One of the things that first attracted me to social media as a corporate communicator, even before I began doing it for a living, was the ability it gives brands to speak in a human voice. The early successful practitioners, companies like Cisco and Citrix and Dell, saw the potential to engage with their audiences as people, and did so in inspiring ways.
Long before I worked with them, I was impressed with how Radian6 and Buddy Media and Salesforce were using the new tools to engage in new ways (and that’s why I work for them now). After years of writing press releases that spoke in a detached corporate voice, I was excited by the possibilities, more than I had ever been in my career.
In my early days on Twitter, I was inspired by people like Marcel LeBrun, David Alston, Amber Naslund, Mike Lazerow, Chris Brogan, Chris Penn, David Armano, Justin Levy, Lionel Menchaca, Richard Binhammer, Padmasree Warrior, Sean McDonald, Marcus Nelson, Ann Handley and Tim Washer, who engaged because they enjoyed it, and they knew it was the right thing to do. They saw the future and jumped in with both feet. (I’m sure I’m leaving out dozens of people, but I’m not trying to turn this into a Twitter list.)
As more companies saw the light, it became more and more necessary to prove the value of social media to our bosses. That led to a healthy debate about ROI, which has evolved into tools and techniques companies use today to understand and prove the bottom-line impact of their content creation and community engagement.
It also caused some memorable mistakes and missteps, as well as the inevitable gaming of the system. “If Facebook likes are good, shouldn’t we do everything we can to get more Facebook likes?” Now, many of the most successful companies are thinking hard about how to drive engagement in a way that preserves the original intent of speaking with a human voice and providing useful and interesting content.
We are certainly one of those companies. Now that I am in the supremely lucky position of directing content and community engagement for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, I want to make sure we are doing it the right way, and doing it in the way that our community finds most agreeable.
For instance, we’re talking a lot about how we use our Facebook page. I don’t mean data-heavy internal strategy meetings (although we do have those), but making sure we have the kind of social presence that we ourselves as marketers and communicators – and people – would want to read.
Everyone I know seems to have gotten tired a long time ago of “like baiting.”
“Here’s a puppy! Click like if you like puppies!”
We recently tried to tie this like baiting approach to the pending snowstorm on the East Coast, when everyone and their mother was posting on social networks about the weather.
One of the people on my team, Andrew Gothelf (he’s unembarrassable, so I don’t feel bad calling him out) posted “Like this if everyone in your networks is talking about the weather.” The feedback we got on the post could have been better.
Just like everyone else who’s doing social media for brands, we’re trying to balance the twin goals of talking with our community about things you are interested in, while also trying to have fun, and do things that will help our social channels be more visible.
Three. Three goals.
1. We’ve decided we’re not going to use “like this if you” posts anymore, even if it is a viable tactic for increasing Facebook engagement. Because even if the data shows that like baiting is effective, that’s not who we want to be. I’m willing to give up some short-term gains in favor of the long-term goal of being a trusted member of our community.
Thankfully, I’m seeing a lot of the best brands going through this process as well. There is a renewed emphasis on the value of content, in a way that makes my inner marketing communications manager very happy. It’s not so long ago that marcom was the redheaded stepchild of marketing.
“Oh, we could write this ourselves but we don’t have the time. Throw it over to marcom. Maybe give them a pizza.”
2. This commitment to doing things right goes both ways. Brands need to commit to engaging honestly and sharing things of value.
But you have a responsibility as well. I see lots of angry comments on Sponsored Posts these days. In my cynical moments, I wonder if these people also shout at the television when commercials come on. Sponsored Posts are one of the ways that social channels make money. They have a right to get revenue from the value they provide us. And just like everybody else, they have to pay the bills.
But as a person, I understand how annoying it is to see something in your stream that is meaningless to you. It’s a violation of your trust, and a waste of your time.
(And my wife will tell you that I often shout at TV commercials.)
3. Brands need to use social channels in a respectful way, and that absolutely can be done. The same platforms (like the ones we sell) that show you how to reach people, will also show you what they most want to read.
Everybody’s learning. But if you don’t like what you see, let the brand know. You don’t have to get angry. Just let us know what you’d like. And what you don’t like. And what you find valuable. The onus is on the brand to do things the right way, yes, but I hope we can remember that we’re all just people trying to do our best.
I wish social channels made it easier for you to see the face and name of the person posting on behalf of the company. We’re trying harder do more of that.
So with all that said, please do let us know what you like about what we’re doing, what you’d like more of, and what you’d like less of. Feel free to leave your comments on this post, on Facebook, or send them to us on Twitter. I promise I will read them all. (And I also promise this isn’t a cynical ploy to boost our engagement.)
We sincerely want to be the kind of company that we ourselves would like to follow, but most important, we want to be the kind of company that you want to follow.
And of course, that means more cat pictures.
Because we have the platform at our disposal to monitor social media engagement, we’ll be tracking and will share the results of our social efforts. Feel free to share your ideas and share your experiences.