Why you shouldn’t subcontract social media communications

Hardly any organisation can get by nowadays without a presence in social channels, but many still feel uncomfortable about how to do it. Luckily, most have realised that it’s not just like pushing your marketing messages onto some audience, as in traditional marketing (but some still do, unfortunately). So what’s the big difference? And what are the consequences?

Social media marketing works like a rock band

  • Traditional marketing speaks to non-customers, trying to turn them into new customers
  • Marketing in social media speaks to existing customers, caring and enthusing them, leaving to them to recruit new customers – like a rock band tending to their fans

But how’s that relevant for subcontracting your social media communications or not?

Putting it very simply, when the fans reach out, who do they want to reach? The promotor or the members of the band? Your professional tweeters/facebookers or your genuine experts? The hard currency in social media is trust. Go-betweens like band promotors or social media subcontractors don’t have the same credibility, expertise or authenticity as the members of a band or your own staff. When it will show through, not if, it risks eroding trust in your brand rather than the opposite.

You may well use social media subcontractors, but not as spokespersons

Instead, there are two very useful areas where you can leverage social media specialists:

Train your experts to communicate in social networks

Instead of speaking on behalf of your experts, have social media specialists train those experts to speak for themselves. Writing skills, tools and practices, do’s and don’ts. Plus some coaching on demand. Much better bang for your buck. Helps your experts gather market intelligence and do some brand building for your company and themselves too.

Get help scanning the buzz, identifying influencers and interesting content or discussions

The online networks are so vast and fast moving that it might be too much for your experts to both improve their communication skills and keep tabs on the networks. If so, you could hire someone with good tools and methods to scan and apply analytics to identify who to reach out to and build relations with – maybe also how best to succeed in doing it – and to identify relevant hotspots of content or discussions, passing the tips on to your experts to action, explore and respond to.

What’s your experience of social media go-betweens, training of spokespersons and social media analytics and scanning?

Photo: Pendulum 2007 by www.flickr.com/photos/wonker

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As the wheels turn faster, people are more important than ever before

The world around us changes at a pace we haven’t experienced before. It’s harder than ever to know where we are headed. Exciting and stimulating – and nothing any one of us can change. I talk about the digital transformation.

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Just imagine working as agile as a murmuration of starlings! Copyright: Walter Baxter Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 2.0

Over the coming months, I will publish a number of blog entries, expanding on five important factors to succeed in this changing environment. Factors organizations can realize through changing their ways of working based on collaboration tools. I will touch on them one by one, both from the perspective of the organization and of the individual. The blog entries will be published at the Smarter Planet blog of IBM Sweden in Swedish and here in English. The five factors are:

You’ll find an overview in this white paper, “The only constant is change”

Technology, business models, market preferences, communication habits, power balances, you name it. They all change rapidly and simultaneously. You have to stay  alert, agile and always informed with many and sensitive tentacles. We don’t need much time or effort to come up with examples of drastic changes, for better and for worse: Air BnB, Über, Kodak, Nokia, video rentals…

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Photo credit: William Warby on Flickr

But for decades, companies and organizations have focused on structuring, standardizing, streamlining and, to a large extent, eliminate “the human factor”. The result? Shiny system and processes that work efficiently, but which are static, insensitive and uninspiring.

It’s time to reintroduce people and positive human factors like creativity, engagement, flexibility and relations. To show that talking about the employees as “our most important resource” was earnest, not just empty words. Listen to employees, customers and partners. Engage them through including them and give them opportunity to leverage their entire potential, not only what the standardized job description says. Not just leverage, by the way, but grow their potential. It’s time to engage and inspire! I want to give people possibilities to communicate, collaborate, learn, share and help, easier than ever before. To find the people and the knowledge you need and to be able to show what you’re really made of, with minimal extra effort. All to the benefit of both people and organizations.

I don’t think it’s enough to be able to produce and manage pretty documents and presentations. What is important is to enable people to fill them with the best possible content.

