The Long Run: Thoughts on Effective Social Media Execution and Marathons

IMG_1917As I write this, I am just under one month away from the Chicago Marathon. It will be my second marathon, having completed the Vancouver Marathon in 2007. It’s also a bucket list item for me – one that I am looking forward to putting a checkmark beside!

In thinking about how I approach marathon training, I have come to realize that there are a number of parallels with respect to developing a social media strategy. No, I am not thinking about social media while I run, at least usually as sounds from Songza occupy my head! But I thought I would share a quick comparison here.

Proper Planning is Required

Unless you are a uber-athlete, you don’t just wake up in the morning and decide that you’re going to run a marathon today. Well, you could, but that certainly isn’t advised! At the same time, a brand shouldn’t just execute social media in an ad hoc manner.

Experienced marathon runners will tell you that a planned and disciplined approach is a necessity in preparing for the big race. Ideally, runners set up a training calendar months in advance, encompassing regular runs and workouts leading up to the race – geared towards the objective of completing the race by a specific time.

Brands need to approach social media with similar rigour, first establishing goals and then developing a plan focused on achieving the goals. An ideal framework includes an overview of strategies and supporting tactics, along with a detailed calendar.

Perseverance and Dedication

Most days, I absolutely cannot wait to go for a run. The mere thought of running is enough to energize me. However, I will admit, I do have mornings in which my bed feels a bit too comfortable, and an extra kick is required to get my feet onto the trails or pavement. When these mornings happen, I again think about my end goal of running the marathon, and I find a way – knowing that hard work in the short-term will lead to long-term gains.

Similarly, social media also requires perseverance and dedication. It takes time and resources for brands to develop the right infrastructure for their social activities, and even more time and resources to develop content and cultivate healthy communities of ardent fans and followers. At times it may seem overwhelming as community engagement builds, and brands need to respond to and engage with more and more people. But remember, each awesome experience you provide for individual people through social represents another step towards nurturing longterm brand affinity.

It Takes a Community

Yes, in many respects, preparing for a marathon is a solo pursuit. However, maintaining a focus through the long hours of training is a lot easier when you have a community of family and friends supporting you. It really can be a team effort, leading right up to the cheering as you cross the finish line.

For brands, having an active presence on social media is one thing. Developing a community of ardent fans and supporters, people who will actually advocate for the brand, is quite another. There are many ways through which brands can create community advocacy on social media – common to them all is a genuine, personable approach. One that makes brands likeable.

Tracking and Measurement

In training for a marathon, I benefit immensely by tracking my runs – including measures such as distance and pace. Doing so enables me to monitor my progress, with the end goal of completing the race within a specific timeframe in mind. If my pace doesn’t match what I need to achieve in training to attain my desired goal, then I either need to ramp up my training or recalibrate my race expectations.

At the same time, it’s critical for brands to track social media progress and activity, with end goals always in mind. For example, if a target has been established such as attaining 60% share of voice by year end, and the brand is currently only tracking at 40%, then the plan should be reviewed and perhaps adjusted. Investing in measurement and analysis goes a long way towards ensuring desired outcomes are achieved.

Long-Term Focus

A marathon is 42.195 kilometres. That’s a long distance! Don’t even consider running it as a sprint, or you’ll soon be out of energy.

Similarly, social media should be a long-term investment.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Image courtesy of Benjamin Lipsman.

Building a Brand Presence on Facebook – A Great Example by Silk

Recently I’ve been paying particular attention to how CPG brands are leveraging Facebook. The reality, from what I’ve observed, is that most CPG brand Facebook Pages are literally engagement graveyards. Sure, the brands might have attained a high number of “likes”. However, for the most part, many brands are still treating Facebook primarily as a promotional tool and not as a social platform for nurturing a deeper level of engagement and brand affinity.

However, I came across one CPG brand that truly stands out for it’s focus on using Facebook in its proper context as a social platform – Silk. Silk is effectively using its Facebook Page to build conversation and brand engagement, while also creating sales opportunities through contests and coupons, and I believe that other brands can learn from them.

