some people like guitarist Ken Rosser, have a knack for using Facebook conversationally. He is always interesting, and each post seems to result in an active conversation.

How are you using social communication tools to really listen? What’s working for you?

Generosity is the Emotion, Content is the Currency

Creating Effective Social Media Engagement: Generosity is the Emotion, Content is the Currency

Authentic, trusting relationships are fueled by generosity and empathy. While online networks can seem abstract compared to connections in the ‘real world’, the same principles hold true.

Web 2.0 is a conversational environment, not a broadcast channel. This is still confusing for some musicians who use Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc. to talk about themselves (“Oh, did I mention MY gig this weekend, here are some new pictures of ME, I wrote a new song…” etc. etc.). When I get a Linked In or Facebook friend request from a complete stranger asking me to listen to their music or come to a gig I am always amazed. What are they thinking? Eventually I tune out even good friends who I am very interested in, when the only communication from them is pushed PR blasts.

The power of social media is it’s potential for building communities and sincere relationships. The way to do this is to pay attention to everyone else, what their passions are and what they need. Ask yourself what you can share to make their lives a little more wonderful. On the web, the obvious gift to give is interesting content. This could be a helpful blog post or link, some compelling video you have created, a piece of music or a recommendation or referral. The important thing is that you are passionate about what you are sharing and you genuinely want to help your followers.

A great example of this generosity is the blog created by musician Danny Barnes. He has written a number of funny, articulate pieces that are essential reading for any professional musician or anyone with even a passing interest in what it means to be a musician. He has shared many practical insights on how to make a living in music, how to be a successful sideman, how to listen and much more. There is great value and generosity here without a hint of self-promotion. A teacher and fellow musician told me the other day he reads Danny’s posts to his classes!

Check out Danny’s blog and spread the word…

What gifts are you giving to your fans, followers and customers? What’s working for you?