After the keynote presentation at the Digital Marketing Conference, someone called out a question to Michael Brito, of Edelman Digital: “Are there any common rules of engagement?”. For a bit of context, Michael was presenting on “The Rise of The Social Customer” (see slides here). Not only was he talking about the role of the empowered, social consumer, but also about the business infrastructure that must be built in order to integrate the social customer into the fabric of the company’s internal functions: operations, product development, customer service.
He responded with some good feedback. His greatest point was that when you engage in social media as a company you have to be authentic. This is a critical component to engagement. More than a communication style, this is an operational paradigm of how you view your relationship with your customers. It’s a choice you make on a very deep level to connect with your customers transparently, honestly, and when you goof up, humbly.
A while back I wrote a piece on Creating Great Content for your Online Community. In it I expounded on the basic tenets of a good content strategy for your community. Content has a lot to do with engagement. In fact, online engagement starts with your content. But engagement itself is about the interactions that follow that content; interactions between you, your community, and they with one another.
After the conference, I spent some time thinking about my own work as a #cmgr, and developed this hit list of key rules when you engage with your community. That is, after you create the content, how and when should you interact?
- Understand The Context - Go beyond just demographics. In the business of social, you need to dig into your community psychographics. What are their interests, activities, opinions? Johanna Blakely gave a great Ted Talk on the topic of psychographics and social media.
- Speak the language – An extension of #1 above, but worth noting separately. When you talk, be considerate of the community’s dialect.
- Be Consistent with your Voice - Once you understand the dialect you’ll start to develop your own voice. Speak it consistently, hopefully just like you do in the real world.
- Understand the Platform – Before engaging with anyone, be sure your familiar with the social mores of the platform you’re operating upon. Twitter especially has many rules of engagement that you should know by heart. Here’s some things NOT to do on Twitter, for example.
- Be Timely – Social media is a fast paced environment, so you should generally be ready to respond quickly. But don’t respond quickly all the time just because. Keep things in perspective and respond in a timely fashion based on the context of the interaction.
- Don’t Just Sell – A lot of companies start a social media campaign and do nothing more than generate sales/marketing content. Get involved in value-added activities and content to deepen community ties. If you just sell stuff, your community will leave when the sale is over.
- Reciprocate – Always give back when you’ve been given something. When someone retweets your post or comments on your blog, not only say thanks, but do the same for them: Retweet their tweet, comment on their blog, etc.
- Participate outside your own bubble – Don’t languish in your own social cave. Go out and participate wherever the conversations revolve around your community’s interests.
- Have a Crisis Plan – Be prepared if something bad happens. Make sure you know who’s your point person and how you’re going to work through your responses and actions post-disaster.
- Be Authentic -Michael Brito was right on the money. I put this last because it is perhaps the most important. Consider it the period to the message here. If you’re not being authentic, you’re not being you, and in social, no one wants that.