What’s your social lens?

September 9, 2010

I’ve been thinking about new ways to look at the world through a social lens. The questions I keep asking myself are: What’s the framework that would give me a consistent view of engagement options? What are the type of engagements in social environments I want to drive? I know there’s no right answer to these questions, but I wanted to share my current thinking and how I’m applying it to my work for the Office social marketing team.

After reading Brian Solis’s Engage and Charlene Li’s Open Leadership books, not only did a walk away more enlightened on new tactics for engagement and the limitations of trying to control conversations in social spaces, but I also came to realize that collectively they offered the answers to my questions on the appropriate lens for social engagement.

Starting with Charlene’s research on the types of engagement, I created a flow chart that suggests a richer, more involved engagement as people move from Watchers to Curators. I think this is the north star for most social media practitioners – growing the community of Watchers/Sharers and moving them upstream to be Producers and Curators. Here’s the chart:

Equipped with a view of the levels/types of engagement, I needed to think about the strategy and tactics. For this I used Brian’s 5 Ps of social marketing. Looking at social engagements in the context of my objectives and applying the 5 Ps consistently to my efforts, I feel I have a consistent framework that forces me to consider some very basic but very important concepts. Here’s a view of Brian’s 5 Ps:

Here’s the all up framework compiling Charlene’s levels of engagement and Brian’s 5 Ps of social marketing:

And here’s how I’m thinking about applying this framework to our efforts in LinkedIn.

You can see in the LinkedIn example, the goals are to move community members upstream to get more engaged, and the tactics (in the context of the 5 Ps) outline how I want to go about getting people more engaged. Across all communities there’s a give and take, so the literal engagement will be to ask the community to act and give back by promoting good/valuable feedback/submissions and giving them “insider” access.

I’m still working on this as a conceptual framework, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’m missing and/or different ways to utilize the great research from Charlene and Brian. The actual slides are below. If you feel like this framework could work for you, please feel free to use it, tweak it, etc. All I ask is that you be sure to source Charlene and Brian and share with me any learnings. I look forward to hearing from you.

Social Media Engagement Framework


Setting objectives to tap into new influence circles

April 10, 2009

Beyond being new tools to reach audiences, social media/networking tools can easily foster and enable attention deficit disorder (ADD). This is why the very first thing companies must do when considering using social media is to set clear objectives. Moreover, objectives need to be set both internally and externally. What are your objectives internally for using social media tools to connect with customers, influencers and partners? Likewise, what do you want to achieve with external audiences by using social media. Both are explored below.

Internal objectives

Given the newness of social media in enterprise environments, conceptualizing objectives for communications, marketing, sales and development groups is not an easy undertaking. There are some baseline objectives that must be considered:

• Communication objectives
– Listening to the narrative about your solutions
– Mapping the influence landscape (who’s influencing who?)

• Marketing objectives
– Identify new brand ambassadors (i.e. moms/students)
– Test messages/campaigns with internal audiences

• Sales objectives
– Learn from communities new tactics to tell better stories
– Showcase sales wins more quickly (Twitter about new win when deal is signed)

• Development objectives*
– Crowdsource concepts
– Use social media to test new ideas
– Expose thought leadership through posts/Tweets
*these could also be leveraged externally depending on the appetite/confidentiality of the initiative.

External objectives

External objectives are similar, but there are some important nuances to consider. Whereas internal use of social media is targeted at colleagues and peers, social media usage for external purposes are more focused on customers, partners and influencers, thus the lens is a bit different. Some objectives to consider:

• Communication objectives
– Extending ongoing and starting new conversations
– Enhancing reach of stories

• Marketing objectives
– Utilize new media to enhance brand awareness
– Drive market share/connection with brand

• Sales objectives
– Expedite customer connectedness (more value conversations)
– Enhance openness/transparency with customers/partners

A good way to look at formulating objectives for social media initiative is in the context that the internal informs the external. A key question to keep in mind when launching a new influencer program using social media tools is: Will my story resonate with new influencers and can I use blogs, Twitter and communities to tell it? Only by listening to the narrative, identifying the right influencers and participating in a conversational way can you ensure that your message and story will resonate in the digital marketplace.

