The rules for social media engagement really haven’t changed much in the last 9 years. True, there are different mores and ways to navigate the various social channels, but the basics are pretty much same same.
From whence does this mind-bending observation cometh?
I was weeding through some old notebooks before tossing them (for those few of you who know me and read this – Yes, I do throw things away. Now and then.). I came across my “rules of the road” draft for commenting/engaging on the AIIM Community.
Because of my career step-to-the-right into doing content marketing, there’s plenty that can be applied there too.
From “Ohhhhhh, Shiiiiit” to Community Manager
Short background. 2009 and the magazine I had been editor of was tanking. I had been demoted to bring in a new editor about 18 months before (I shall refrain from further comment). I was sure I was a goner. Instead, AIIM decided to can the magazine, whacked the editor (not his fault, he was a good guy and an excellent writer/decent editor), and shifted me over helping create/run an online community (one of the other two on the team was my then-girlfriend – life is strange).
So after flying to England a day after I found all this out with said girlfriend (now wife), I returned in 2010 and began the road to what I’m doing today via becoming a community manager.
Quick aside: I LOVED doing community management and parts of me wish I were still doing that as a career.
OK. Rules of the road.
5 Social Marketing Rules of the Road
My notebook has five. I think I ended up with a few more. Regardless, for purposes of this blog, there were 5. Here are edited versions of the originals, with a few thoughts on how they match up today.
- Can I talk about my product?
I think this morphed into, “Don’t talk about your product.”
Keep in mind we had a mix of consultants, vendors, and end users in the community. Crikey, it’s been less than a decade! Social media marketing was in its infancy, there were plenty of marketing and PR agencies who thought, “WOO HOOOO! Free places for me to push the glory of my company and products!”
Remember your first email? Cool wasn’t it? As it became just another way to communicate faster, marketers – like they do with every channel – figured out that everyone would love to receive tons of emails about their products. I don’t know about your inbox, but mine is full of crap because many marketers still haven’t adapted to the new rules of marketing: be useful and/or interesting. Of course, if you do it right, your potential customers will WANT to read your emails. My current favorite is Chubbies – they sell shorts with a blissfully short 5-inch inseam (I have short legs). Their marketing fits their brand perfectly.
We STILL see folks doing this on LinkedIn. As I used to tell vendors, no one gives a damn about you, tell the audience how you can help them. THEN they might start to give a damn about you because you can help them. You don’t do that by spouting insider lingo and marketerese.
Inbound and content marketing has taken this social media more and resurrected the idea of customer service to update marketing.
So what do you do? Engage and share your knowledge. Make comments (THAT DON’T TALK ABOUT THE WONDER THAT IS YOUR PRODUCT/COMPANY) relevant to the conversation. Do that well and frequently, you’ll start to be seen as an expert and someone helpful. When the time is right, folks will seek you out if you sell what they need. There are times for direct sales and “the ask” but that’s a different conversation.
- But . . . .
Still no. See above.
- How do I become an expert blogger?
Part of jumpstarting a community is getting the conversations going. We did this by recruiting expert bloggers – even a few vendors if I remember right. My boss at the time was fixated on “rock stars.” I thought that was stupid – better to find folks willing to share their knowledge and grow with the community. “Rock stars” didn’t need us and we didn’t have anything beyond exposure to offer (which, as “rock stars” they already had).
So we recruited a few name folks – all of whom were extremely kind with me and their time. However, they wandered off as our functionality never grew to match our initial goals (our leadership moved on to the next shiny object because community – as anyone who has ever tried to manage or create one – is frigging hard).
OK, got THAT off my chest. How do you become an expert?
Know you’re shit.
Be willing to learn from and engage with others.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
About sharing, that can be however you’re comfortable – hanging out in an online community and engaging in conversation, blogging, podcasting, creating videos, whatever (or some combination of all of this).
It’s simple – no one will ever know you’re an expert if you don’t share what you know.
That means for inbound marketing and content marketing efforts you need to share your expertise and knowledge with potential customers to attract them. That means having an excellent website that clearly explains what you do. Blogs, videos, infographics, ebooks, etc. with useful information – one of the most read blog posts I’ve written for a client has been about how to remove black lines from a copy.
It pays to be useful. Google loves that.
- Be nice.
It’s amazing how much trust you earn if you just be yourself and are nice.
We did have language something like this to clarify that, “We reserve the right to block anyone for rude and aggressive behavior – including pitching your products and services without end.” But that’s just a complicated way of saying “Be Nice.”
- Enjoy yourself.
Enjoy, engage, talk to and learn from each other. Tell us what you think and what you’d like to see. It’s your community, I look forward to building it with you.
Learning is fun. There’s no need to be a stuffed shirt with a stick up your hindquarters.
And that was really it. Based on these five rules, the community was fairly successful — and is currently undergoing a reboot (in a twist of fate, my then-girlfriend-now-wife is in charge of it now — and she’ll provide better direction than the original person in charge).
To summarize the rules in even shorter form — share what you know and don’t be a dick.