Here is a snapshot of activity on the page, as well as some thoughts on how engagement can be further enhanced.

Positive issues being discussed:

  • Numerous posts and comments about the delicious taste of Silk’s products, as well as the variety of available flavours
  • Notable community appreciation for product coupons offered by Silk

 

Negative issues being discussed:

  • A couple of concerns have been expressed regarding product quality (see post on June 24th by Kelly Elliott, post on May 15th by Suzanne Morrison and post on May 9th by Bill Gilchrist)

Synopsis and opportunities for Silk to better connect with people and spark conversation:

  • Silk has developed a very healthy, active and engaged community on Facebook – the brand is well-represented and the discussions, for the most part, are fun and light-hearted
  • Several opportunities exist to enhance and expand the conversation, further engaging with the community, building on what Silk has established:
  1. Entice community members to share how they use their favourite Silk products as an ingredient in recipes – potentially sparking ideas for others.  Include a related picture for each post, such as a dinner dish or a dessert.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    Do you have your own recipes using your favourite variety of Silk as a secret ingredient? Please share what they are in the comments below!Which favourite recipes do you like to include Silk in?

    Cobbler, cookies, and cupcakes – yum!  Do you have any favourite recipes that include Silk, which you’d like to share?

  2. Share how Silk contributes and gives back to the communities it participates in. Many people now look beyond the products and services a company provides, with a desire to know how a company participates in initiatives focused on the greater good. From Silk’s website and several mentions on Facebook, it’s clear that the company cares about health and environmental causes. Silk should communicate the partnerships they’ve established and the initiatives they’re involved with to the community – by doing so they can spark discussion, generate positive word-of-mouth, and enhance customer loyalty.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    Did you know that we are partnered with The Organic Farming Research Foundation, a national non-profit that fosters the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems? http://ofrf.org/ [link to The Organic Farming Research Foundation; include The Organic Farming Research Foundation logo with post]

    We are committed to taking care of our planet and providing healthy food choices. Here are some inspiring organizations we’ve partnered with: http://bit.ly/OaCegr [link to “Working Together” page on Silk website, listing partner organizations]

    We are focused on renewable energy – we offset the electricity used to make our products by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, representing energy from sources such as wind and solar. What are some things you do to reduce your environmental impact? [include picture of wind turbines with post] 

  3. Silk products offer a number a number of notable health benefits, which should be made more prominent in discussions within the community. Focusing on health can help educate community members on benefits they might not have been aware of – generating conversation and helping to build word-of-mouth.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    My favourite health benefit of drinking Silk is __________.Have you had a glass of Silk today? Did you know that each glass of Silk True Almond beverage contains as much calcium and vitamin D as dairy milk? [include picture of glass of Silk, beside Silk True Almond carton, with post]

    Silk beverages are great sources of protein. Check out the recipes on our website for some healthy and tasty Silk-based smoothies: http://bit.ly/LsmVOx [link to recipe search on Silk website]

A Social Welcome to Your New City

I recently co-authored a blog post with my friend Debbie Horovitch, posted on the blog for her new community management talent agency sparkle & shine. The post provides tips on how immigrants to a new country can leverage social media to ease the transition and become better acquainted with their new surroundings.

Please read the post and let us know what you think!

Ignite Passion and Word of Mouth: Connect Your Customers!

Buoyed by eagerness to reach customers on the social web, many businesses have endeavored to build personable, direct relationships with customers and other stakeholder groups using social media. Businesses realize the potential to create deeper connections and loyalty, which should ultimately lead to sales over the longer term customer life cycle. However, many businesses are uncertain how to participate and consequently, in my opinion, few truly take full advantage of the business potential associated with social media.

One key is to create a strong and vibrant online community of ambassadors for your brand. It’s true that the web has made building individual relationships cheaper and faster than what was previously possible. However, scaling such deep relationships over a broad base of stakeholders is, in most cases, neither feasible not effective.

