There are no absolutes. There are no hard and fast rules.
The truth is that Marketing is changing, shifting and adapting. A lot of those changes have to do with Social Media, but not all of them. Prior to Social Media, we still had people connecting and sharing ideas (online and otherwise). The platforms and channels continue to evolve and what works for one brand may not be the right solution for another brand. You'll also note that there are a plethora of online pundits who are quick to distill the "rules of engagement" which are, ultimately, personal rules that worked for them (your mileage may vary).
You are doing it wrong.
I'm frequently asked by brands if what they're doing in these digital channels is "wrong". The phrasing of the question is off. The question (really) is: "am I optimizing this experience for the consumers that are doing their best to connect with us?" At that point, it's not about being wrong... it's about missed opportunities.
What are some of the more common missed opportunities?
- Not even knowing that someone is talking about you. Whether you're using a more complex Social Media monitoring tool like Radian6 or Sysomos or using free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search, there really is no excuse not to know what people are saying, where they're saying it, how much of a network they're connected to, and what the overall sentiment is.
- Not sending a simple, "thank you." You don't have to become their friends, they don't have to like you on Facebook, and there's no need to sign them up to your email blast. A simple "thank you" goes a long way and (for most) it's more than enough. Let the consumer choose if they would like more engagement and communication.
- Not responding back to someone on their Facebook page. Brands love their corporate Facebook pages. They tend to leave nice messages to those who have connected with them... on their page. Why don't more brands head over to the individual's page and thank them there? The navel-gazing desire to have everyone connect to the brand on their own page (and nowhere else) creates a feeling of, "build it and they will come."
- Not engaging in the comments on someone else's Blog. This is tied into the previous point. There are countless Blogs where individuals are talking about a brand or the industry that the brand serves. More often than not, you'll see that many of these brands have fairly active corporate Blogs, but those Bloggers spend zero time in the community. The expectation is that people will come to them (their Blog) or they simply don't have the time or desire to be truly active within the community - beyond their own garden.
- Not helping people out when you know they won't buy from you. Jeffrey Gitomer (author of the best-selling business books, The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling and the other Little Book... series) was recently speaking to a group of mortgage providers and this is what he told them to say to prospective clients if they wanted to up their game and increase their sales: "I am going to find you the best mortgage possible... even if that means you will be buying it from someone else." There are too many brands who only respond to direct inquiries or those of their direct competitors, and not enough time helping those who have questions and needs about the industry they serve.
- Not asking for permission to connect to someone. Just because someone leaves a comment, friends you, likes you, gives you a thumb's up or whatever, it does not mean that they want to be a part of your community or have a desire for more engagement. A simple, "would you mind if we stay connected?" will go a long way. It's a sign of a respect to your consumer and their attention. Beyond that, it's also a sign of submission... and this is powerful. Allow the consumer to control the level of engagement and connectedness. If you start the engagement from that point (with them leading charge and giving permission), you'll never fall into their spam filter (literally and figuratively).
Be of service. Don't be self-serving.
The brands that are of service to their consumers (and their potential clientele) are the brands who win (in the long term... not the short term). The brands who use these digital channels in a self-serving way are the ones who may be gaining friends and followers now, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of both longevity and loyalty in the long run.
Too many brands are missing too many opportunities. What are some of the other, obvious, missed opportunities that you see brands making?