Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Marketing from a Web 2.0 core – part 2: social media as a proactive marketing resource

Posted in Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on November 13, 2010

This is my second installment in a new series on marketing from a Web 2.0 and interactive core with the first appearing as Part 1: Social Media, Marketing and Social Networks. I set up a problem for discussion in that posting, and started to offer a way to resolve it, but I left an enormous gap in my answer. My goal in this posting is to clarify the nature of that gap and to at least start a process of filling it in.

As I said in Part 1, the communities you would reach as your marketplace are actively online and interactively involved there, and they are sharing word and image of their ongoing experience. Everyone can have a say and a very public one when social media enter the picture, and social media are available and used everywhere and on virtually any and every topic of interest to anyone. And that includes shared opinion and reviews on every business that anyone might try, and whether they come away from them with positive or negative opinions. If you have a business it is out there in this community-wide conversation. This may be external to your organization and to your planned and executed Communications and Marketing but this has real impact on your message and on your brand, and on your business and its reputation. This can build or erode your market share and make or break your profitability and success.

The problem I raised is in how best to enter into this conversation, and proactively – not just reactively responding to negative commentary that you happen to find online. It would be foolish to try and spoof the community by posting to social media sites as if you were an outside member of the larger community and not a stakeholder in your business. You need to bring a positive message out but it has to come from the actual voices of the community of your marketplace – and even if they do not hew precisely to your preferred branding or communications style. How do you do this?

I, for all intent and purpose simply waved the magic wand of social networking in Part 1 and that would be all I was doing if I left my partial answer with the gap I left off with. I invoked social network taxonomy without saying anything as to how this may offer value or how to operationally develop that value from understanding it. That is my goal for this posting.

• Plan and develop your products and services with the needs of your potential customers and their communities in mind.
• Develop your central publishing Marketing components with these people in mind, and with a goal of prompting and encouraging conversations.
• As a business and overtly and openly representing yourself as coming from your business, start dialogs. Set up profile pages and groups on sites like Facebook and set up business profiles that offer real informational content on review sites like YELP. Use Twitter and social media resources like it to share timely updates on what your business is offering and doing, and include links back to your web site for more details. Be involved and where the people you are trying to reach are involved. This, I add is simply a first step, and this is where you build from in tapping into and proactively using the strengths of social networking.

When I wrote Social Network Taxonomies and Social Networking Strategy I focused on a small subset of members of the ongoing social networking conversation – members who are unusually and particularly active in and across communities, and who offer great value in both holding social networks together and in creating conversations there. These community members: hub networkers, boundary networkers, and boundaryless networkers are also precisely the people you need to identify and actively connect with in promoting a positive, effective message in the communities you would connect to and do business in. What they have to say gets heard, and by many.

First you have to identify and reach out to these key networkers. This may be in looking to see who is already reaching back to you. Hub, boundary and boundaryless networkers are first and foremost active networkers and these people reach out to communicate so they are more likely to be contacting you than a more inactive or passive networker would.

An effective entry point for developing communications with these key networkers can be in offering central publishing messages that would encourage them to self-identify and connect with you in response. Use multiple approaches here that include both traditional Marketing and interactive Marketing elements, and show you appreciate and value the people who network with you in all of them.

Encourage your key potential networkers to try your products or services, and to offer feedback. And make social media channels available for this and not simply the more hidden channels of links back to your customer service.

Here, I cut against the grain of a great deal of developing common practice. Fully automated and robotic-systems approaches to customer feedback and help can and will hurt you. People hate it when they cannot reach someone with a pulse when they have questions or problems with your products or services, or with your central publishing web sites. This automated approach also significantly limits the possibility of developing a proactive and effective business side to the social media conversations going on about your business. Give the people you need to reach some real opportunity to actually speak with you and develop dialogs. That is crucial if you are to give them a basis for their offering positive word about your business in the interactive online of social media or through any other channels. Address their concerns and problems and strive to make them your supporters from your willingness to be there and to offer genuine support to them in return.

And try adding some social media connectivity to your customer service and support. Do this as coming from your business and through your online business’ profiles and groups, and with these components to your online presence connecting directly into your customer support systems.

Customer confidentiality requirements and preferences might keep a significant part of your customer services limited to more private channels but be transparent and open where that can work for you and for the people you do business with.

As a final thought in this posting I highlight a specific and important point I raised here. Businesses automate their help and support services to save money by among other things cutting down on personnel costs and by standardizing responses. A certain amount of this makes sense but if the people you need to reach cannot reach you and a “you with a pulse,” that carries a lot of perhaps hidden but still very significant costs. One of them is in effectively undercutting your ability to actively and effectively participate in the interactive online conversation and even as it impacts on your business and its bottom line. This type of communications gap does not completely stop you there but it effectively ties one of your hands and it will at the least limit your effectiveness.

Look to where you can more effectively connect with and communicate out to people, and where they would seek to communicate in. Look for steps in your processes and for processes where standard practice cuts off effective conversation. Look for ways to effectively connect and with a genuine pulse on both sides of these conversations. And seek to identify and cultivate conversations with the people who would actively spread the word, positive or negative and give them reason to make that word positive. Sometimes simply taking that extra step in listening to them can make all the difference.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dean Sheffield, AG Social Media. AG Social Media said: Interesting update: Marketing from a Web 2.0 core – part 2: social media as a …: This automated approach also … […]

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