Jeremiah Owyang’s recent post about The Many Challenges of the Social Media Industry got me thinking about how social media requires a different approach from the way that many companies approach traditional marketing or customer engagement. Jeremiah’s post seems to be more targeted at companies whose main products and services are based on social media, but I’m going to take some of the ideas that he discusses and outline how they can be applied to companies using social media as part of their strategy for engaging with customers or communities or users.
Jeremiah talks about a current lack of profits where few bloggers have been able to generate significant revenues from their content. Companies (and even most individual bloggers) should not be focused on generating revenue directly from social media efforts. I always tell companies to think about social media as being in the early awareness portion of the marketing funnel (you know, the part way at the top far away from the bottom of the funnel where you generate leads and make sales.)
Blogging, community engagement and other social media efforts should support other efforts that generate revenue. For example, this blog generates $0 revenue for me; however, it has made a big difference in my career. I’ve been invited to speak on panels, been offered jobs, and had consulting gigs come my way as a result of the expertise demonstrated on this blog. In other words, I receive a substantial financial benefit indirectly related to my blogging efforts, while receiving no direct revenue from the blog. Companies can get similar benefits by using blogs and social media to get the word out about the company. While generating revenue won’t happen directly, it should be an indirect benefit.
Jeremiah also points out that “excessive noise drowns out signal“, which is an increasing problem for individuals and companies who create content. This is actually two separate, but related issues: first, how can you create content that rises above the noise; and second, how can you find what others are saying about you online.
Content creation. Too many companies and individuals have blogs that no one would want to read. Company blogs are often little more than press releases and marketing fluff (see my “Are Corporate Blogs a Joke” post for more details), and many individual blogs have mostly regurgitated content with little original thought and analysis. The outstanding blogs (corporate or individual) focus on thought leadership with interesting original ideas and deep analysis of industry trends. The posts focused on interesting original content will get linked to more often and will show up more prominently in search results; therefore, rising above the noise.
Monitoring discussions. You also want to be able to monitor and respond quickly to what others are saying about you, your brand, your content, your competitors, your industry and more. You can buy expensive software to monitor all of this, or you set up a few Yahoo Pipes with RSS feeds to track what people are saying. I go the Yahoo Pipes route with searches of Twitter, blogs, and other places to find where people are discussing the content that I create.
As Jeremiah points out, “brands –and individuals– can easily be brandjacked as others take their user name, domains, and assert themselves as someone else.” The best thing you can do to minimize the threat of being brandjacked is to be already participating in the community. Monitoring is also critical (see above), but even with monitoring, it can take a while go through the process of getting the content removed even if you find it quickly. By participating and having an active presence on places like Twitter and Facebook, it will be easier for people to figure out which is your official presence and which is the fake one. When you don’t already participate, it will be easier for people to assume that a brandjacked presence is the real one. The recent Exxon Mobile Twitter account is just one example.
Marketing and Communities
Jeremiah makes an excellent point about how “marketers move in without community consideration“. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how marketing should / should not participate in online communities, and there are important nuances that marketing should understand before engaging with online communities. I won’t elaborate in detail in this post, but I suggest that you look at my recent Online Communities and Marketing presentation for more information. This presentation offers some fairly comprehensive advice for how marketing can participate in online communities. It is also worth the time and effort to put employees (not just marketing) through at least a little training before you turn them loose on the community.
These are just a few of the examples from Jeremiah’s post, but I think that this post is long enough already. If I missed anything critical, please feel free to elaborate in the comments.