What follows is a modified excerpt from Engage!, the complete guide for businesses to build, cultivate, and measure success in the new Web.
Social Media is reinventing marketing, communications, and the dissemination of information. For many businesses and organizations, social networks represent hallowed grounds, bringing together customers, prospects and the people who influence their decisions in a shared, balanced, and interactive medium. While businesses now have access to these rich channels, the true promise of social media however, lies in the direct connections that are forged between people who represent companies and the people who define markets of interest.
Conversations will transpire with or without us and it’s through meaningful engagement and the introduction of useful content that help us earn ongoing relevance. As such, there are rules of engagement combined with a strict code of conduct that businesses must employ when taking a participatory role in the definition and perception of the brand and reputation online.
Many businesses approach this today with the establishment of social media guidelines and policies. This is indeed an important step and not one worth economizing. But, it’s also not enough.
I highly recommend the introduction of protocol and direction that instruct and remind representatives of the importance and privilege of engagement.
If time is money, then attention is gold.
The openness of popular networks is trivial. Anyone can join and surely any business or organization can create profiles, groups or brand-related pages. It is the devices we employ, the intentions that motivate engagement, the value we offer in each exchange, the caliber of the content we create and distribute, and the rewards we introduce as part of the experience that dictate the significance of the brand-specific social graphs we weave. It’s a simple investment in either visibility or presence. In social media, just like in the real world, presence is felt.
Rules of Engagement
As social media continues to evolve, establishing not only policies and guidelines but also defining the “rules of engagement” will encourage thoughtful interaction as it benefits the business, brand, customer, peers, and prospects at every touchpoint. In the end, we earn the attention, relationships and business we deserve.
Following is an outline of best practices to help you craft a practical set of rules that guide representatives as they engage:
1: Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network
2: Participate where your presence is advantageous and mandatory, don’t just participate anywhere and everywhere or solely in your own domains (Facebook Brand Page, Twitter conversations related to your brand, etc.)
3: Determine the identity, character, and personality of the brand and match it to the persona of the individuals representing it online
4: Establish a point of contact who is ultimately responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to all things that can affect brand perception
5: As in customer service, representatives require training to learn how to proactively and reactively respond across multiple scenarios – don’t just put the person familiar with social networking in front of the brand
6: Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instill – operate by a code of conduct
7: Observe the behavioral cultures within each network and adjust your outreach accordingly
8: Assess pain points, frustrations and also those of contentment in order to establish meaningful connections
9: Become a true participant in each community you wish to activate, move beyond marketing and sales
10: Don’t speak at audiences through canned messages, introduce value, insight and direction through each engagement
11: Empower your representatives to offer rewards and resolution in times of need
12: Act, don’t just listen and placate — do something
13: Ensure that any external activities are supported by a comprehensive infrastructure to address situations and adapt to market conditions and demands
14: Learn from each engagement and provide a path within the company to adapt and improve products and services
15: Consistently create, contribute, and reinforce service and value
16: Earn connections through collaboration and empower advocacy
17: Don’t get lost in translation, ensure your communication and intent is clear and that your involvement maps to objectives created for the social web
18: Establish and nurture beneficial relationships online and in the real world as long as doing so is important to your business
19: “un” campaign and create ongoing programs that keep you part of day-to-day engagement
20: “un” market by becoming a resource to your communities
21: Give back, reciprocate and recognize notable contributions from participants in your communities
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About The Author: Brian Solis is principal at FutureWorks PR, an award-winning PR and Social Media agency founded in 1999. FW PR bridges the communications gap between companies and their customers, and between products and their specific benefits for their target markets. Solis blogs at PR2.0, http://www.briansolis.com, and regularly contributes to many industry trades. He is also frequently quoted in articles relating to technology trends and Marketing/PR strategies.