Social media policies aren’t typically the first things that come to mind when you’re developing a social media marketing strategy.
But they should be.
Without social media policies in place, social media marketing plans are unsustainable. On social networks, reach is a function of engagement. Without engagement, there is no reach.
Thus, in order for social media marketing messages to get noticed, they need to get passed along to friends of friends and their friends. That means other people have to like, comment and share.
Drafting a social media policy may not seem as important as creating great content to share; but, if your addressable market – your employees, resellers or members – haven’t been given clear, easy-to-follow social media guidelines on permissible use, they’re much less likely to participate, so you’re much less likely to reach their friends.
When critics use social networks to focus negative attention on a company, brand, product or service, social media pundits call them social media horror stories
But before you assume that what you’ve got is an actual, bona fide social media horror story, use this litmus test for gaging the severity of an online crisis
What Are they Criticizing?
Outspoken criticism on Twitter is not, necessarily, a social media crisis. What are they criticizing exactly? Is it product performance or something else? The Motrin ads which offended a few, vocal moms and dads in 2008 got huge media attention. Social Media pundits lined up with case studies cataloging what they called the Motrin Moms social media horror story. But sales and the company’s stock performance was unaffected. Before you assume you have a crisis on your hands, ask yourself whether or not the criticism impacts the actual performance.
Are You Guilty by Omission? Nothing gets under the skin of free speech activists more than a company that is trying to hide something. The reason people support such a controversial project like Wikileaks is because they believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. If your social media horror story is the result of a perceived leak, unless you acknowledge the problem, you may have a real crisis on your hands. But if your perceived crisis result of an errant tweet by a misguidedemployee, a sincere apology my be good enough. But don’t over react. Everyone makes mistakes.
Mountains and Mole Hills
Mistakes are part of innovation. Trial and error are the mothers of invention. You cannot innovate unless you’re willing to fail. Social business is innovative. So unless you’re willing to be tolerant of your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, you’re not supporting innovation.
If your social media crisis is real, there’s plenty you can do, but only if you’re aware. So monitor social networks and respond quickly. And make sure your employees have social media training accessible so they know not just how to use social media, but how to use it responsibly for business. Social media policies alone are not enough. People need formal training on those policies as well.
How do you judge what constitutes a social media crisis? What aspects of online crisis communications management are most important? If I use your comment in the panel discussion, I promise full attribution.
Inbound links determine search, likes determine Edgerank and retweets determine reach. So if no one links, likes of retweets your share, no one hears it.
Those who aren’t new to social marketing have realized that social media is a team sport. It’s not what you say, but what the community says, that matters. Because whatever most people are liking rises to the top of the newsfeed, and whatever people are ignoring goes unseen.
Once you come to this realization, you begin to appreciate that your objective is not to get information out, but rather, to start conversations. When people talk back they bring their online social network with them.
We call this scaling engagement.
It’s about getting as many people as possible involved, so we can move our message through them to their friends, fans and followers.
This poses a conundrum to organizations which in the past were able to control their communications by using a public relations, public affairs or marketing communications professional to manage external communications. These folks are trained in the business of public disclosure. They have experience creating a public record.
What happens when you invite those employees, volunteers and constituents to participate in discussions that automatically become part of the public record? How should those employees who are not part of your marketing and PR apparatus respond when their Facebook friend asks them a question about your products or services?
Hopefully you have a social media policy in place to govern that type of usage. But remember, few take the time to read your employee handbook. And you can’t expect someone to comply with a policy they don’t understand.
Social Media Training
Social media training programs are a practical way to scale engagement because they ensure everyone on your team has the same understanding of key concepts, best practices and the actual mechanics of the various social networks so they can work together to bring your message to a broader community.
Live social media training makes good sense for marketing and PR practioners, but is isn’t always possible to train everyone at face-to-face workshops.
Online Social Media Training
When it comes to teaching social media best practices, online social media training offers 4 distinct advantages.
All the material is recorded. So participants don’t have to retain it all themselves.
Content is broken down into bite-sized chucks, so they can laser in on what’s most useful.
Stop and rewind the demos as many times as they like and learn at their own pace.
Time-shift and place-shift their professional development where they want, when they want.
Unless you train workforce, even the best social media marketing programs are unlikely to reap significant rewards.
The biggest search and social networking companies to date were born in America, so it’s easy to be seduced into thinking that the American way of doing things online is the best way of doing things online. But most netizens today are not Americans.
The majority of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin users reside outside of the US. And in many of those places, commerce is not necessarily the primary objective of business. In some countries, the ambitious are suspecting of undermining the public interest. Profits are like air. You need it to live, but it is not the purpose for living. Surely, you can’t deny that in the US, there are corporations that profit at the expense of the greater public interest.
Maintaining sensitivity to cultural nuances outside the US is key to successful online communications. SXSW, the annual mecca for the global tech community, draws an international audience. But it happens in Austin, so the global perspetive is diluted through an American lens.
Le Web on the other hand, which happens every December in Paris, showcases the global tech scene through a distinctly European filter, which is extermely valuable to communicators residing inside the US. Produced by Loic and Geraldine Le Meur, it is the fastest-paced, most entertaining of the tech conferences — with the best food and the higest production values — and packed with hard newsbreaks.
Here’s some of the announcements at this year’s conference:
Release of the new, new Twitter with a new algorithm “discovery feed”
Live demo of Ice Cream Sandwich, the next Andriod OS, with desktop widgets and facial recognition
Facebook’s committment to HTML5, even though the BRIC nations won’t have the infrastructure to support it for years
Uber’s $32 million in funding for an app that makes cars services in most major cities available via mobile
Evernote’s deal with Orange which will give customers access to the premium version for a year for free
But the bigger, more strategic lesson I got came from experiencing the emerging online tech sector in a mature market like France. Consider the history. The French government has long been regarded as overly bureaucratic, contempous of corporate greed and downright arrogant. Here are a few examples:
Wirelss broadband is simply not available from any local provider in Paris without a one-year contract
Last minute scheduling changes at Le Web happen daily. It’s just the way they do things. Shut up and wait.
