Tuesday Feb 25, 2014

Who Can You Trust to Handle Your Social Media?

social media trustWho’s writing and managing your social media channels? Because whoever that is, THEY are the public voice of your brand. They are your image. They’re the ones building relationships and forming bonds.


Who’s commenting on, liking and sharing your posts, seemingly everyone except your own employees? Are your people really that indifferent to the company and its products?


Much handwringing goes on over who should be allowed to speak for a brand on social. The result of said handwringing (and social policies the length of which rival omnibus bills of Congress) is that employees are not engaging around the brand on social at all. If that’s what you were going for, congrats!


Your social marketing is in the hands of your brand community managers, and the employees extending and amplifying the brand on their personal social channels. Do you trust them? Or are your days and nights spent stressing about controlling them?


Community Managers


For our purposes let’s take this to mean anyone contributing to or managing the actual brand-owned social channels. If they are all of the below, back off and trust them.


  • Intimately knows and represents the audience
  • Can get answers to questions, like now
  • Knows what’s genuinely cool about your brand
  • Has a human personality and recoils at corporate jargon
  • Cares about thrilling customers
  • Unceasingly creative and quick thinking
  • Calm, with great judgment
  • Master of the tech tools
  • Ever-curious researcher and curator
  • Confident and autonomous
  • Literate


Employees


Employees might be the greatest wasted natural social marketing resource of our time. Why have they built a wall between their personal social and the brand they work for? Because they’re scared to death.


When social policies are vague, malleable, and based largely on “eh…it depends,” any intelligent employee will choose to socially stay as far away from the brand as they can. There is NO incentive to engage and tons of risk in doing so. Safe + easy is an unbeatable combo.


Do you think your employees are so determined to help you on their personal social channels…for free…that they’re willing to curl up by the fire and read your social media usage policy? The shocking answer is…maybe! Over 50% of employees want to share news about their company. But just 45% of employers encourage employees to engage. It’s silly to not want employees to be active, engaged fans of their own company. So:


  • Make it clear you want them to engage, it’s not a trap.
  • Lay out a few big “don’ts” like competition bashing or violating confidentiality.
  • Have them apply workplace common sense, nothing discriminatory, etc.
  • Encourage them to put the good ol’ “opinions are mine” on their profiles.
  • Ask that they say nothing at all about the brand if they can’t say anything nice.
  • Provide them with content that’s incredibly easy to share.
  • Incentivize engagement. Give them the answer to “why should I?”
  • Offer social training, especially for new employees.


That done, if you still can’t summon up the trust to let your Community Managers and employees market your brand on social, how is it you trust them to work there at all?


@mikestiles
Photo: Piotr Dorabiala, stock.xchng

Tuesday Apr 23, 2013

Easy Ways to Look Really Uncool to Your Fans

sleazeHave you as a brand ever paused to think about what an honor it is for somebody, anybody, to Like your Facebook page or choose to follow your tweets?  Outside of business reasons, how many brands have you followed on social? It’s a big deal for John Q. Public to invite you into their circle of friends and ask to hear from you. What kind of social content are you rewarding them with?

Below are quick, easy ways to immediately make someone regret Liking you. You see, they only want to self-identify with cool companies, and the things below make you markedly uncool.

Posting too much
A bigger issue on Facebook, but even on Twitter, each post should be new, breaking news type info. If you hog feeds, you’ll be seen as “clutter.” People like to clear clutter. Plus there’s no way you’ve got that much A-grade material. I’m not just making this up, a Lab42 study found posting too frequently is the #1 reason users unlike a brand.

Using social as a one-way megaphone
You’re not listening, you’re not responding, in general you’re making your fans feel like they’re there for you and not the other way around. The above study cites bad customer experience as the #3 reason fans dump brands on social. As for not listening, you’re only hurting yourself. 86% of consumer feedback online is being missed by brands, and 70% of marketers collect no social data about their competition.

Desperate selling
Do you really think your fans don’t know you want them to buy your product? So chill out and don’t make every post a breathless pitch. A Vanson Bourne study found 48% don’t want marketing messages at all. Another study (MediaBrix) shows people find ads disguised as content annoying, and 85% said it changed their opinion of the brand negatively if it had an effect at all. Yet…the study also found a great many marketers think this kind of disrespectful fake-out is effective.

Proving you’re uncommitted and/or lazy
Inconsistent posting that swings from radio silence to spammy barrage, auto-DMing that ruins the human-to-human social advantage, connecting social networks so Twitter hashtags show up in your Facebook posts, meaningless posts (“tell us your plans for the weekend!”), using an inhuman corporate voice, all prove to fans that for your brand, social is a pesky afterthought. Considering social makes up just 10% of brands’ digital marketing spend, and annual digital marketing operating budgets were a whopping 2.5% of company revenue in 2012, lack of commitment probably starts at the top.

There are certainly other annoyances: going hashtag crazy, not targeting or mis-targeting offers (studies indicate a 66% increase in engagement with proper targeting), asking fans to jump through hoops for you with no reward for doing so, etc.

But there are two bits of really good news. One; social management platforms now exist that make posting, listening, targeting, responding, and analyzing easier and more of an integrated process than ever. Doing social the right way is more do-able. And two; the rewards of not chasing fans away are great.

The Vanson Bourne report shows 68% of social users researched a product or service recommended by a friend, and 15% of those bought based on the recommendation. Win your fans’ trust, and they’ll get you new customers without a frantic hard sell. And 82% of respondents to the Lab42 study said Facebook is a good platform for interacting with brands, with 50% finding the page more useful than the brand’s www.

So your fans are quite predisposed to keep following you. Only you can mess that up and become the uncool kid they don’t want to be seen around.

