Nurturing vs. Building Community In Social

Community is the holy grail of Social media. Without community, there is no social. Mind you, if your focus is not right then you may just miss the bull’s eye by a thin line or shall I say a thin curve (Ah! I have been working out so I can mention ‘thin’ and ‘curves’ now)

Well if you’re thinking building a community is nothing but just a number game then yes, you are not wrong. Please note, I am saying “your aren’t wrong”. Members can be bought. Yes, they can be bought. Paid media, contests, promotions, etc. There are many ways. Principally, you can only buy the “Building” for your community. And, these numbers may or may not be necessary. Sometimes enormous followers can get you credibility. Sometimes it creates a base for future nurturing however I personally believe that there’s always a start and start is always with ‘1’ or shall we say ‘0’. I would say start with a clear purpose and members or followers for your community will come automatically. Do not worry much about the number game when you make a start. So now if you’re thinking that building a community is about quality numbers, you’re right. Please note, now I am saying “You’re right”.

Well you will find all social media practitioners saying this a lot, do something with your community because until you will do something worthwhile with your “big strength” they are nothing but just the false weights and you’re just spending a lot of energy to just ‘look’ good. The key is to ‘feel’ good and not just ‘look’ good. (Ah! It’s evident that girl is struggling to give in to some vino and Macaroons. Of course, it is. What on the earth ‘feel’ ‘look’ good jazz has to do with the Community Building!)

Believe you me, with this social media week coming up, I get to meet many CMOs / Digital Officers / Social Media Practitioners (more than I anticipated) who said to me: “I just want to have more followers for my company than my golf buddy’s company.” (Sadly, they weren’t joking).

Well let’s cut the humour now and submit some sense. (Did I just sense a grin here? Well! In my defence, my cocktail buddies laugh on my most one liners and a bit later, on all ) Yes, back to the topic now. I submit an idea: Nurture a community; don’t just build it. Nurturing a community means you encourage interactions, create engagements. Create an environment of communication (Let me say it for the last time, there is only one way to have communication i.e. ‘two-way’ communication). You need to get people talking. Maybe not talking with your brand, but sometimes simply talking with each other. Remember Entertain, Express, Express, Enable!

Nurturing a community means you are providing utility, usefulness and support for your community. When you articulate, it may sound little but in the practical world there’s a big difference between A presence and to HAVE a presence.

Look at it this way, if you can raise the community is an indicator on whether you should even be spending time in a social community or not. Can you get members talking? Can you get members engaging? Can you get members to act?

If not, you may like to consider other advertising options. Email marketing and other traditional methods that may have given you ROIs in the past.

Ask! Listen! Understand! Engage!

Before you give up on your ‘Building’, try this:

  • ASK! Ask your community a question where the answer sincerely impacts your business decisions.
  • Listen! Open ears will help you identify an opportunity where you can help your community and win their loyalty and trust. Go an extra mile wins hearts in social world too.
  • Understand! Understand the contribution and efforts made by members. Give them the limelight and show gratitude for their contributions.
  • Engage! Get people talking and create engagements. Host meet-ups, Q&A. Trivia Questions on a launch. Ways are many.

The essence of social community is same as the ‘house’ and ‘home’ theory. Everyone prefers a place to connect and not just the lumps of concrete hence nurture your ‘Building’ to a ‘Community’.

If you have done something similar in your business, please share your story. If you want to try this and still not sure how to go about it, feel free to leave your question.

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Social Media Policy is a MUST!

71% companies don’t have Social Media Policy : Is your company part of the winning 29%?

Companies are becoming more and more positive about using Social Media with each passing Tweet / Like / Pin / SlideShare / Circle and the list is never ending but most of them are ignorant about forming the base strong.

“Realize that the social media success equations isn’t big moves on the chess board, it’s little moves made every day that eventually add up to a major shift.” — Jay Baer

Having supposed that, it is important that the base of these small small steps is formed strong. Yes, I mean the Social Media Policy.

Currently only 29% companies have a Social Media Policy, so it would be good idea to put together a list of resources that would assist the other 71% to create one.

First thing first, What is a social media policy?

“A social media policy outlines for employees the corporate guidelines or principles of communicating in the online world”.

Why Have a Social Media Policy?

