I refer to a blog written by my fellow virtualization marketer VMCarrie where she discussed the trap of hiring an individual to “own” social media, or SoMe as I term it. As Carrie correctly points out, it is not just one person’s responsibility and it’s not a full time role for someone.
Contributing to this new wave of communications should be many people’s responsibility. But how do you engage the right people? How do you remove some people’s fear that they will express the wrong opinion? What boundaries are there, or should be, in place? Who sets those boundaries and guidelines?
This post is just my opinion and one that I share with my clients – some listen and some don’t 🙂
The responsibility for setting guidelines regarding contributing to SoMe should lie with the same department that owns all messaging for your company – your marketing department. Whilst companies need to have explicit guidelines for contributing to social media platforms, such as Twitter, they should not be so stringent that they smother passion and creativity. There should be individuals within your company that you assign to contribute to SoMe. However, the best candidate to contribute is the one that wants to! I have found it an uphill struggle to convince people to Tweet, for example, that just don’t “get it” as a communications medium, or don’t understand the power of SoMe to influence people’s purchasing decisions, either directly or subliminally.
I believe the old adage of “people buy from people” is applicable in the SoMe sphere also. If one of your customers is having a problem getting a response from your technical support team and then Tweets about it or comments on a LinkedIn group, you need to ensure you have someone monitoring SoMe and respond – because if you don’t the competition will certainly use to their advantage. However, if you are seen to respond promptly to the issue in hand, then your customer will remain loyal to you and prospective customers will see your heightened levels of customer service.
Vendors should never forget to monitor comments and replies on blog sites too, this is where a customer could see, or be involved in, a discussion around your product’s (perceived) failings and if you are not monitoring and replying to these posts, you may well lose business. All this effort takes time, a scarce commodity that not many of us have spare to be frank. However, SoMe is like any other role responsibility, if you take your eye of the ball you will lose out in some shape or form.
I think a great example of using SoMe to benefit the community is John Troyer over at VMware. I don’t personally know John from my time at VMware but I do follow him on Twitter, and I’d like to cite him as an example because he has contributed to not only the community but also to his employer by maintaining high standards of integrity (there’s my favourite word again!) in his use of social media. While John does have a role focused on SoMe, it is not explicit to his job function, it is merely a “tool” that he uses to best advantage.
John is the complete opposite of a colleague of mine who, for the sake of this blog, we shall call “Eddie”. Eddie’s knowledge and background made him the ideal candidate to contribute to SoMe and having identified the forums and sites that he should monitor and contribute to, I pushed him on his merry way down the SoMe path. He started on the journey but never made it to his destination…… Eddie just didn’t get it – “it” mainly being Twitter – plus, he just didn’t have the passion or commitment to contribute. And so to the title and point of this post, if you’re not passionate about contributing to SoMe, either personally or professionally, you won’t be successful at it and therefore are not the right person to be given responsibility to participate. Also, as per my previous post, never trash the competition and certainly never get into a public spat on sites such as Twitter.
Final Thought – freedom of speech and censorship
Remember, SoMe is culturally, racially, religiously and socially diverse – be very careful when expressing an opinion that might offend someone and, worse, might impact your credibility within the community and your employer. Recently, a fellow Tweep re-posted an article about a certain analyst house that questioned the analyst house’s opinion. His employer was taken to task about the post from said analyst house and so his employer imposed a “black out” on his blog. They surely pay a huge client fee to the analyst in question and yet “sided” with them versus their own employee. However, the reaction from the Twitterverse about this level of censorship was unprecedented and I am very pleased to say his blog was reinstated within a day or so, albeit minus the “offending” post.
Bearing all of these points in mind, enjoy contributing to SoMe; it can be fun, it’s informative and the clue is in the name, S.O.C.I.A.L Media – it’s a great community spirit, if you enter into it in the right way J
Jane Rimmer is owner of hiviz-marketing , a strategic marketing consultancy servicing the IT industry.