“It’s a Conversation, Stupid! Part 3: The Approach”

So hopefully you’ve had enough time to catch up with Part 1, a short introductory post, and Part 2, a brief history of the social aspects of the internet. Although very basic, Part 2 is particularly crucial as it gives us all the same frame of reference.

Today, we continue reminding our PR, advertising and marketing friends how to have a conversation. I would like to build on the last two posts by listing what I consider the keys to launching a successful social media campaign.

Yesterday at the Graphing Social Patterns conference, Charlene Li at Forrester outlined her best practices to approaching a Facebook campaign. (If you weren’t able to make it, check out the slide show from her presentation.) Surprise! She stressed “Facebook marketing is about communicating, not advertising.” I couldn’t agree more. (Charlene will be my interviewee this week for Thursday’s “3 Q’s in 3 Min” segment.)

To me, as the web evolves, our online world becomes closer to mirroring the way we interact and communicate in the real world by making our online experience easier to manage and use. You wouldn’t go into a private party and start shouting at random people; that would get you beat up and thrown out. Likewise you shouldn’t approach a social media campaign in traditional one-sided manner. The key to planning your social media campaign all revolve around this concept. Hopefully these 6 tips can help you out.

1. It’s a Conversation, Stupid!

The number one thing to remember is that it’s a conversation. (I can’t stress this enough. I mean, it’s the title of the series. You see it on every post. Hopefully it’s getting drilled into your head!).

The nature of the medium creates a very private space. Yes, there is a lot of sharing. Yes, the pages may be open to anyone on the internet. But these are members not users and they are involved in a community. To them, it maybe like a bar, private party, support group or private journal. In all cases, you wouldn’t go in and start shouting your message.

2. Listening: The most important part of conversing

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Imagine stumbling upon a heated discussion in a park. A lot of people are gathered around watching while a few people talk. Ideas are being exchanged–some agree, some disagree. Before you can say anything, you have to listen.

Look at this quote from Wikihow’s article on“How to Have a Great Conversation

Listen. This is the most important part of any conversation. You might think a conversation is all about talking, but it will not go anywhere if the listener is too busy thinking of something to say next. Pay attention to what is being said. When you listen attentively to the other person, injecting a thought or two, they will often not realize that it was they who did most of the talking, and you get the credit for being a good conversationalist – which of course, you are!

While listening, you can learn a lot. What are they talking about? How do they use the media to communicate? What are they interested in? Maybe they’ve already started talking about your client. If so, what are they saying?

This isn’t market research and analytics. This is preparing to engage in a conversation.

3. Add to the conversation, thoughtfully

After you’ve gotten a feel for the conversation, then you can respond. Remember: It’s not a shouting match. You can’t come out swinging and you can’t just repeat messaging. Nobody likes the guy that’s always talking about himself. You have to offer some insight back to the community.

In Todd Defren’s hypothetical anti-depressant pharmaceutical campaign, he suggests the marketer not tweet commercials, but instead post things that “could change a sufferer’s life.” This is crucial. It helps make your brand or client a resource engaged in the community, not just another advertisement. You meet them in their venue, on their terms. They’ll respect that and gain loyalty.

4. “Why I oughta…”

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/202/476387693_e63962cfeb_m.jpgNobody likes the guy at the party that won’t budge and acknowledge he may be wrong, neither do consumers. If you come across some negative comments, you can’t ignore them and pretend nothing is wrong. You have to thoughtfully (and timely) engage with them. Look at this tip from conversationtalk.com on how to handle “unpleasant conversations”:

To have a good conversation you need to be flexible and
be ready to handle difficulties that crop up. The art of having
good conversation does not mean everything goes smoothly
at all times.

If you can remain calm and fairly pleasant during the tough
talks you will improve and acquire good conversation skills. You
will also earn a reputation as someone who can easily be talked
to.

Do you remember Jeff Jarvis’ “Dell Hell”? He had some problems with Dell and voiced them on his (high-trafficked) blog. Dell ignored the conversation as more bloggers continued dishing negative reviews of Dell’s products. When they finally did launch a blog, Dell blogged as if everything was ok. Finally, after it had gotten pretty out-of-hand, Dell’s blogger responded as a human to other humans, and it made a splash. It was a move that said: “Hey, maybe we’ve been out of touch, but now we are ready to listen.”

Consumers like to be taken seriously. If you think the negative comments will just disappear, think again. Remember the last post: Consumers can now share ideas at an alarmingly viral rate and people can search more effectively. When they google your client’s name and see a thoughtful response (whether on a company’s blog, response to someone else’s post or response in a user group) alongside the negative comments, it can significantly diffuse negative PR while also building loyatly.

5. It’s not all about you

Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” said “It’s much easier to become interested in others than it is to convince them to be interested in you.”

If you open up to them, they will open up to you. Give them insight into the company, product, behind-the-scenes, etc. Make the content easily available and let consumers share this content. Let them use your logo, your mascot, your videos.

Don’t be afraid to let go of a little control. If your brand message changes in the process, maybe you were wrong about your audience. Nobody likes having a conversation with someone who controls the conversation. It’s boring and participants become easily disinterested. If you let your consumers participate, it builds trust.

6. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

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Transparency! Yes, everyone at the party is a private detective. Any one of them can pull off your mask and then no one at the party will want to talk to you.

Take note of Walmart’s flogs or Whole Foods and the “Rahodeb” incident? It all comes out, so don’t even think about not disclosing your affiliations!!

What do you think?

That may have been a lot to take in. I’d like to know what you think. Agree? Disagree?

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the tools that are currently available.

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1 Comment

Filed under Future of Media, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Networking

One response to ““It’s a Conversation, Stupid! Part 3: The Approach”

  1. A great post, Chris. Others have used the real-world example of “don’t show up at a party and start shouting at everyone,” but I have yet to see a post that so well explains the philosophy behind effectively marketing in the social media world. The lesson, as you well explained above: *Don’t* market. Communicate.

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