Alternatively, companies that focus on building brand loyalty with a small subset of customers might find that their efforts have an exponential impact.

Here are several companies that have done this successfully:

Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark is a small batch bourbon whiskey that is distilled in Loretto, Kentucky by Fortune Brands. For a number of years now, they’ve been running an ambassador program that is all about passion for their brand of bourbon. Maker’s Mark ambassadors receive access to a private online community, appropriately named “The Embassy”, through which they can receive a number of perks – including personalized business cards (ideal for handing out in bars), as well as having their name engraved on an actual barrel of Maker’s Mark bourbon. How cool is that? Additionally, amongst other things, ambassadors receive access to VIP tasting events and exclusive gift shop access.

Yelp

Recently, while on a group hike near Toronto, I asked a fellow hiker if she had any recommendations on Toronto events and restaurants I should consider checking out. Immediately, she provided a few thoughts and strongly suggested that I create a profile on Yelp – a social networking, user review and local search website for members to post reviews and get user feedback on local businesses and restaurants. She’s actually a member of Yelp’s Elite Squad – a program through which Yelp rewards it’s top users, providing them with exclusive offers and access to members-only events. In addition to rewarding loyal users, the program provides a great incentive for other members to post additional reviews, making the site content stronger while keeping the broader community active and engaged.

Fiskars

In an earlier post on Community Management Best Practices, I referred to Fiskateers.com. Fiskars, a well-known brand of scissors, created a vibrant online community by focusing on a shared passion for many of it’s customers – scrapbooking. The company started by recruiting some of its most loyal customers to the community – branding them as Fiskateers. Fiskateer ambassadors receive a number of benefits, including access to exclusive meetup events and the opportunity to share their passion for scrapbooking with others in the private online community.

So, what did these companies do right? They built strong connections with the most passionate segment of their customer base. In doing so, they essentially put their customers to work for them – spreading word of mouth through their personal networks, inspiring new customers and spurring community growth.

Building connections with customers takes both commitment and recognition that social media can be a great tool for achieving businesses goals. In oder to attain a tangible return, business must be willing to make an investment – online and offline – as Maker’s Mark, Yelp and Fiskars all did. They didn’t just focus on counting Facebook Fans, they created social communities that generated value – for themselves, the ambassadors, and other customers.

Do you know any companies that have connected their most loyal customers through innovative brand ambassador programs? If so, please share!

50 Key Takeaways from the BCAMA VISION Marketing Conference

On May 19th, the British Columbia Chapter of the American Marketing Association held its’ annual flagship VISION Marketing Conference. This year, the focus was on the concept of ‘community’ and how the concept is reshaping our marketing landscape – as companies build deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers.

As I’m currently in Toronto, unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend VISION. However, I was paying close attention to the Twitter stream, enticed by a great speaker lineup and my affinity for the BCAMA – I volunteered with the association for over five years.

Thank you to VISION attendees, as well as the BCAMA’s social media team, for sharing what was being discussed. Here are the top 50 takeaways I was able to glean from Twitter!

Scott Stratten – Social Media Expert, Author of UnMarketing

  • rgerschman: #2011vision Marketing is not a task. Marketing is every time you choose to or choose not to engage with your market. It just is (S.Stratten)
  • wusnews: Online conversations are the most raw, passionate thoughts of your customers. #2011Vision
  • patrickmgill: #2011vision the best marketing is creating awesome customer experiences @unmarketing
  • rgerschman: #2011vision “When does the ‘we are experiencing an unusually high call volume’ = the usual high call volume? Think about Customer service!!
  • BCAMA: “Every time you create a QR code and it does not go to a mobile page… a puppy dies.” @unmarketing #2011Vision ^NT
  • kelsey_bar: People spread “awesome”. They don’t spread “meh…” Great stuff from @unmarketing at #2011Vision
  • GusF: By 2013 50% of web access will be done on mobile phones – get your website mobile #2011vision
  • GillianShaw: Create awesome content 1st then SEO. Create your content for your audience, not for Google. @unmarketing #2011Vision
  • rgerschman: #2011vision @unmarketing social media success doesn’t exist… It’s just amplification. If you suck offline, you’ll suck even more online!
  • shirleyweir: Reminder: we do business with people we know, like and trust. Live it #2011Vision @unmarketing

