Most companies looking at Social Media and Web 2.0 see it as a media channel to broadcast their messages into. This includes most Governments and Associations. This is the wrong reason to do it and the wrong strategy.
If your company is looking at engaging in the social channels, but simply wants to tell the gathered audience about their brands, messages, products and services, here's the one best piece of advice to make that happen: advertise on those channels.
You can do either mass advertising or you can target ads specifically to the types of people who might be more inclined to act on your messages. Companies like Facebook and Google offer these types of targeting. The common attitude is, "let's post our videos on YouTube," or "everyone's on Twitter, we should be on Twitter too," and what comes after is a closed, one-way broadcasting channel that does not engender the shared values of these social systems, including: commenting, being open to differing opinions, responding and - most importantly - making changes based on the feedback and conversation that is taking place.
This is the primary reason why most companies have epic fails on these channels: they're broadcasting not engaging, responding and adapting.
Don't ask for people's opinions or be in channels where that back and forth takes place and not do anything about it. It's insulting and it's a huge waste of both your time and the people who have connected to you.
A lot of companies talk about "opening up" or "letting the information free" but what it boils down to is a couple of inches more liberal than their traditional marketing and communications. Have you seen some of the topics of conversation listed at recent Government, Association, Marketing and Public Relations seminars? They hint at how open the topic will be, but the subtle undertones of the conference description and the speakers asked to present stink of, "how can your company understand what people are saying and how your company can control the chaos and broadcast into it."
It's the wrong way to be looking at things.
Here are the bigger questions your organization needs to be asking before entering these channels:
- Are we willing to not just listen, but to respond and adapt based on the back and forth?
- Are we willing to become active participants - not just in our channels but in the other channels and spaces as well?
- Are we willing to change the focus from being on our company to being about everybody - us, them and the entire community?
- Are we willing to be participants with just as much fervour and passion when it's not good for us, but good for the community or the industry as a whole?
- Are we willing to be open?
- Are we willing to be really, really open and transparent?
Individuals have an obvious and very real reason to be skeptical of brands and companies in the social media sphere. The majority of companies have done a very poor job of changing that perspective because - for the most part - they are simply using these tools to broadcast their messages in a uni-directional fashion. Most companies see these channels as another mass media tool (after all, they are going where the masses are), this forces them to look at the wrong metrics (still), like how many people are seeing their message and what are they doing? Versus, who is seeing their messages, what are they feedbacking and how quickly can the company change their business to adapt and grow?
What do you think companies must do to shift their thinking and really open up?