“We’re in a world where one person, by their actions, can make a company look bad,
and it can get echoed and amplified over and over again.”
–Josh Bernoff, coauthor of Groundswell
“…a single disgruntled consumer with a broadband connection can ignite a crisis.”
Let me start with a question: How many of you woke up today and left the alarm on for your sleeping spouse? Replaced, “good bye, dear” with “you should buy me a flat screen on your way home,” on your way out the door, then ignored her response? Backed over your neighbor’s hasta—and lillies—made a gesture out your window as if you were pressing MUTE on the remote control when he complained? Then, seeing the look of confusion on his face, yelled out, “great doing business with you”?
Well, If you did, you probably also: Arrived at work. Late. Mumbled, “morning, Jim,” to indiscriminate passersby (three of whom were females—one, your secretary, who doubles as a carpool sub for your son); failed your mid-year review with flying colors while simultaneously demanding a raise; conducted a ‘transparent’ staff meeting in ‘TLA-style’ secrecy where you let-go several ardent employees for “undisclosed reasons;” ignored the agenda; discussed the critical importance of maintaining control over everything outside of your business unit’s sphere of influence—for an hour (because a few ‘detractors’ failed to give you their undivided attention); took no questions; then returned home to your angry neighbor and frigid spouse, spending the rest of your night confounded as to why the flat screen TV you ‘ordered’ never arrived.
While I do make light, it’s worth getting back to basics as we attempt to define what “success” looks like for a corporation in the social media realm. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you where I’m headed with this, but just in case, I encourage you to visit: http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-behave-on-an-internet-forum, for a neat video tutorial called, How to Behave Online, where the producers took great care to bring a refreshing level of sensitivity and thoughtfulness in providing profound insight into the ancient art of basic common sense.
It seems the arrival of digital, two-way communication has caused once clear-thinking business practitioners to abandon all regard for the gold standard of social etiquette they employ at cocktail parties, networking functions and other offline forums they frequent with the hope of engaging clients, building relationships with constituencies and adding value to their dinner table conversations. At the risk of over simplifying the issue, I’m simply convinced that most companies’ social media efforts will ultimately soar or flop based on this basic premise.
That said, there are best practices (and worst practices) that can define or limit a brand targeting consumers in the digital world. Some best practices include the following:
Do your research: Learn the online culture on each site and conform. Know your goals, objectives, strategies, and don’t choose social networking tools that are not appropriate—even IF everyone else is doing it.
Add value with Compelling or Viral Content (for a current list visit: http://socialmediatrader.com/analysis-what-type-of-content-is-most-popular-on-digg-reddit-propeller-delicious-and-stumbleupon/)
Practice honesty and transparency by allowing open source or editable/ non-controlled information flow
Be Relevant and provide Real Time Information
Be Human/ Responsive/ Engaging/ Interactive: Listen to your audience, respond, invite comment, adapt
Rohit’s blog introduces the concept of “forever findable,”another desirable trait in the online world, referring to the concept of always being able to connect with someone or something online.
Use images that are relevant to your content
Maintain industry standard for speed to load; Use this great free tool to analyse your website for errors and fatal page sizes; or try these: css optimization. Liquidweb
Utilize Smart website design: think cool, fun, (cater to the ADD in your audience!)
Segment, Target, Position: don’t blanket the blogosphere with niche messaging (think demographics, not site traffic)
Demonstrate your ROI— Use clicks, visits, followers, dialogue, attitudinal surveys, etc..To justify your value to your consumers. And visit Technorati.com to see where you rate.
So who does it right? Three words, GOOGLE, GOOGLE, GOOGLE! Brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen are the undisputed heavy weights in online success for many reasons. Their creativity, understanding of trends, consumer demands and needs are reasons why the Google, Inc. Empire is now a social fact for on and offline users. “Google’s ability to watch the way humans use technology and design around that is pretty amazing…what Google does with software, Apple does with hardware,” this, according to Adam Brohit, Partner at Circ.us., a creative marketing firm that influences consumer behavior through development, distribution, involvement and monitoring of brand stories across various media. If AdWords, Earth, Gmail, Talk, and other recipes of unparalleled ingenuity don’t satisfy you, their newest creation, WAVE, surely will—once you figure out what it is and how to use it. This latest application takes the five most commonplace online functions and groups them together into one application capable of open source, chating, emailing, searching and file sharing.
They not only adhere to impeccable online networking and marketing etiquette, they define new boundaries in online interaction daily, and I believe they’ve earned the gold standard for improving the way people behave online. For a preview of Wave, visit: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/23451.asp
So who drank too much at the reception and got sent home in disgrace? Hard to say—so many have failed before they got it right. Seems a right of passage for most big brand companies: Target, Amazon (constant spam, unmonitored); MacDonald’s (constant coupon Tweet), the Motrin Mom debacle… In my opinion, it’s getting it right that matters more than an ode to the failures because that’s what people remember. It seems you can flop out of the gate, learn, then make a stellar comeback (such as Yahoo or Starbucks—turned away breastfeeding moms, now a model company). The thing that strikes me most about online social marketing and networking is it’s “of-the-moment” nature—failures seem transient in our short-term digital memory—but it’s the brands with impeccable manners who we invite back into our homes, lives and purses again and again.