What do you think? What makes work interesting? What brings out the best in you?

Originally published here in Swedish on the Smarter Planet blog of IBM Sweden

 

 

 

The one promotional tee I am fond of

Light grey polo with a discrete logo bottom rightI suppose we all have received our fair share of promotional t-shirts. I suppose that most of them rarely get used, at least not for their original purpose. Mine usually end up as pajamas or for when I work in the garden or do paint work.

Except for one. Probably the oldest one. It was given to me by Wildeco, a communication agency in Sweden, specialized in financial and strategic communications in the mid nineties, i.e. about two decades ago!

So, what makes this different?

  • Usually they are poor quality. This one is of great quality. (as you can tell from its’ age)
  • Often they are in bright colours. This is in a discrete, versatile light grey.
  • Usually they are full of BIG logos or other promotional messages, on the chest, the back or the sleeves. This has a very discrete logo that you end up tucking into your trousers.  (bottom left in the picture)

Because this polo has a target audience of one: the bearer.

Other promotional t-shirts try to use us to broadcast promotion to people around us. But since they often are of poor quality and usually ugly, they end up in the drawer or in our garden where their purpose is completely lost.

This one is intended to remind me, the person wearing it, about Wildeco. The quality of the polo supposedly reflects the quality of their work. And it works. I use it more than any of the others, each time I do I recall Wildeco and now I even end up promoting them in this blog.

They thought carefully and differently when creating this polo. And they succeeded. Cudos to Wildeco for putting some extra thought behind such a mundane thing as a t-shirt giveaway.

From “social switchboard” to “direct dial”

In his recent blog post “How to avoid having your social media team becoming a “social switchboard”, my good colleague @AndrewGrill makes a good case on the dangers of adding a filtering (switching) layer of social media people between employees and the world around them – similar to the phone switchboards of days gone by.

So far so good.

But, extending the switchboard analogy, for direct dial to work well, everybody needs to have a phone that can be reached directly, they have to know how to use it, how to speak and call in a professional way and to know what they may or may not say as representatives of the organization.

Bypassing the switchboard without enabling the employees to handle direct dialing may result in substandard responses or maybe even in some major commercial or reputational hazards.

“Direct dial” translates, in our digitally connected world of today, into “Enabled and Empowered Employees”

Many times, I have compared social media marketing with the way rock bands tend to work. Traditional marketing is all about companies communicating with non-customers to turn them into customers. Rock bands play for their fans and leave it to them to communicate with non-fans to turn them into new fans. This is also the fundamental formula for successful social media marketing. But, to extend that analogy too, when the fans approach, they don’t want to speak with the band manager. They want the band members. Just like customers approaching your company don’t want to be “switchboarded” by your social media team. They want to get in touch with the folks who know things for real, from experience, the experts.

Jon Iwata said it very well already in 2010:

Your best social media marketing is made by engaged customers and engaged, enabled and empowered employees.

So, to make it work well, you need:
  • A social communications policy coupled with thorough training of employees (include online security and respect for copyright while you’re at it)
  • Communications professionals who coach the experts instead of insisting of themselves being the voice of the company
  • For your foremost experts, it doesn’t hurt with some analytical support to help them improve their communications, to be made aware of which influencers to engage with and where there are relevant discussions going on
  • And, as usual when I’m involved, a social intranet where they can get backed up by shared knowledge and easy-to-reach experts is of great help too. It sure will speed up answering the tricky questions.

Replacing the old telephone switchboard with a social media filtering and forwarding team is no good. Automatically channeling them to identified experts who aren’t on board is not much better (but a little). You need to attend to both sides of this equation to get the full value.

Good selling is about “helping people to buy”

This is a post I have drafted  several months ago, but didn’t complete until today.

A tweet by Marie-Christine Schindler promoting a guest blog entry by Danna Vetter called The 5th P of Marketing is People in Brian Solis blog triggered me to complete it.

