Story, Voice, and Connective Threads
So how is story relevant to the small and medium business?
Story and the human voice, not the company voice, are what people connect with. People want to tribe with other people not with companies. So who is the voice of your company? Is it the coupon writer? Is it your PR department trying to weave a compelling "story" around your new product launch? More than likely the answer is yes, it is your PR or Sales department that is creating the voice of your company. But that's not the voice that people will resonate with. People follow stories about people.
So how do you get from point A (PR-driven social media) to point B (human-driven social media)?
What are you trying to accomplish with your social media outreach program?
Are you going to do your social media through facebook or Twitter? Will your company blog be a rally point for the human story, the human "individual" voice of your company? (If you're really on top of the game, it might be "voices" that you will be giving life to. More can be better.
Setting up Twitter and facebook accounts is the easy part. Convincing someone in dev to add a WordPress instance to your company website might take a few cycles, but it's not likely to be an issue, it's FREE and easy. HOWEVER, once you've got the WHERE you still have to plan and execute on the WHAT. What is the cycle that each communication will have to go through: draft, edit, approval, publish, socialize.
4. Roles and Responsibilities (the team)
Who in your company will be the "voice?" How will you generate ideas for their posts/tweets/updates? And once the process has been started who has the responsibility to make sure the content gets through the process and actually publishes on time and on topic?
Social media is not a let's-try-this-for-a-few-months-and-see strategy. If you are looking for the quick marketing fix, you might do well to check in with the coupon sites and other "demand gen" forms of *social* media. But building a voice, and a community that people begin responding to takes some time and effort. And if the CEO is demanding conversions on week 3 of your program you might have an uphill struggle on your hands. If your company is ready to get *social* then the commitment needs to be for a year or more.
6. Measurement and Refinement
While the process and creation of content (stories) is a bit abstract the measurement process is not. Google Analytics can provide helpful insights into what posts, comments and tweets resonated with your potential audience. By listening to the responses of your efforts you can tune the voice(s) to meet with what your customers, fans, advocates and even competitors are responding to. If you are not listening, and not measuring you might be missing some of the valuable insights that come from engaging in the process of dialogue. Don't be afraid to try new things, and when they suck, get rid of them. But when one of the out-of-the-box ideas is a hit, you will be able to see it and follow-up with the next in a successful series.
Social media is not easy. It's not the short route to profits. But by building the "voice" of the company you are going a long way towards enlisting the customers into becoming fans who spread the word well beyond the reach of your program. As I said recently to a CEO, it's not what WE are saying about our company, it's what THE CUSTOMERS are saying about us. And the results of authentic ratings and reviews, and even testimonial posts outside our corporate reach, have proven to be the golden egg of social media.
It's not always easy to put the ROI in a direct line correlation to the LIKES on facebook or the followers on Twitter, but with some proper analytics the story of social media's success will become easier to justify. The CEO may not understand how "activity" equals revenue. It is our job as social media strategists to prove that value and in doing that, sustain the support for the social media outreach program. The sales pitches need to stay internal to the corporate executives and not become the pseudo-social "voice" of your company.
+++ this post was refreshed from a previous post in 2010. enjoy your summer +++
More Essentials of Digital Marketing:
- Social Media U – videos and best practices
- Workin Facebook – all the Facebook learning you'll ever need
- The Twitter Way – the Twitter book in post form
- The Other Social Networks – Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest
- Social Media Funnies – cause we need to laugh at ourselves and our social medianess
- Contact Me – let me know how I can help you grow your business online
Most people don't really enjoy being mean; they do it because they can't help it. (from Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement)