The Social Shark talks of 10 reasons why you need to deploy social media today. He says:
“If you don’t know what to do and how to do it, you will be completely invisible on the landscape“
You can have the best cure/idea/service/ in the world, but if nobody knows it’s there, or if nobody knows how to engage with it, then it’s dead in the sand. These are poignant words for any organisation. Many are dabbling, most badly, in twitter. The worst organisational twitter feeds I see are merely giving out information, or redirecting readers to their website, where there is inevitably a survey to complete of some form or another. I’ve even recently seen a jargon-laden plea on twitter to visit the website and complete a survey in relation to a core service. If I don’t understand the jargon in the tweet, why would I click the link, let alone plough through the survey (which incidentally, was also jargon heavy). They seem to have missed the point that, yes, you can broadcast widely but the better use of social media is about listening. Listening to what your audience/customers/stakeholders/staff/population etc are saying, particularly if they are saying it about you without even being asked!
Given that many individuals are poor listeners, why are we surprised that this is thus translated at organisational level?
So let’s start understanding social media properly – what is it, precisely?
That label is just a posh term for something which is designed to create a conversation. That means talking yes, but listening too. The best conversations build between two voices, they are not a series of questions and answers.
I like to think of engagement like I do random acts of kindness. If you rush through the day, not observing whats going on around you, pitching in with assistance where you believe its needed, then we engage nobody. But if we help that person up the steps with the pushchair, or give a few tips when we see someone struggling with a problem, then those individuals become engaged. They didn’t ask for the kindness but they will remember what you did, you raise their perception of you and even your own reputation. A social movement starts with just one person and spreads. Social media is definitely a mechanism for spreading views. Thats what “going viral” means, when you have a message that spreads very widely to a large number of people. It’s a snowball event.
You can bet anything, that the people you interact with professionally, be they customers or stakeholders or whatever the terminology is in your field, they are frequenting a social media platform of one kind or another. First there was the local dance, then there was the youth/darts/domino/sports clubs, now there is social media. Over 500 million people frequent twitter alone – I can’t even begin to rationalise that number in my head. Think of all those potential endorsements for what you do! Beware if you are doing it badly though as it’s also a fast growing place for communicating poor experiences. A recent tv programme tested how fast big corporations responded to requests for information or assistance following poor experiences and ALL responded faster than following the formal complaint channels. Why? Because you have an instant and powerful voice and once it’s out there, it’s out there, and they only want you saying good things about them.
Of course you can ignore this massive audience – buy why would you? This is the easiest way to limit your organisation’s reach. The game has already started and the only real choice you have now is which team to be on – the one with the advantage or the one without.
So, as all these organisations on the right have discovered, the biggest benefit to using social media is the ability to build a community around a common cause – your cause.
Instead of just posting a link to a survey (you can tell it bugged me can’t you?), why not create a conversation around that topic beforehand? Thats what an engagement plan might look like:
- we have X issue coming up
- When do we need to finalise it
- wonder what folk think of it
- Lets ask them in a conversational way
- test the mood
- take the opportunity to explain some of the things beyond our control
- share our world a bit before pulling in views which lack insight
- Lets sound human, not like a machine, and appeal to people on the issue and not merely on our task
Oh and then lets capture the richness of what we hear and steer that conversation towards a shared goal. Oh to do it right!!!!!!