MARIA OGNEVA'S BLOG
Hello, and welcome to my blog and the digital home for my thoughts. Most know me as @themaria, my handle across most social media sites and communities. My actual, given name is Maria Ogneva, and I love writing, traveling, eating, and spending time with my new husband.
I am passionate about how social media is changing the way we communicate, help and relate to each other, share news and make the world a smaller, more hospitable place. I work at Salesforce as Director of Product Marketing on the Communities product, where my job is to help customers (and the world at large) to be successful in building communities. I learn every day, and I share my thoughts and personal growth here.
Please note that the views expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer or any of our clients.
This is part 2 of my top 10 best practices of online engagement. Part 1 describes practices 1-5, while this one finishes up with 6-10. The best practices listed below can be applied to engaging as individual as well as corporate brands.
6. Build relationships; become genuinely interested in people
As you participate more and more and contribute value, you will grow your network of like-minded individuals, thought leaders and potential customers. Building networks is not new, but it is more efficient with tools like Twitter. Network building, online or off, rests on a key tenet: meeting people is easy; nurturing relationships is significantly harder. As Dale Carnegie wrote in his book “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, to be interesting, you must first become interested in others.
Let’s translate this to social relationship building. If you approach Twitter or any other conversation platform as a way to “pimp” your message all day long, you will most certainly fail. There’s nothing wrong with light self-promotion, as long as you do other stuff too. Follow people with the end goal of talking with them, not with the end goal of them following you. When I decide whom to follow, I examine their stream first, to make sure that I would like talking to this person. If (s)he has 100% broadcasts and no @ replies, I won’t follow, unless it’s a breaking news source. I hold myself and my Twitter community to the same standard of interaction. When people share news about themselves, interact. When people share information that you find valuable, don’t hesitate to share via a retweet, even if, and especially if, it has nothing to do with you.
7. Obey the golden rule, with customers and competitors alike
Continuing the theme of relationship building from #6, what you say and how you say it on the web, has everything to do with your success. Remember a simple rule and one of my favorite sayings: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”. Although some social media personalities have successfully created their brands by being rude and brash, they are an outlier vs. the norm. For the most part, the rest of us have to build our networks the old fashioned way: by being helpful, providing value and being someone that people want to grab an in-person or virtual beer with.
Here’s an important corollary: the golden rule applies to how you handle competitors as well. The advertising paradigm has been for competitor A to slam competitor B, and vice versa, in TV commercials (think Verizon vs. AT&T). This doesn’t work in social media. Since the social web is much more transparent, your number one competitive weapon is honesty and ability to articulate your value and thought leadership, not slamming your competitors in public. On top of that, social media is a nimble world that’s still being built, which means that someone who is your competitor today may be your partner tomorrow.
8. Front page of New York Times
When building relationships and obeying golden rules by blogging, tweeting, commenting and such, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are producing content, which will live on the web for the rest of your life, or until we stop using the Internet – both events are not in your immediate future hopefully. As a result, you have to strike a balance between being personal, real and approachable, but still having a filter. Yes, even if you are tweeting for a brand, you should infuse some kind of humanness into it (pros and cons of tweeting from a personal vs. company logo account are forthcoming in a future blogpost).
We are human, and none of us are exempt from emotions and oversharing them via social networks. But before saying something in a moment of passion, please remember that what you put on the web is written in proverbial stone for the rest of your life, and can and will be used against you when you expect it least. If you are ashamed of your tweet being on the front page of the New York Times, you probably shouldn’t tweet it.
9. Make engagement a corporate culture, get buy-in
Aligning corporate objectives and making sure that all departments is aligned is key in survival of your social media plan. Because social media cuts across the rigid silos that have been carefully constructed over the years, your organization needs to be prepared to embrace it from every perspective. Should you be participating to bolster your brandbuilding efforts, or for market research, or for customer service? Yes!
You need to think through how that will look, given your organizational structure. Does each team own its own Twitter account: one for support, one for corporate voice, or one for sales, or does everything happen through one account and get triaged via the community manager? Do you have best practices and SocialCRM tools set up to handle the flow of social media conversations? And most importantly, does your organization really embrace and see the value in social media? It’s easy to say that everyone does, but in reality it takes a certain corporate DNA to make social not only work, but resonate through the entire organization. Companies that do the best are relentlessly service oriented and focused on the long term, as well as able to execute in the short term. At the end of the day, incentives need to be aligned in such a way, that everyone knows how social media helps the company, their department, and their individual careers. This point alone merits an entire blogpost, so I will leave it alone for now.
10. Track, measure, repeat
They say that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I say that if you fail to measure, you will definitely fail. Measuring does two things: it helps you understand where you are today, and drive a plan that will get you from point A to point B. Secondly, it allows you to benchmark against your plan in short-term chunks to ensure that you are steadily moving towards plan B. If things aren’t going the way you anticipated, you need to evaluate, understand what happened and course-correct along the way. Remaining flexible and nimble is key to being able to take advantage of insights that come from measurement.
How do you measure the results of your social engagement; what metrics do you use? Well, that really depends on what your objectives are (see #9). If customer service is your objective, take a snapshot of your sentiment at day 1, using a tool like Biz360 Community, and trend it across time, and against your competitors, to verify that positive is going up and negative is going down. If brand awareness is your goal, share of voice is key. If your goal is engagement, you should be tracking Facebook interactions, Twitter retweets and @ replies, velocity and reach of each message, blog comments, etc. If you need financial metrics like revenue and ROI, you need to effectively track each lead from point of origin on a social network, all the way through a sales funnel, to the end point of purchase. Sophisticated SocialCRM systems are key here. Whatever you measure, you need to know why are doing it and be disciplined in measuring only what matters in channels that matter to you.