Kerry Munro – Technology leader and visionary

  • GillianShaw: 72% Internet users say they’re exposed to too much advertising (could you buy a @vancouverSun please : ) ) #2011Vision
  • nicolb: “Strategy. Insights. Automation. 3 areas that are the biggest level of challenge today. ” @kerrymunrois #2011Vision /via @bcama
  • GillianShaw: Your customers will create new customers, all you have to do is take care of your existing customers, sez Kerry Munro #2011Vision
  • GusF: A social media strategy should be inline with your business strategy. Many have that disconnect #2011vision
  • BCAMA: “FB user value: spend, loyalty, brand affinity, acquisition cost, propensity to recommend, media value” @kerrymunrois #2011Vision ^NT
  • GusF: Since the core of any business is to drive sales, it’s important to understand the value of your “fan”. #2011vision
  • rgerschman: #2011vision Consider this: Friends & family continue to be the biggest influencers in ppl making purchase decisions.
  • fburrows: #2011Vision Bing and Google change their analytics daily-impossible to keep up, just focus strategically on what works for you.
  • BCAMA: “It’s all about being in that moment and creating the most efficient and optimal connection w/ the consumer.” @kerrymunrois #2011Vision ^NT

Scott Bedbury – Author of A New Brand World and former Marketing Executive at Nike and Starbucks

  • rgerschman: #2011Vision “Consumers are not just that into you. Look past your product to the world your consumers live in.” – Scott Bedbury
  • asilhouette: Worlds best brands connect themselves to timeless human needs that are both physical and emotional #2011vision bcama
  • G_Speaking: Cool. Original brainstorm map of Starbuck’s ‘the third place’. #BCAMA #2011vision http://t.co/hzmovdW
  • rgerschman: #2011vision Stand for something more than your product. Humanize yourself. Consider value, ethics & style. Tell stories.
  • Ian_Cruickshank: It’s what you do beyond your core product that actually defines you. Scott B #2011vision love it.
  • SuburbiaRetail: “At the heart of a brand is it’s relationship with employees.” – Scott Bedbury @bcama #2011vision
  • rgerschman: #2011Vision Physical brand touch points can do more than digital bytes. Who is representing your brand offline? Train, inspire & motivate.
  • kelsey_bar: Scott Bedbury: “Be fully present in the moments that matter most.” As true in business as it is in life. #2011Vision
  • k8senkow: “Stay forever curious. Don’t ever think you have all the answers.” Scott Bedbury at BCAMA #2011Vision Conference

Nikki Heller – Director of Marketing, Future Shop

  • timr03: Social shopping isn’t just online #2011vision
  • misscheryltan: “Social Shopping is ANY purchase influenced by your personal network (i.e. community forums)” Nikki Kellyer #2011Vision (via @bcama)
  • GillianShaw: Listening to people in social networks flipped Future Shop marketing plans for back to school. #2011Vision
  • BCAMA: The funnel before: http://ow.ly/i/bMHC & the funnel after is a loop: http://ow.ly/i/bMHL #2011Vision
  • codias: #2011vision #authenticity #authenticity #authenticity #authenticity #authenticity
  • erinpongracz: #NikkiHellyer just used #BBC “groundhog Alan” vid as an ex. of mrkters shouting msg into the void & not knowing ur aud. #Amazing #2011vision
  • elliottchun: Online and offline retail is merging. And, evenings & wkeds are dead. – Hellyer #2011Vision #FutureShop

John Ounpuu, Strategy Director at Blast Radius and Sarah Dickinson, VP Strategy at Blast Radius