As a Human Resources and Social Media practitioner, I take the blame of being all about policies. Nonetheless besides the pre-disposition of my profession and obsession to policies, there are genuine reasons to establish some guidelines for social media. Call me old school but only the strong foundations can form the best structures. For organisations, strong base aka policies are the key.

Unfortunately, you have to contemplate what might happen if someone says or does something stupid. So I would refer an expert here, Eric B. Meyer, who’s an Associate in the Labor and Employment Group of Dilworth Paxson LLP, what companies should consider from a legal perspective in developing a social media policy. Meyer reminded me of two important points:

1. Employers need to be upfront with employees that they have no right to privacy with respect to social networking. “Employers reserve the right to monitor employee use of social media regardless of location (i.e. at work on a company computer or on personal time with a home computer).”

2. Employees “should be made aware that company policies on anti-harassment, ethics and company loyalty extend to all forms of communication (including social media) both inside and outside the workplace.” People need to remember that bashing your organization/boss/co-workers online can lead to consequences at work.

Are you thinking, how to get started with your social media policy? You may consider using the below skeleton or let’s call them guidelines for the starters.

Always remember that all policies should be reviewed and revised, if needed on time to time basis. Most importantly, they should be futuristic. You may be 200 employees today however you will keep adding zeros to your employee strength (at the end of course).

Sample Social Media Computing Guidelines:-

These guidelines apply to (Name of the company) employees or contractors who create or contribute to blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds, or any other kind of Social Media. Whether you log into Twitter, Yelp, Wikipedia, MySpace or Facebook pages, or comment on online media stories — these guidelines are for you.

While all (Name of the company) employees are welcome to participate in Social Media, we expect everyone who participates in online commentary to understand and to follow these simple but important guidelines. These rules might sound strict and contain a bit of legal-sounding jargon but please keep in mind that our overall goal is simple: to participate online in a respectful, relevant way that protects our reputation and of course follows the letter and spirit of the law.

  1. Be transparent and state that you work at (Name of the company). Your honesty will be noted in the Social Media environment. If you are writing about (Name of the company) or a competitor, use your real name, identify that you work for (Name of the company), and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in what you are discussing, be the first to say so.
  2. Never represent yourself or (Name of the company) in a false or misleading way. All statements must be true and not misleading; all claims must be substantiated.
  3. Post meaningful, respectful comments — in other words, please no spam and no remarks that are off-topic or offensive.
  4. Use common sense and common courtesy: for example, it’s best to ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to (Name of the company).
  5. Make sure your efforts to be transparent don’t violate (Name of the Company)’s privacy, confidentiality, and legal guidelines for external commercial speech. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
  6. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval. When you do make a reference, link back to the source. Don’t publish anything that might allow inferences to be drawn which could embarrass or harm a client.
  7. Stick to your area of expertise and do feel free to provide unique, individual perspectives on non-confidential activities at (Name of the company).
  8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in Kcom’s workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion.
  9. When disagreeing with others’ opinions, keep it appropriate and polite. If you find yourself in a situation online that looks as if it’s becoming hostile, do not get overly defensive and do not disengage from the conversation abruptly: feel free to ask the PR Director for advice and/or to disengage from the dialogue in a polite manner that reflects well on (Name of the company).
  10. If you want to write about the competition, make sure you behave tactfully, have the facts straight and that you have the appropriate permissions from the business.
  11. Please never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation, or any parties (Name of the company) may be in litigation with.
  12. Never participate in Social Media when the topic being discussed may be considered a crisis situation. Even anonymous comments may be traced back to your or (Name of the company)’s IP address. Refer all Social Media activity around crisis topics to PR and/or Legal Affairs Director.
  13. Be smart about protecting yourself, your privacy, and (Name of the company)’s confidential information. What you publish is widely accessible and will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully. Google has a long memory.

So do you think you are ready to have one in place now? Once done creating it, make sure the viral communication of the same is done. It’s as important as creating one.

How to build or improve the social presence of your business via Twitter?

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It’s all about building engagements. Remember this word ‘engagement’, it doesn’t mean selling, not spamming and definitely not proselytization.

