Breaking down barriers, building communities
When I first jumped onto Twitter in 2007, I expected an experience similar to the bulletin boards and forums I used when I was an editor for ePregnancy. They were my sources for the answers, quotes and trends I needed to develop excellent content.
As 2008 turned into the year that almost crashed our economy, every resource became precious. I looked to Twitter for more measurable results. The kind of results that ended in increased revenue.
But does imposing a metric on creativity kill it? Not at all. But it does need to be factored into the equation. When we go beyond the strategy and execution of social media, it’s just a tool. It’s not a machine that makes widgets or a mass mailing that reaches thousands at once. There is a giver and a receiver and the conversations that become interlaced with our marketing messages are punctuated by our personalities.
I can give measureable results – that’s actually the easy part. Build a smart strategy, hire a community manager who knows what s/he’s doing and the results are quick to appear. It’s the emotional that’s trickier to measure.
What the emotional side means for business
For all the C-level execs out there who are shaking their heads, muttering, “I knew this wasn’t a good idea,” hold up a second. Just because something’s emotional doesn’t mean it’s bad for business. Think about it. You want your customers to become so engaged with your products and/or services that they share their brand love with friends and family. That’s emotional, right?
Hiring a social media manager who is passionate about the company is no different. That person is your brand voice online. They’re your conduit to turning customers online into loyal fans. And while that sounds like a great ROI for business, it comes with some rules. In turn for your SM manager’s hard work and dedication, you must agree to:
- Respect their counsel. They’re tapped into your online community and understand the impact of messaging, contests and customer service. Work together to align the community’s needs with the business objectives.
- Agree on how much (if any) usage of their name and personal channels will be involved – and respect those boundaries. Just because they’re chatting with friends on Twitter doesn’t mean they’re available to handle Facebook issues – unless you’ve agreed to off-hours social media support.
- Support them. If you’re in crisis mode, be present and accountable so you don’t risk losing their support when you need it the most.
What the emotional side means for you personally
Being a brand representative in social media means making friends with people you might otherwise never meet. Some of those friendships will grow more personal over time. While we can and should set boundaries of what’s acceptable to share, we can’t help but dive into the day to day stuff that defines us.
When I served as communications director for a local manufacturer, I talked with the bloggers I worked with more than my boss some weeks. One blogger I worked with DM’d me to tell me she was pregnant – but asked me to keep quiet because her in-laws didn’t know yet. People I’ve only known through social media have died and I’ve learned that grief of losing an online friend is still grief.
The friendships I’ve formed in social media are powerful and have changed me. I’m thankful for those experiences but I’ve learned that they come with responsibility.
For your community’s precious time and friendship, you (as an SM manager) must agree to:
- Respect the friendship. Marketing messages are necessary in a brand’s social media strategy, but the 90/10 rule is golden.
- Respect your position as the community manager. While sharing your personality is important, some topics are definitely inappropriate. For example, it’s okay to share that the flu is going around the office and you’re passing out oranges instead of coffee today. It’s not okay to share that you’re running late for you OB/GYN appointment and will check in with everyone later.
- Always do what you say you’re going to do. If you tell someone you’re going to call them to resolve an issue, call them. If you say you’re going to launch a contest, do it exactly as you said.
- Be friendly but don’t pry. There are some conversations a brand shouldn’t be part of (remember the OB/GYN?) unless it’s central to your business. Know your own boundaries and play within them.
- Always be the hostess. Part of your role as SM manager is too keep everyone happy and talking to each other.
While social media should be part of your business strategy, removing the emotion from it is short sited. I might adore my Lululemon yoga pants, but their brand ambassadors engage and inspire me. Otherwise, they’re really just another athletic wear company…
These are some of the brands I’ve found online that understand the importance of balancing the personal with the professional:
- WestJet – Answers each question with thoughtfulness
- ToyotaCanada – Answers questions at ALL hours of the day.
- SamsungJessica – Puts a real person’s face and name on the brand.
- RedVines – Wishes followers happy birthday
- Hashable – Welcomes new employees publicly
What does your social media voice say about your company? Do you and your community manager understand the rules of engagement and play by them?