  • Ian_Cruickshank: Traditional models work in traditional media – outside of traditional you have to be more creative and break some rules – #2011vision
  • codias: When you transcend categories, you elevate yourself beyond your category into a superlative. #2011vision
  • GusF: 3 steps to build meaningful relations – Foundation, Role, and Culture. #2011vision
  • BCAMA: “Gamefication – leaderboard scores, badges – moving out of the realm of games and into other areas.” John Ounpuu #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “Finding your shared ideal. Understand role & live it. Build on relevant cultural currents. Execute boldly.” Sarah Dickinson #2011Vision ^NT
  • petequily: Social media can be an incredible tool but it can’t fix an acute internal problem. It may only make it worst. #2011vision
  • robynmichelles: Great insights from Blast Radius – understand the foundation of your brand & it’s role, then live it. Be culturally relevant. #2011Vision

Tod Maffin – One of North America’s leading digital marketing experts, CBC Radio Host

  • BCAMA: “By deconstructing viral videos, you can find 6 “markers” that can increase the chance of going viral.” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “#1 Audience, Content, Call to Action Matching: content must match audience. CTA must match content.” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “2. Successful viral campaigns are stripped down to a simple, single concept. Double Rainbow.” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • misscheryltan: Successful viral videos are one of the following: Silly, Serious, or Stunning. @todmaffin #2011Vision
  • BCAMA: “3. Sentiment Factor (silly, serious or stunning). Dove was seeded entirely online: http://bit.ly/lsvEdV@todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “4. Reward sharing. Ex. Doritos unidentified flavour campaign, winner sharing Doritos profits.” @todmaffin #2011vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “5. Embrace the unofficials. Do not hate them. Ex. Diet Coke & Mentos” @todmaffin #2011vision ^N
  • BCAMA: “6. Deliberate successive rounds. Need a certain # of impressions for people to take action. Ex. Shreddies” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT

More Community Management Best Practices

Following up on my recent post on community management best practices, I thought I would share some additional tips and advice – based on my own personal experiences.

Building an online community for your company and brand isn’t rocket science. That being said, there are some simple steps you can take that will facilitate growth and foster engagement with your burgeoning band of advocates (otherwise known as community members).

The five key points from my previous post:

  1. Participate where the conversations are happening
  2. Be timely with your responses
  3. Focus on being people-centric, not company-centric
  4. Be careful what you say
  5. Don’t ignore negative comments

Five more I’d like to add:

1. Give new members a warm welcome

It’s important to make new people feel welcome in your community, to set the stage for engagement – particularly when a community is young and growing. If possible, take the time to send a personalized welcome message to new members. Imagine how a new member will feel, receiving a message from a community host or moderator that is uniquely customized and tailored.

If you see a new member contributing to the first time, give that person some recognition. Thank them for their contribution, and try to elicit further discussion or comments if possible – perhaps that member has more to say. Showing a little gratitude will go a long way!

2. Study your community

Yes, study your community! Do your homework! Learn the make-up of your of your community – read member profiles and gain a better sense of just who has joined, and the different types of interests your members have. The more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be able to interact and converse with your community.

3. Monitor community activity and health

Be sure to stay tuned in to your community, from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective. Track key data that is most relevant, whether related to new member joins, commenting activity, voting activity or another metric that you value, and develop reports as deemed appropriate. Keep an eye out for trends! If your community had higher or lower levels of participation that expected during a specific period, dig in and find out why.

4. Communicate with your members

It’s important to keep members appraised of activity in the community. A regular email, if you’re hosting the community on an internal platform, can go a long way.  If you’re using Facebook, Twitter or another network, make use of status updates. Just don’t overdo it, however – you’ll need to find the communication mix that is right for your brand.

5. Keep members engaged

Provide community members with incentives for contributing. At Genius Crowds, a product innovation community I used to moderate, we provided community member with gift cards related to different types of community activity – such as posting product ideas, commenting and voting. There’s plenty more you can do. For example, if a new hot topic is posted in the community, send a personal email to members who might be interested, to let them know (this is where your homework on knowing member interests will come in handy!).

