While in San Francisco recently, I had the opportunity to attend an event featuring keynote speaker Brian Solis, author of Engage, which brought Mr. Solis notable recognition in the social media community for its strategies and tactics for building and participating in online communities.
Solis focused this discussion around topics included in his newest book, The End of Business as Usual, and after a brief introduction, began with a somewhat surprising admission. “After I wrote Engage, I walked away from social media,” Solis said. He went on to explain that, while successful, Engage ended up in the hands of the tacticians – those who executed social strategies – rather than the visionaries who crafted and guided these concepts. “I wanted to write a book that ended up on the desk of the CEO or CMO,” Solis said.
As one might expect from a seasoned speaker like Brian Solis, the presentation was filled with great sound bites. While most of the ideas were not ground-breaking, I think it’s good to be reminded every so often of high-level concepts that have proven to be effective toward building and managing an online presence for brands and individuals. Here are a few examples:
“Consumerism continues to evolve and become more sophisticated. Customer expectations are evolving. They now expect to engage in new channels, their way.”
It’s not news to anyone who is responsible for marketing a brand or business that the consumer landscape has changed. Traditional marketing channels that use a “broadcast” model to deliver a message have given way to a two-way dialogue. The customer dictates the medium, and often the message itself, more than ever.
“While creating a social brand is a necessary endeavor, building a social business is an investment.”
Solis suggests that building a social identity is only part of the equation. Brands that are the most successful in the social space will “build a social business,” buying into the concept of social communication from top to bottom.
“Customers see one brand, not silos like marketing departments. Social media isn’t owned by marketing. It’s owned by the entire organization.”
From its beginning, the responsibility of developing and managing a social media presence fell under the marketing umbrella for most organizations. But for a business to be truly “social,” every department – from customer service to accounting – should understand the value of social communication and contribute.
“Before you begin to create an external social strategy, how do your employees feel about working for you?”
Are your employees proud of the company they work for? Are they likely to share your content and/or speak positively about your business online? If the people who represent your brand truly believe in your core values and message, your online community is much more likely to identify with it.
“When you choose to listen to the voice of the consumer, you’ll hear experiences. The experience that you design is what people are actually going to share. It’s not by chance.”
Are you making it easy for customers to connect with your brand? When your content answers a question, fills a need, or demonstrates how your brand fits into the lifestyle of your audience, they will be much more likely to share.
“Social media is not about technology, it’s about sociology. Develop more than a listening framework. Develop a conversation framework.”
Understanding existing social channels and staying on top of emerging platforms is certainly important, but a thorough understanding of your core customer and where they spend their time online is key to engaging in meaningful communication and building lasting relationships.
“Don’t build a strategy for Pinterest, Google+, or other social channel until you can define why you need to be there.”
Yes, anything worthwhile begins with a plan, but your social road map should be tailored to evolve with your online community. Explore new social communities and determine whether the format and content fit with your brand and message. If the answer is yes, craft a content strategy and “conversation framework” specific to that environment. As Brian Solis says, “Don’t react to your market. Lead your market.”
Do any of these sound familiar? What policies and practices does your company have in place to support your overall social strategy? What have you done to make your business more social? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments!