Best Practices In Social Media Marketing: Embrace Your Audience

by Jason Falls |

Mitch Joel’s Best Practices in Social Media Marketing Writing Project found its way to my inbox from Mike Keliher, a frequent commentor and digital friend. Yes, it’s a meme and no, I don’t particularly like memes, but this one is certainly a useful one. Since Mike asked, I thought it best to respond with a best practice in social media marketing. Keep in mind Joel asked that each person who participates pick one, several folks have gone ahead of me with great best practice ideas and, well, I enjoy bringing something different to the table.

My best practice in social media marketing is to embrace your audience.

[flickr style=”float: right”]photo:436065491[/flickr]I spent 11 years as a college athletics publicist. In the sports world, you’re surrounded by real fans — a term shortened from the word, “fanatic,” for a reason. In college athletics, you have an even greater degree of insanity to deal with because the most vocal and intrusive fans are parents of your student-athletes, who are often blinded by their love for their child and incapable of a rational approach to dealing with professionals tasked with supporting their sons and daughters. I’ve been accosted by parents for not glorifying their child with superlatives and even threatened with physical harm for a statistical decision that didn’t favor one man’s daughter. For those in the business of college athletics, there are very few who consider their target consumer to be of sound mind, much less worthy of their respect.

In the world of marketing, I’ve had the experience of dealing with a brand with a fair level of open communications with its customers. Yet, those charged with handling the day-to-day interaction had an obvious distaste for their core fans, often stereotyping the lot of them and making important business decisions based on anecdotal experiences with a very small number of consumers.

Because of my long run dealing with sports fans and inherent, though perhaps naive, belief that even the craziest of people has a valid opinion, I developed a theory to argue for a more persistent and thoughtful approach to dealing with fans, be they of your team or your brand. The theory goes something like this:

Ninety percent of what you hear comes from less than 10 percent of your audience; 90 percent of that is negative.

I call it my 90-10-90 rule and I use it to remind clients that they should embrace their audience. Certainly, the majority of what you hear from consumers is going to be negative. People who aren’t unhappy don’t complain. Unless you have a particularly bad product or service, or are in the midst of a crisis in your company relative to a product or service, the vast majority of your customers are placidly content, churning along with their lives, oblivious to the fact you may want to hear from them. Those that you do hear from are likely raising their hands because of an element of discontent.

By staying focused on the 90 percent of your audience you don’t hear from and can assume are either happy or neutral in their feelings toward your brand, you don’t become blinded in decision-making by the vocally discontent minority. By approaching social media marketing with the same attitude you can see past the superficial negative you might find once you open the channels of communication with your consumers to the overwhelming positive to come from doing so. If you need a case study on how that might work, call Lionel Menchaca. What started out as overwhelming negative quickly turned turned good for Dell.

Embracing your audience applies in several areas. If they seem uncomfortable to you, ask yourself if you’re basing that on the 90 percent or the less than 10. Here are five ways companies can embrace their audience:

  1. Assume your audience is smart, and sometimes smarter than you.
  2. Trust them to follow your lead, even when asking them to go above and beyond for your brand.
  3. Consider negative feedback as an opportunity to improve, even if the delivery isn’t constructive.
  4. Know that it’s okay to say, “no,” so long as you explain why.
  5. Act human and they’ll allow you to be such.

While it may very well be necessary to explain each of those in more detail, I’d like to challenge you to do so. Tell me what one or more of those instructions for embracing the audience means to you. And, by all means, if there are others, add them to the list.

The comments are yours.

And in the interest of learning through the extension of the project, I would ask Beth Harte and Kip Bodnar to give us their one best practice.

IMAGE:But I Love To Hug” by Beard Papa on Flickr.

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About the Author

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).