I’ve been building relationships for companies through online community and social media for 29 years, starting from my earliest work at Apple with a product called Desktop Express and the Apple industry online community, AppleLink, and continuing to my present role as chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, which provides social content marketing solutions to major brands.
Here are some of the most important all-purpose lessons I’ve taken away from all those years, neatly boiled into six digestible tips.
1. Social isn’t a “build it and they will come” model. You have to think what you’re doing if you want to attract interest and create relationships that matter to your business. Don’t just put up a Facebook page. Have a plan. Set goals. Do you want to educate people? Get them in a store? Make them a customer for life? Know what you’re selling. Develop a plan that guides your online activity.
2. Once you put a page out there, you have to promote it. People don’t show up magically. You have to let people know what’s going on and that requires its own plan.
3. Don’t rely on broadcast messages. Social is not a broadcast message medium. Unfortunately most social media marketing today is essentially traditional advertising, digital, and PR shoved through social channels talking at people instead of having a conversation with them.
4. Companies in social tend to talk about themselves and their products 80 percent of the time, and have socially-oriented discussions 20 percent of the time or less. Flip it. Spend 80 percent of the time stimulating conversations your customers want to have with each other and about topics in general they find interesting. Would you ever host a party and spend 80 percent of the time talking about you, you, you, and more you? Being social means being genuinely interested in what customers are doing and reflecting that in your content.
5. In a social media crisis don’t try to control the negatives. Instead, embrace the conversation, demonstrate you are listening, do what it takes so that customers know their concerns matter, and allow brand defenders to emerge. But know that your challenge will be much lighter if you’ve already embraced #6….
6. Build relationships in advance of the crisis. The middle of a crisis is not the time to make friends. You have to pay attention to your customers, develop a positive cultural context, and cultivate brand defenders well ahead of when the crisis happens. When it does hit, you’ll be ready because they’ll come out for you and ask others to give you the benefit of the doubt.