Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Social media is starting to take hold with brands, companies and organizations everywhere. While there are still stragglers, and it is probably incorrect to say most companies are getting with the program, a good number of them are. What we’re seeing in these organizations is a maturation process. Brands are done testing the waters, playing with the tools and saying, “We Gotta Facebook Page!” like it’s the corporate equivalent of an iPhone or Kindle. Companies are now approaching social media with communications strategies in mind — How can we effectively use these social tools to reach our audiences?

But therein lies the next challenge for those responsible for the social media planning for organizations. Regardless of the pedigree – public relations, corporate communications, marketing, customer service, research, etc. – today’s social media task masters are probably still operating from the traditional corporate mindset or training. First, you define your audience and your goals and objectives. Then you develop talking points to convince that audience to complete the action that fulfills the goals or objectives. Then you measure, report; rinse, repeat.

The problem is that social media is an environment that scoffs at the traditional. Talking points are about as useful in a social media campaign as a nail gun in a balloon store. You’re just gonna piss everybody off.

Corporate messaging — talking points — are precisely why people have turned to online communities and social networks for information about products and services. Social media exists to provide trusted, third party information to consumers looking for something other than a sales pitch. Thus, diving into a social media effort with your talking points in tow is a great strategy if you’re hoping to fail.

The key to developing a social media strategy is not talking points, but parameters of conversation.

Which conversation can you find a way into?

Which conversation can you find a way into?

To develop your parameters of conversation for your social media efforts, answer these questions:

  • What types of people do we want to talk to?
  • Where do we find them?
  • What are they talking about already?
  • Is it appropriate for us to join that conversation and, if so, when?
  • How do we inject usefulness into the conversation without being overly promotional?
  • What value can we provide in terms of knowledge, opinion or content?
  • How can we earn their trust?
  • When we do earn their trust, how can we best ask for their input into our product or service?
  • Under what circumstances can we point the conversation toward considering our product?
  • Can we say or do something that invites someone else to point the conversation toward considering our product?
  • How shall we apologize and regroup if we overstep their comfort level or accuse us of violating their trust?

Many of the answers cannot be had until you assimilate into the communities and conversations. But thinking of these situations ahead of time is no different than anticipating the hard questions from reporters before a press conference. Prepare yourself with answers, then read and react. It’s not the soup-to-nuts of a social media strategy, but the answers to these questions are at the core of successful ones.

Those are my questions. What are yours? What other ideas can we add to this list to help a company round out parameters of conversation for their social media efforts. The comments are yours.

IMAGE: Copyright Corepics from Shutterstock.com. Used with permission.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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