What many companies fail to understand is business success on Twitter is ancillary to relationship building. Twitter is a two-way conversation. It’s about engagement. You have to show your human side, you need to go beyond your logo and the name. (This is applicable for the businesses of all sizes and cadre)

You have to get out there and share your views, praise, reply and add value. You should be there to unleash the golden opportunity to share your brand personality with the world. People like people, they don’t like logos. Ask yourself, do you like talking to a wall or a person?

I feel this is the most exciting and golden era to be an entrepreneur. The opportunities to build your presence online and attract attention to your brand using Twitter are boundless. The important key for businesses using Twitter is to understand that followers want to see real people with real experiences.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, is a good example of someone who is raising the profile of the Zappo’s brand by tweeting in a very authentic manner. He uses a great mix of interesting content, business links, personal observations and a pleasant enthusiasm for his life and his business. He connects with his followers on a very human level. The emotional connection is the key to building a powerful brand in the social media or virtual world arena.

It is understandable that all businesses may not  be able to keep a leadership face attached to their company’s twitter and other social media interventions however it’s possible and vital that businesses using business name engage like humans. If you will honestly try to connect with your followers at a human level, they will pick that and appreciate it. For example, show gratitude to your new tweeps, make new twitter users in your arena feel welcomed. Personalised tweets for your followers will take you a long way.

To build your brand on Twitter, you must give your followers a snapshot into your life beyond just being a logo or name. You must be willing to give more than you get – to add value and show support for others’ projects and businesses.

Here are some Twitter Rules of Engagement for businesses trying to improve or build their social presence:

1. Tweet when you have something meaningful, valuable, interesting or humorous to say.

2. Post regularly (at least several times daily).

3. Only tweeting about your business, products and services can actually repel people. Spamming your business down your followers’ throats is the fastest way to get unfollowed. Instead, share quotes, knowledge, industry insight, ideas and resources that will help them.

4. Balance your tweets. A good rule of thumb is no more than 20-40% about your business, and the remaining should be personal and added value, such as links to great resources, observations, quotes, industry insight and articles your target market may be interested in. The key is to offer information that helps, entertains and uplifts your followers. Let’s call it 4E’s approach:-

5. Ask questions regularly. Twitter is about a two-way conversation. Listen.

6. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t tweet it. If you do, it’s out there forever. Remember, tweets are picked up by the search engines.

7. Always remember that deep-down, people want to be acknowledged and recognized for their efforts. Do this every day on Twitter, coupled with creating value for your followers, and you will be well on your way to a powerful presence online.

8. Take time each week to read what others have to say. Reply and compliment someone if you really like something and re-tweet (RT) the most valuable comments and insights. Remember, this is about engagement.

9. Remember to give credit where credit is due. Use the re-tweet symbol (RT) when sharing something someone else has already tweeted.

10. Twitter in the short term does not work. You must be in it for the long haul and be persistent, consistent and committed.

By regularly letting your followers know that they have your attention and your support for their success, you are building the all-important “identify, like and trust” factor.

As a pleasant side-effect of following the Twitter Rules of Engagement, you may eventually find yourself and your business presence and engaement solid.

Thinking Social Media Strategy? ‘Your employees are your best bet’

employees are the heart of social media strategyMarketing strategies of any size organisations are no more untouched from the social media element rather it is becoming an important part of their approach. Whether it is one person show, mid-sized or large enterprises; all are embracing social media with open arms. More and more companies are seeing the value in engaging with consumers across various social media networks.

Here, I want to draw your attention to an old theory because I find it totally evergreen and I am sure you will also find it a sure shot way to your business success. ‘Your employees are your best brand ambassadors.’

Keeping this in mind, now just because you have a community or social media feeding-box doesn’t mean you have to limit your company’s social media use to that person or team. The most sustainable and successful way to use social media is with the motivated employees while building a community focused on your brand and business. Here are a few steps you can take to make that happen:

Inside the Office – Managers and Employees
Social media and online communities can be used to motivate and incentivize employees. Social media use can also help promote productivity. A 2012 Gartner, Inc. report found that 46 percent of organizations agree – from somewhat to strongly – that social media helps promote productivity.

When you’re considering whether or not to bring your employees into your business’s social presence, think carefully and make sure they have some training or guidelines in how your brand is to be represented in these social spaces. Even if you have an employee who is solely responsible for managing your business’s social media networks, every business has a large pool of ideas to draw from.