@mikestiles

Friday Feb 22, 2013

Community Managers: What, Who, Where, Why

trophyWe recently presented VistaPrint’s Jeff Esposito with the Oracle Community Manager of the Year award. The trophy is tall and shiny so we think he liked it. We read Jeff’s CM wish list, but we thought it might also be a good time to further remove any mystery around the CM position. What is their true role? Who makes a good CM? Where do we find them? Why are they so critical?

What?

CMs are the bridge, the conduit, the front lines, the therapists, the entertainers, the advocates, customer service, the curators, the moderators, the publishers, the ambassadors, the face, the spokesperson, the brand personality, (I could go on).

In short, this person IS your brand. Given the enormity of that, the way the CM position has traditionally been staffed and resourced has been stunningly ill advised. Businesses are realizing it’s not a role that can be squeezed in as “part” of someone’s duties.

If your brand is a show, your CM is the host. Don’t be shocked if sometime in the very near future, the CM goes from one of the lowest paid to one of the most coveted, highly recruited positions at a brand. Their innate talents of entertaining, informing and relationship building are largely intuitive and organic (I know, two words not in most corporate dictionaries).


Who?

So how do we recognize the best ones?

  • They believe in your brand and products. They see the value proposition and genuinely want to tell the world.
  • They’re autonomous. It’s 24/7, always on. Attempts to impose a punch clock environment show a lack of understanding of the job and won’t end well.
  • They’re agile. Social technologies and behaviors change fast and often.
  • They’re creative and consistent. You can’t start a social channel then vanish.
  • They know how to communicate short, clear, and visually.
  • They know their audience.
  • They’re smart enough not to use social for desperate, aggressive pitching.
  • They’re patient and have thick skins.
  • They recoil at corporate marketing-speak. They communicate as human beings.
  • They’re good listeners.
  • They cultivate go-to people internally so they can get fans the answers they need.

radarWhere?

So with an order that tall, where do you find these amazing people? Here are some suggestions…some expected, some out-of-the-box.

  • For big brands, draft CMs at smaller brands. Dazzle them with your grasp of the importance of the position.
  • PR People - used to representing brands, used to coming up with attention-getting ideas.
  • Radio Personalities - go on the air for hours at a time daily, creating original, compelling content that attracts, builds and holds an audience. Sound familiar?
  • Your Biggest Fan - They deeply self-identify with your brand. Could there be a stronger fan-advocate?
  • Writers/Journalists – great at knowing their audience. Very little content was created without a writer first sitting down at a blank page and making it un-blank.
  • Political Managers - a CM is trying to win their brand top of mind awareness, “votes,” and serve their constituents.

Why?

Why is it more important than ever to secure the right CM? Brands now understand social is not about fan-collecting. It’s about productive engagement, which is driven by content and relationships. If you have successful connections and relationships on social, they were built by a CM not a faceless corporation.

Get the right person or people. Let them practice their art and win for you. Encourage them to be forthcoming about what fans are saying, good or bad. Resource them with tools that help maximize their time and capabilities. Then enjoy the rewards of being a brand that took the Community Manager role as seriously as it should be.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng


Tuesday Feb 05, 2013

The Community Manager Wish List

Jeff EspositoJeff Esposito of VistaPrint was the winner of our yearlong search for the Oracle Community Manager of the Year. Associated with Jeremiah Owyang’s Community Manager Appreciation Day, the award is intended to honor the frontline work being done by these social brand representatives and relationship-builders every day (including weekends and holidays). We asked Jeff to tell us what, from his perspective, might improve a CMs ability to hit homeruns for their brand. What follows are his thoughts:

There is no question that the role of a Community Manager is a unique one. Outside of working for Tony Soprano, I am not sure that there is a position where you need to take as much time trying to describe what you do to family and coworkers. I’ve given up trying to be eloquent and typically sum it up as, “I get paid to talk to people for a living.”

Despite the headache of trying to describe what I do, I can safely say that I have a rewarding job. Community management is something where no two days will ever be the same, you’re pushed each and every hour that you sit behind your desk, and you have responsibilities that exceed anything that might be on your business card.

For those of you in a community management role, you know that the job is not perfect. You often find yourself wanting more. It’s OK. I find myself in the same position every now and then (read often). These are the 5 things that always seem to stay at the top of my Community Manager wish list:

More Time 
There are 24 hours in any given day, and you have to sleep sometime. If you ask any Community Manager what their biggest problem is, you will more than likely hear something about wanting more time. I know that’s what I want. You’ll never have enough time in the day to keep up with all the trends or touch everyone that you want to that day. The best you can do is to manage what time you have effectively and prioritize all the things that you’re called upon to do.

Continuing Education 
We all remember school and how un-awesome it was. Sorry Mrs. Callendar. It’s not you, it’s me. While going back to school is not exactly at the top of my priority list, it is important to keep learning. This can be accomplished any number of ways, from brushing up on white papers to networking with a professional group like the Community Roundtable (you should be a member).

Resources 
Much like time, we’ll likely never have all of the resources that we want. That said, it is important for Community Managers to push for tools that can make their jobs easier and help them deliver better results. If the answer is “no,” you shouldn’t throw in the towel. If there is a tool or membership that will enhance how you do your job, make a solid business case for it and show the value to the higher ups.

Good Friends 
There is a lot to be said about having a strong support network. For Community Managers, having friends who perform a similar role is vital for success. This is especially important when you hit a wall or need to bounce something off of someone. Plus they’re great to have even if you just need to vent a little bit.

Better Members 
While friends who are fellow CMs are good, a community wouldn’t be a community without great members. Maintaining the quality of those members and thus making sure the community is a pleasant, productive place to spend time is very much part of the job. So be thankful for the great community members you have, but keep coming up with ways to foster new super fans.

@mikestiles

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