Acknowledging that these are high level guidelines, what am I missing? What other objective setting lessons have you learned? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Questioning the value of “sponsored conversations”

March 3, 2009

Just read an interesting post (3/3/09) from Patricio Robles on the topic of “sponsored conversations.” This post, coupled with Forrester’s report on the topic, got me thinking about the inherent value and intent of blogs and 140 character posts. Weren’t these social media tools originally designed to be personal, conversational and…well social? Doesn’t paying someone to blog or tweet about your brand undermine the authenticity of your post – regardless if the person getting paid explicitly states s/he’s posting on X company’s behalf?

Obviously, if a brand wants to be included in the PageRank algorithm (the topic of the Robles post), they need to subscribe to the no follow guidelines. Google is totally in the right in enforcing those seemingly universally accepted rules. What struck me most about the post weren’t Google’s efforts to ensure quality, rather the underlying notion that companies (i.e. Kmart) are paying – incentivizing – people to talk about their brand.

My gut reaction is that these “sponsored conversations” go against the grain of social media. To me, the value of Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, and the like is transparent conversations between people talking about their passions, frustrations and successes. Sure “sponsored conversations” can be transparent (indeed, Forrester recommends mandating that transparency if using bloggers to talk about your brand), but by sponsoring them I believe you lose some elements of the personal nature of social tools.

I’m not suggesting that brands should not look for inventive ways to establish a presence in social media realms. Indeed, they should! I am proposing that companies should take it upon themselves to build their own brands in the digital world. They should dedicate internal resources to talk about their brand. They should encourage these brand discussions at both the individual and corporate/group level. Ford’s Scott Monty has done a masterful job of integrating his personal “brand” with his company’s.

If I want Robert Scoble or Peter Kim or Guy Kawasaki to talk about my brand/products in their posts and tweets, then it’s my responsibility to make the story compelling enough for them to take my message viral. Whether I’m selling lawn mowers, rubber tubing or clothes, I’m not sold on the value of paying someone to go shopping or to drive my vehicle in return for a post or a tweet. It just seems trite.

I feel that sponsoring conversations has the potential to undermine the inherent value of social media outlets. These conversations, if they merit scale across social media outlets, happen organically. Witty, conversational, controversial, and smart conversations bubble up to the top. I’m just not convinced that the potential to undermine the social value that is inherent in these new conversation/marketing mediums should be eclipsed by a brand impression. I’m 100% open to the possibility…just not convinced yet. I’d love to hear your opinion on this topic.

Who’s influencing the influencers?

February 5, 2009

Ok, so social media has given us all new vehicles to voice and distribute our opinions…like I’m doing here. While many of these opinions voiced through blogs, Twitter, communities, Digg, etc. are interesting and valid for sure, there sure is a lot of noise out there. At first it was novel to know what your friends and family were doing at dinner time, on their ride to work, or at their kids’ soccer game. It was equally novel to post ruminations about the stars, favorite books and artists on blogs. These ruminations and seemingly banal thoughts are interesting, but when looking at these types of social media outlets through a business lens, the novelty has turned into noise.

My dilemma is, as a communications pro, determining how to most effectively navigate the noise and utilize these new social media tools (blogs, micro messaging and communities) to impact perceptions and perhaps even buying behaviors. To do that, I think, one needs to find a way to map the influencer landscape. We know who the online celebrities are (thanks Forbes!), and we know they are very visible and very opinionated…and generally very interesting. However, who are they turning to for insights? Who’s in their top 5 of must visit blogs/communities? Who bubbles up to their top 10 influencers on Twitter?

Acknowledging that it may be elementary to ask these thought leaders and influence peddlers “who do you see as influential”, but I really want to know. I want to know where Scoble goes for his news to help shape his opinion on a given product or topic. He’s a unique example because he seems to be everywhere at once, so perhaps the fact that he’s so connected he doesn’t need to turn to other sources of influence – he’s it!

What about Kawasaki? O’Reilly? Shel Israel? Peter Kim? Cashmore? These guys and many others like them are massively connected, but I have to believe that they have specific resources they turn to that helps shape the opinions we see and love on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the like. Maybe their influence/inspiration comes from their families? Maybe their coworkers? Maybe pundits at trade shows? Perhaps they turn to the developer community or academics? Or, maybe they’re tapping into the traditional influencers at Forrester, Burton and Gartner? I really don’t know, but inquiring minds would like to find out!

