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.