Every Customer Counts

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of TV commercials, I tend to ignore them. I just don’t feel that most advertisers are creative enough in their messaging, nor are they infusing enough value  – through entertainment or relative, informative engagement – that is worthy of attention.

That said, I would like to applaud a recent ad from Telus. Granted, I did not view it on TV, I caught wind of it on Twitter thanks to Michelle Coates.

Attention companies: I care about how you give back to the community. I care about which charities and initiatives you support.  I care about what your employees do, and how their efforts set you apart.  Sometimes, I care about all of this more than I care about the services you offer and the products you sell. I really like it when companies come across as being … human.

Well done, Telus.

Now, have you considered leveraging social media to build further awareness of your “Telus cares” efforts, as well as solicit input on other charitable initiatives you should consider? I’m sure you have. Perhaps you could create a micro-site or a Facebook Fan Page, through which you could provide regular updates of your community involvement and receive feedback on what you’re doing? How about opening the door to suggestions on programs worthy of your support, and letting people vote on which ones they like the most? You could also make it easy for people to share news of what you’re doing.

You’ll come across as being more human. And in today’s world, that’s a good thing.

Nike+ – A Great Example of What Collaboration Can Accomplish

Today, I completed my longest run in about a year. Actually, it was my longest run since April 3rd, 2010 – when I ran 18.96km in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 29 seconds, at an average pace of 6 minutes and 37 seconds per kilometer.

How the heck do I know that? Well, I record my runs using the Nike+iPod sports kit, the ingenious collaboration between Nike and Apple that has benefited runners worldwide since its launch in 2006.

There are two main reasons why I marvel at Nike+:

1. An innovative product from a unique collaboration

I believe that over the coming years we are going to see more instances of companies – sometimes even competitors – joining forces in unique collaborations.  There are many potential benefits to be gained, including shared knowledge and data, shared resources, and opportunity to develop new and innovative products and services by leveraging and combining strengths.

2. It’s social and community-driven

The Nike+ experience extends well beyond the runs, thanks to a fantastic website and online community that has been cultivated. Not only can Nike+ users record and track runs using the website, they can share their experiences with runners worldwide while also benefiting from some rich content – including a training tips blog.

Recently, Nike+ also added a “Challenges” section, through which individual users can create running challenges and invite community members to participate. Sample challenges include “365 miles in 2011”, in which all participants are challenged to run 365 miles, and “Fastest 5km in 2011”. Each challenge includes a leader board, adding some incentive for participants to compete against one another.

Community Management Best Practices

With online community management still in its nascent stages, I thought I would share some observations on how companies can best participate – and nurture true, genuine affinity amongst community members. It seems that things are very fluid at the moment, with even well-established brands being guilty of missteps. Of course, that being said, there are still plenty of good examples to follow.

Here is an initial Community Management “Top 5”. Please feel free to share your own best practices by commenting on this post. I will follow up with additional posts on best practices in the weeks to come (there are definitely more than five!).

1. Participate where the conversations are happening

This goes without saying. While Facebook, with over 600 million members, and Twitter, with over one billion tweets sent per week, are the primary platforms people use – there might be many other niche conversation forums where people are talking about your company or your brand. Make use of tools that enable you to locate, track, listen and engage in conversations – such as Radian6 or Sysomos, or any one of the many free tools available (albeit with less functionality).  Using Google Alerts, with key words relevant to your brand and industry, is a good first step.

2. Be timely with your responses

Imagine that social media is like a telephone, one that your customers can dial at any time and any moment. Are you ready to chat with your customers, and answer any questions they might have in a timely manner? As a general rule, customer inquiries should be responded to within 24 hours – and ideally sooner. Yes, that means staffing the “social media lines” on weekends. 9 to 5 customer service hours can now be thrown out the window. Remember, an ability to provide timely, personable responses shows your customers that you’re listening and builds affinity.