  • Ask your employees for input on social media strategies so they feel they have a voice in the overall direction of the company, nurturing loyalty. Old yet evergreen way, reward good ideas and more will be brought to the table.
  • Encourage your employees to follow each other on the different platforms they’re active on. This can create a deeper sense of family within your business, while promoting a positive culture to the outside world. 49 percent of organizations from the Gartner study used social media at work to connect with their coworkers.
  • Give your employees public acknowledgement when a job is well done. Everyone appreciates the recognition and when it’s via social media, it’s something easy for them to share with friends, family, and their social audiences.

Outside the Office – Employees and Customers
Never forget that your employees are your best brand ambassadors and most of them have an existing pool of connections. A business can make a lot from its socially-connected employees. Employees can delve into the various communities where your customers and potential customers are. Your employees shouldn’t only be interacting with their coworkers; they should also be using social media to connect with customers by becoming a thought leader and reliable source in your business’s industry. Employees can answer customer service questions pertaining to their department while finding new prospects.

  • Transparency is the key. Ensure your employees represent your brand and business well on social networks by getting them to interact, respond, and listen to feedback from customers in various communities.
  • Ask employees to encourage and participate in discussions in online social spaces with customers who have questions or complaints. In the same Gartner study mentioned above, 44 percent of organizations used social media at work to connect with customers.

By having employees participate in social media, you can help build brand awareness while creating a greater sense of accordance in your workplace. As employees participate in online social networks and communities with both coworkers and customers, thank them for their participation. Employees like to know that what they are doing is recognized and appreciated. Appreciation is always appreciated by employees of each era. Social media can create a community among coworkers and customers.

Principles of Social Media Marketing

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The most interesting fact about Social Media Marketing is that its beauty and beast both rest in one quality. It is very fast-moving hence companies are struggling to acclimatize their strategies and schemes. What worked in a few years before is so ‘last year’ now and is becoming less and less effective.

For the fast changing social media marketing turf, along with the 6P’s (Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance) rule following the key principles will take you and your organisation a long way.

Here are some key elements you need to keep in mind to market on a social web.

Think sharing

What do people want to share? Then publish and promote it. Simple yet compelling headline is the key.

Go Real Time

Social media marketing is all about being active in real time. It involves publishing in real time, not next week or next month. The up-to-date posts and tweets will help you catch the trend and viral surge. The action doesn’t end with the real time tweeting, it also means you need to respond in real time to complaints, issues and inquiries.

Just Enlighten, Don’t Hawk

Think like your audiences. Do you think to be “sold to”? NO! So does your audiences. Social marketing is about giving the relevant updates that contributes to solving people’s problems with answers and information. The mode doesn’t matter as long as you follow the rule, whether that is from your blog, links in your tweets or updates and information on Facebook.

Souk is the ‘old soup’, Entertain

Again think like your audiences. Would you prefer the mundane and bland dish or would clasp the ‘WOW’? We live in an information age that discards the tasteless and shares the ‘WOW’. Facebook pages and updates that entertain, with competitions, humor or the unexpected are the links that will be shared.

Go Multichannel

One-track channel is not sufficient these days. You need to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Blogs as a minimum. Social Media can provide you with the channels to be omnipresent (everywhere) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the starters, based on your target audience you can choose at least 2-3 channels to focus on. This is just to start, keep adding as you progress. Pace & multiplicity is the key here.

Different folks, different strokes

The blue-penciled content on its own doesn’t make it anymore; you need to provide information in ways that meets different people’s style. Going multimedia is the key.

Target Your Niche

Clans and fans find you and share you to their community. On Twitter you need to follow leaders and people in your niche so that when you tweet they will retweet you to their followers who will have similar interests. Facebook marketing can target demographics including roles, interests and geography.

Show Your Passion

Remember social marketing involves passion and enthusiasm. If you are not passionate about your forte, it will be obvious to your audiences. Remember, a passionate publisher always shine through and gets communal.

Don’t just talk, converse.

Effective listening before engaging is the key here. Your audience will tell you themselves what they want, what solutions they need for their problems and then provide it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blog comments will reveal the gold mine of the information for you.

After listening to your market, you are ready to engage in real time with the platform your audiences are comfortable with. It can be anything, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…. Worth repeating, Different folks, different strokes.