There are many ways to map the connections these A-listers have by friending them on Facebook or following them on Twitter, but that’s just giving you a glimpse of their world. It doesn’t really tell you who they see as influential. You can look at their blog rolls to see who they’re linking to for some deeper insight, but are they links they visit regularly or just a reciprocity link? Short of asking them, this is probably the best avenue to pursue to understand who top influencers see as influential.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you go about mapping the influence landscape. In the meantime, I think I’m going to start a conversation with the folks I see as influential and simply ask the question: “who influences you?” I’m not holding my breath, but it’s worth a try!

10 Commandments of Social Media

January 26, 2009

1. Thou shalt know thy audience prior to engaging
Effective engagements with influencers operating in social media circles necessitate a change in the way we think about communications. There are new rules for engaging, new methods for outreach, and new strategies that must be undertaken to ensure messages resonate in social media outlets. Knowing their interests and areas of coverage can lead to fruitful new relationships that can enhance perceptions of a given company, and hopefully positively impact buying decisions.

2. Thou shalt listen to your audience
Understanding who the thought leaders are, their preferences for engagement, and their interests is essential to any communications campaign targeted at social media. By listening to customers and influencers posting on Twitter, friending on Facebook, and updating blogs can significantly enhance the relationship bonds that exists or are being created with new influencers.

3. Thou shalt understand the landscape of influencers
It is crucial to understand the influence linkages. Are academics influencing analysts? Are individual contributors (i.e. developers) influencing A List bloggers? Understanding how to map the landscape will better equip communication & marketing professionals to deliver targeted messages and build relationships with appropriate influencers.

4. Thou shalt treat new influencers as a distinct group
Social media has given traditional influencers new vehicles to publicize opinions/analysis. However, outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc. have also given rise to a new cadre of influencers that are helping to shape perceptions, and, to some extent, purchasing decisions. As with analysts and the press, bloggers/twitterers see themselves as a distinct subgroup. It is therefore essential that communications & marketing professionals alter the way in which they view these new influencers and cater to them as a new subgroup of influencers. This means that companies should consider hosting blogger roundtables at events; Twitter social meet ups; Facebook events, and the like.

5. Thou shalt not use social media to promote a brand/initiative/product
Social media is not about marketing in the traditional sense; it’s all about participating in an ongoing discussion. It’s about giving the communities valuable data, early insights to upcoming announcements, and strategic guidance. Discussions taking place in social media circles are informal and conversational. Promotion of a brand or product will not resonate in most circles. Employing traditional PR & marketing tactics in social media outlets will likely fail to capture audience mindshare.

6. Thou shalt fully disclose company association when brokering relationships
Transparency carries a lot of weight in social communities. Operating under an @company X alias will likely lead to suspicion. It is proven that being up front and honest with your association to a given company, organization or specific campaign can lead to trusting and value-driven relationships in the virtual world.

7. Thou shalt respond responsibly to praise and criticism alike
Social media gives rise to new mouth pieces for critics and advocates alike. Opinions, comments, etc. can appear in a manner of minutes and be re-posted or re-tweeted in seconds by hundreds of people. Communications & marketing professionals must be diligent to carefully consider how responses are crafted. Opinions and comments to posts need to be done in a productive way that sways the critics and enables supporters.

8. Thou shalt engage in conversations with valuable insights
To win friends in communities and microblogs one must bring some value to the conversation. For instance, retweeting (RT) a post without any value added insights is not productive. Offering up your “spin” on the RT demonstrates that you’ve thought about the post and offered up what is hopefully a useful evolution to the story. This can be comical, analytical or advisory. The key is to jump in with some thoughtful insights.

9. Thou shalt utilize social media as a complement to traditional influence vehicles
Utilizing Facebook communities or Twitter groups to drive traffic to your companies online properties or other social media vehicles (i.e. YouTube product videos) can be an effective complement to ongoing engagements with influencers. Creating contests, conducting polls, and harnessing crowdsourcing can make your contributions to these social media groups more impactful, and thus valuable to followers/friends.

10. Thou shalt strive to become an authority/ambassador
Becoming an authority will grow your sphere of influence. Value + authority = influence. With influence comes more followers/friends, which are the underpinnings of success in social media circles.

Would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve these commandments/guidelines.