3. Focus on being people-centric, not company-centric

It surprises me how many companies still view social media as a marketing “channel”, one that is focused on one-way (company to consumer) communication promoting products and services.  Effective online communities are NOT channels, they are not company-centric. Think of communities as networks of people – with participants communicating and sharing information that is most relevant to them. A great example of a people-centric community is Fiskateers.com. Fiskars is a fairly well-known brand of scissors. How can a company create a vibrant online community for such a low-involvement product category? Well … by focusing on a shared passion. In the case of Fiskateers, it’s scrapbooking!

4. Be careful what you say

Everyone is listening, everyone is watching, and people will call you out if they don’t agree with something you say. I already wrote about Kenneth Cole’s ill-advised tweet during the height of events in the Egypt. Last night, a couple of friends tweeted about an inappropriate Groupon blog post, which essentially mentioned that depression is a cure for insomnia. Huh? We voiced our displeasure for the post through Twitter. To Groupon’s credit, the post was edited by the end of the day with the depression comment removed, and I received a personal apology from Groupon on Twitter. Make sure that messaging is appropriate, and if people ever call you out on something – acknowledge and respond.

5. Don’t ignore negative comments

In most cases, the worst thing you could do is to ignore a negative comment that has been made about your company, product, service or brand. If someone made an effort to write a legitimate comment, acknowledge it – and if any issues were cited, address them.  Be genuine and open, the customer who wrote the comment will appreciate it, as will others who read your response. Openness is a great way to build trust.

There are more best practices I intend to write about … stay tuned!

The Hyper-Social Organization

It seems that we are only at the early stages of truly understanding how companies must adapt their business processes and resources to fully realize the potential associated with becoming a social organization. At the February 22nd Third Tuesday event in Toronto, Francois Gossieaux, co-author of The Hyper-Social Organization, shared some leading insights, supported by intriguing case studies and data, on why businesses must become hyper-social in order to survive and thrive in the era of social media.

According to Gossieaux, companies do not just need to understand Web 2.0 technologies, they also need to understand basic, if not primal, “human 1.0” tendencies.

Case-in-point, while we often tell others what we think we actually want, our decisions and actions often speak otherwise. Recently, JetBlue surveyed their passengers asking what kind of snacks they would like to receive during flights. Respondents indicated that they would like to receive healthy snacks, and JetBlue revised their offerings accordingly. However, as it turned out, the healthy snack offerings were not well-received.

Gossieaux also touched on people’s desire for status and power, and mentioned that he believes social leader boards will take off as a result. If you’re not familiar with social leader boards, they’re becoming prevalent in applications such as FourSquare, and are also being used in some online communities as a gaming mechanic. Participants earn points for completing various tasks, with leader boards indicating where people are on the power ladder – enabling comparison of rank and creating incentive to earn more points.

How can companies become more social? Here are a few key steps Gossieaux suggested companies focus on:

  1. Become human-centric as opposed to company-centric. Be ready to engage with consumers wherever they are, using platforms they use. Hierarchical, fixed processes for response need to give way to nimbleness – people want responses to their suggestions, and fast.
  2. Start thinking in terms of tribes, and not market segments (hat tip to Seth Godin – read more about tribes here). We have been hard-wired to think in a particular manner for eons, and this needs to be overcome.
  3. Focus on knowledge networks, and not information channels. The most important conversations happen within networks of people, and not between company and community. To highlight this, Gossieaux cited a great stat from the McKinsey Report – 60 to 80% of all buying decisions are made without consumers receiving information directly from the brand!
  4. Increase resources devoted to social. 67% of companies surveyed have only one-full time or part-time employee involved with social programs. Consider establishing a social media center for excellence – covering all departments.
  5. Think culture, not technology. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are just tools.  Leverage them to the best of your ability – but realize that tools will evolve, and be ready to use whatever is available.

Now, I’m off to Indigo to buy the book …