Kotler’s famous Four P’s are so passé.

They belong in a past era of mass marketing of interchangeable consumer products, with dominating producers and uninformed consumers.

Today, with information overflowing and readily accessible for anyone, those days are gone.

Nowadays it’s not about selling. It’s about helping people to buy.

Kotler’s P’s need to be viewed from the buyers perspective. Here’s my take:

  • From Product to Offering – we buy composites of products and services
  • From Price to Value – the key is what the offering is worth to me the buyer, and I pay not only in money, but perhaps in waiting time or through other sacrifices
  • From Place to Availability – it’s not only about where to buy, but how to buy and when. Is the sales process easy and self explanatory? Can I shop online or only physically between 11 and 18?
  • From Promotion to Communication – shouting messages in any kind of megaphone won’t get you many customers nowadays. Engaging in dialogue, listening to your customers will, at least if you want them to come back.
Sure you can stay old school if you’re ok with drive-by sales and one off customers. If you want any kind of lasting relationship with your customers, you had better listen to them and respond. In any kind of media; live, offline, online, social.
Sales training used to talk about the sales process. I prefer talking about the buying process (adopted from Joe Danielson)

Helping the prospective buyer to move from identifying Needs via becoming Aware of what you have to offer, Evaluating alternatives, Deciding to buy from you, Actioning on the decision and finally Experience what they bought from you

The job of marketeers and sales people in combination is to help prospective buyers progress through this process as smoothly as possible – to help them buy.

  1. It all starts by the customer becoming aware of a need they have, possibly by you making them aware of it
  2. Next, they need to become aware of you and what you have to offer. You need to make it to their short list, to be eligible
  3. Once you’re eligible, you need to provide sufficient information and arguments for them to be able to make a decision in your favour
  4. Finally, they decide. Perhaps since you have managed to strike a chord with some key, well thought-out argument. But it doesn’t end there…
  5. You need to help them take action on their decision. If your store isn’t open when they have the time to buy, they may well go elsewhere. If your online shop is difficult to manoeuvre or the check-out is complicated, you might lose them too
  6. Finally, you had better live up to expectations, to deliver on your promises. If you do, they are likely to both progress much faster through the process when it’s time for renewal and they may even spread the word, introducing other customers to you with an initial, positive mind set
It’s worthwhile noting that points 1, 3 and 5 are primarily Rational while 2, 4 and 6 are more emotional and more influenced by your branding efforts. This does not exclude your involvement on the Rational side. Supplying potential customers with facts allowing them to evaluate and offering a smooth sales process are very much within your reach.
This model works just as well for B2C as for B2B, for fast moving consumer goods as well as for major investments. The process is the same but the media, arguments, sales process etc differ and the process may be more or less time consuming and repetitious. But the basics are the same.
So, stop selling. Start helping to buy
ps. of course, this way of reasoning does not apply only to traditional buying as in paying money. With a little bit of flexibility, it can also be applied to convincing people about your point of view, to give money to charity and so on


Too many companies miss the “social” in “Social Media”

Let’s try out these new social media, they say. Then they use them to distribute a flow of press releases, linking to their own website. What the **** is social about that? And then they get disappointed about the results.

  • Social means two-way communication
  • Social means engaging people
  • Social means people engaging with people
  • Social means listening
  • Social means responding

When discussing with companies who are contemplating starting to use social media, my advice is usually the same and pretty simple:

  1. Start scanning Twitter and other platforms where it is possible for your company and brand names – why not for your competitor’s too? – for your products and services and other topics of interest.
  2. Establish processes to channel the “spontaneous feedback” to those concerned in the company
  3. Start interacting with people who make interesting posts. Respond to complaints and comments. Engage with potential ambassadors.
  4. Then, but not before, start interspersing with your own marketing messages. Since, by this time, you are likely to have built sufficient credibility with the public and strong relations with the ambassadors so they pass your messages on through their networks.

Say after me please: Social Media is not just another megaphone