Remember when we discussed why content marketing stinks? So, let me ask you, how’s your #socialmedia doing? Does your company actually “get” it or is it dismissed by the CEO as yet another digital fad? Or maybe even worse, s/he sees it as a “necessary evil” of the digital era. I think it is safe to say that we can all name at least one executive who would rather guzzle motor oil than invest in social media (#sm). And when they finally do come around to it, it is not because they see the strategic value but only because they have to participate. Up and down the executive hallways, shouts and orders are given: “Quick, someone hire an underpaid millennial intern to create a social media presence for us and have her tweet our most recent press release.” Unfortunately, these leaders have already set the wrong attitude towards #sm within the org. And thereby created a naysayer culture that tends to suppress any real enthusiasm from your #sm-proficient employees. As a consequence, your efforts in this space devolve into yet another overly conservative, stale and boring corporate front that adds little to no value for you or your customer. See if any of the following examples sound familiar:
- Posting links to your press releases on Facebook but routinely ignoring customer comments.
- Sending one-directional corporate-speak tweets about how you set the standard in [fill the blank] industry. While failing to actually engage anyone in the twittersphere.
- On that note, having to clear every tweet with every executive.
- Posting redundant YouTube talking head videos that no one watches anyways.
- Having your employees refuse to engage on your customer community because they are afraid that they will say something not approved by Legal (honestly, what a buzz kill!)
- Your only activity on LinkedIn is to announce your latest sales webinar.
- Bonus points if you respond to a customer’s criticism on an Amazon review with formal corporate talking points about how great your product is and how it will change the industry. All the while completely ignoring the customer’s legitimate complaint.[i]
These may all be just individual examples of poor execution. But taken together, they are symptoms of a larger anti-#sm corporate culture. Some of these are transparently uncreative, while others are patently lazy. They’re emblematic of a company that follows a rigid corporate #sm playbook written by people who simply do not “get” it. Importantly, these examples represent a wasted opportunity to establish authentic connections with customers.
“A successful social media strategy does not mean you have to go viral. It means being consistent and authentic with your customers.”
Be consistent and be authentic
So how can you make sure your efforts don’t stink? First, avoid any of the above examples and you’re half way there (well, kind of.) Second, you have to connect with customers and build relationships. You have to be consistent and authentic. In fact, a long-term effort to establish authentic relationships with your customers is infinitely more valuable than trying to go viral once and never being heard of again (odds of you going viral even once are next to zero, btw.) And don’t even think about substituting the human touch with those awful, automated twitter-bots. The only way to build authentic connections is to be, well, authentic. The following are examples of brands creating authentic relationships with customers through sustained and consistent effort:
Just like any NHL team, the Los Angeles Kings have a Twitter account. Oh sure, some other hockey teams may have more followers by virtue of being a bigger hockey market. But IMO, perhaps none do Twitter as well as the LA Kings. Authentic, engaging and captivating, this tweet-Jedi builds real relationships with both Kings fans and rivals alike. Even if you are not a hockey or sports fan, this is a must follow Twitter account to learn how to engage fans (think of yourself as a student studying the master, if that helps.)
Organizing for Action
Whether people agree or disagree with his policies, few would disagree that President Obama’s social media team is one of the best in politics. The team of dedicated and passionate #sm experts became famous in 2008 for their data driven approach to online marketing, while Obama’s public Twitter chats and his appearances on Reddit’s AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) were perceived as authentic, allowing the candidate to build real connections with voters. As a result, the Obama team left the McCain campaign completely flatfooted in the digital world. So successful was the program that the Obama administration continued to invoke its online volunteer army on numerous occasions during his presidency. Even with the benefit of four years of hindsight and research, the rival Romney campaign could not etch out more than 42% share of online voice in the 2012 election. (Note that in neither election did any of Obama’s ads ever go viral.) This is a prime example of a brand using #sm to build consistent and authentic relationships with its audience.
“The Good Lord Above” a.k.a. the Facebook God
There are numerous God profiles on Facebook, but there is only one Facebook God (also known as “The Good Lord Above”). For good reason! The screen shot on the left vividly illustrates how he mixes authentic engagement with humor and internet wisdom to consistently generate thousands of Likes and Shares. Unlike most brands, he does not simply post and ignore. In fact, Facebook God routinely reads and responds to message left to him by thousands of followers. Interacting with his fans is the norm, not the exception (the Facebook God also presides over his own YouTube channel and logs appearances on Reddit’s AMA.) As a result of his dedicated and consistent efforts, the anonymous comedian behind the page has created an online following of over 1.6M dedicated disciples who practically worship his every post.
So what, you say? He’s a comedian, what does this have to do with us selling widgets/software/cake/fill-in-the-blank? Facebook God uses authentic engagement to promote a specific message very dear to him — breaking society’s stigma regarding mental health issues. Either by brilliant design or by fortuitous circumstance, Facebook God has become a well known and passionate advocate for mental health counseling. And has prompted numerous people to actually seek the help they need. His superb command of social media is a divine lesson to marketing organizations everywhere.
I continue to assert that LinkedIn is a highly under-utilized medium for authentic relationships, especially so in the B2B space. All too often, companies fail to effectively leverage this powerful platform. Sure, some create private, branded groups and add their customers/prospects. The marketing team will then regularly post webcast announcements or collateral. Too bad that customers do not care and not even the crickets are chirping. Why? Because these are not authentic conversations. If you are going to manage a forum like this, let me share with you the invaluable advice I myself received from a customer a few years ago: “In short, do not bother.” What happened? Maybe we were consistent, but we were definitely not authentic. There actually is an entire science behind creating engaged LinkedIn groups, but that is a topic too detailed for this article. I promise I will address this soon….
If you haven’t figured out my point yet, the way to win on #sm is not about creating a trending hashtag on Twitter or skimming Facebook for one-time “Likes” to your post. It’s not about being yet another stale corporate wall. It’s about being consistent and authentic. I’d love to hear your experiences with #sm. Do your execs get it? Or is your marketing team simply tweeting/posting/blogging a pre-rehearsed script?
[i] I’m not saying I experienced this one personally a few years ago :/ but if I did experience it, I might still be bitter about it and may, to this day, refuse to purchase again from this company.
I’m Abdul. My heart belongs to my family, but my opinions are mine alone.
For more uninformed conjecture, follow me on Medium or on Twitter at @CaliAbdul. Or connect with me on LinkedIn.