In Social Marketing Act With Intention or Don’t Waste My Time

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I frequently encounter clients that want to “do” social marketing because they have a Twitter or Facebook account, and in turn they attempt to reduce my role of community manger to merely posting status updates.

There are valid reasons why your marketing team wants you on social:

  • Generating data for analysis
  • Responding to customers that post their opinions publicly online
  • Incentivizing customers to make purchases

But honestly, that isn’t really all that I should be doing for you as a community manager. Nothing listed above requires loyalty on the part of your customers; it may provide you with information and some customer service, but it should not be your main focus on social.

My main goal when working with clients is to set an intention for their community. A vision of sorts, which creates a movement that individuals can belong to. I find ways to connect brand goals with the very human needs of acceptance and respect.

Community at its best unites customers with various backgrounds into a force that can be mobilized under your banner.

Social Marketing Leads with an Open Heart

In my role as a Community Manager, I take a position of compassion, empathy and mindfulness. This is because I know that my community is made of individuals and my role is to create an inclusive place where they can belong. I need to encourage them gently to share with us their true thoughts. This means doing research to find out just what resonates with our core customers.

But some clients are at odds with this process, wanting to dominate their customers with marketing messages. They want the most efficient way to open up their customer’s pocket books. Unfortunately, community does not work that immediately. In community, the company takes on a more passive role eliciting customer feedback and allowing them to be key decision makers at times. The community manager allows this to happen organically by creating a space where open communication can occur.

This is why community works so well for the companies that embrace it. Community empowers customers. It is a win – win situation, but for it to work the company must cede some control.

Why Social Marketing is Scary

Social marketing is scary; I see this fear when I talk to clients because it is all in their body language. The crossed arms and side ward glances…  tell me that they aren’t sure, but they really want to try this ‘social thing.’

I want to acknowledge that and say that the fear is well justified. The social mob is a real thing that exists. Amy Tobin outlined this in her Social Justice series. I am not going to sugar coat it. Here are a few of the fears that I have encountered from clients and how they prevent community from working:

1. I am not worthy of attention

You might think that you have done nothing yet to earn community. You are wrong.  You already have a community although you may not have customers.

That community is the internal team. Believe in your work and celebrate it! That enthusiasm will spread every time you encounter a new customer. You’ll be growing your social presence much quicker than you would have expected.

2. I don’t want to give competitors an upper hand

Hiding from social is a disadvantage in a competitive space.  It is only going to hinder you because your customers won’t get the chance to hear your voice.

A big advantage of social is that it allows you to differentiate your company from competitors. It allows you to share the values that make you unique.  Community becomes an important part of your branding

3. What if I Say the Wrong Thing

This is a big one. It is also the root fear that I had when I started working in community management. I was afraid to talk to customers.

It is hard to make a counter-argument. There are times when you are going to make mistakes, but you have to deal with them and learn from the experience.  It takes many conversations that equate to deliberate practice to overcome this.

A recent encounter on the Gygax Magazine Facebook page.

A recent encounter on the Gygax Magazine Facebook page.

Treat every interaction you have as if it were your first. Be modest. When you encounter a challenge find a way to turn that into an opportunity for community contribution.

The worst sin in social is neglect. You may not handle every situation with aplomb, but you will get better every time you do it. Most importantly, you will wow customers with your responsiveness and care.

Social Marketing is a Commitment you Make to Your Customers

Community Management doesn’t work if you are not willing to commit. I know clients waiver about taking the plunge. Some days it seems that we are working as a strong team, but they may change their mind a few days later. I’ve come to expect it. I know that I am doing all that I can for our mutual success. I don’t hold any grudges about it. That is business and there is a bottom line that must result in increased revenue for the company.

Keep in mind that marketing is a numbers game, but it is also about the wealth of human emotions.  Making your company accessible via social media opens up your ability to listen to your customers’ needs and receive qualitative feedback on how you are doing.

When you start with a deliberate strategy for your community efforts then you can measure results! Real data about how your efforts change the behavior of your customers. Don’t judge the worth of your community until you have been doing it long enough to see results. Every month re-group and adjust your efforts.

FeverBee estimates that starting a community from scratch can take 9 month or more.

If the intention to make social work for you is not there…

If you don’t see value in relationships….

If you believe that social cannot lead to sales…

If you are reactive and not proactive when it comes to communication…

Then don’t hire me. I will not be able to do anything for you.

You reduce our community manager’s effectiveness when you take away their agency. They must be able to set a strategy and act on your behalf. That takes a lot of trust, but it is also what makes these communities enduring. Don’t take the process lightly.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Susan Silver is a community focused strategist who uses social data insights as the foundation of her work with ARCOMPANY. Her philosophy “Humanity in Data” is informed by a background in cognitive-behavioral psychology. She is making positive change in people’s lives, and the world, with thoughtful communication on behalf of her clients.

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