It’s easy to dismiss the French as aloof. But my take is, they just have different priorities. You may not be able to get online easily, but if you have a medical emergency, they’ll take care of you for free, with or without insurance. The French also have a much lower tolerance for anticompetitive practices and revile unchecked corporate power. They seem to legitimately want to put the public interest before commerce. It’s a noble goal. You don’t get ripped off on soap and you can get healthcare when you need it. But it doesn’t always work, especially when it stymies innovation.
In his keynote, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the role of government is to equip citizens with reliable, fast and affordable wireless and stationary broadband, so they can innovate themselves out of the current economic funk. Rome had roads. Then came highways. But today, if you want to spur innovation and commerce, you need high-speed broadband.
Easy, cheap access to the Net in Sweden lead to a number of breakthrough technologies including the peer to peer file sharing, which led to Skype, and more recently Spotify, a social network that lets user share privately, who’s founder also presented at Le Web. Silicon Valley needs a competitor, says Schmidt, and unless you want to live in Berlin or Stockholm, other European governments need to make it easier for people to innovate.
Some say unchecked corporate power in the US has led to an environment where corporations have grown at the expensive of individuals. Last week the Federal Reserve reported said household net worth declined 4% over the summer, while company holdings climbed for the fifth consecutive year.
The bigger lessons from this year’s Le Web is this:
It’s less expensive that ever to access global markets
The cost of doing business keeps coming down
The size of the market keeps expanding
Access spurs innovation
Incentives spur commerce
But cultural differences really do matter. Different cultures have different expectations which anyone selling to a global audience needs to be mindful of.
I rented an apartment in Paris through AirBNB while attending Le Web and after getting locked out, l was challenged to overcome a difficult situation without anyone to advocate on my behalf in a timely manner. I have since exchanged tweets with the company’s founder Brian Chesky inviting him to discuss my experience at On the Record…Online, and spoken to the company’s staff, but no one appears to be willing to talk to me on the record about my experience.
In my next post I’ll write about my AirBNB experience. I’d like to acknowledge AirBNB’s point of view of in my post, so I hope Brian, or someone at AirBNB, will agree to a constructive, civil dialogue about my Paris apartment rental experience.
The killer app for B2B social media at trades events is, believe it or not, the app.
But not just any app. Mobile apps. More and more, attendees are using iPhone and Android apps to network digitally at events, and marketing them in the process.
Most of us have had some experience using mobile applications at professional conferences and corporate events to post status updates, tweet, check-in and exchange ideas with others who are either in attendance or following the event remotely. With the help of hashtags on Twitter, the social media back channel makes for better networking, spreading awareness worldwide all the while.
So powerful is the prospect of mobile social networking at events that a number of conference organizers have already taken a stab at building their own, branded mobile apps. So far, the results have been mixed. Because just like any other social media channel, those that go the distance prevail.
That means using technology to add value to the stream, whether it’s through content marketing, community management or automation. You’ve got to offer people something of value, be it ease-of-use, networking with a targeted community or the ability to engage in a niche back and forths without spamming your friends and family. B2B mobile apps can deliver this value at events.
For a B2B mobile app to deliver, it’s got to help attendees get more out of an event and give the conference organizers a way to generate excitement before during and after the program dates. For an app to get used, it’s got to do more then just provide the program schedule, speaker bios and basic event info. It’s got to enable interactions, both in popular social media, and via partitioned, semi-exclusive spaces. But what exactly does that mean? And what specifically does it take to succeed and delivery a truly useful B2B social media mobile app?
Here’s my punch list:
Social Sync – Perhaps the single, biggest benefit a mobile app can offer event attendees is the chance to see if anyone they know is registered to be there. Social sync gives them a way to see of any of their Linkedin connections, Twitter followers or Facebook friends are planning on attending. Working with Janrain, the mobile app at SXSW 2011 allowed attendees to cross-reference their social networks with registered attendees to see who they know that’s attending.
Make Public Posting Optional – It’s great to be able to publish to Twitter or Linkedin from a branded, mobile app, but don’t force the user to do so. They may want to use the app to have a segregated conversation with attendees without crowding up their Twitter feed. Not that they would need to keep those conversations private, but they should be able to decide, on a per share basis, what they want on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook, and which ones they think are only useful to people on site at the event.
Think Beyond the Event – It may be tougher to get people to download and invest their time in a mobile app for a single event. From a B2B social media marketing standpoint, the whole idea of the app is to generate excitement for the event before it happens, and extend that excitement after it’s finished. Cisco Events used Double Dutch to build what is one of the most useful apps I’ve seen to date for extending the reach of B2B events via the social web.
Location Based Social Networking – B2B mobile app should let attendees “check-in” on their mobile device at different locations. This can be a great way to drive traffic to exhibitors or sessions. To make sure attendees don’t check-in without visiting an exhibitor’s booth, build a QR code reader into your app, and offer incentives to attendees who check-in the most.
Auto Generate Hashtags – For those attendees who choose to publish their shares from your mobile app to their Twitter stream, make sure you give them the option to include the conference hashtag in their tweet. If it’s an internal company training event, use different QR Codes on the last slide of every presentation deck and use incentives, like leaderboard listings and other event privileges, to attendees who collect the most QR codes.
Socialize the Photo Opp – In the old days, trade show exhibitors would book a celebrity to come by their booth for photo opps. Nowadays, it would by silly to do something like that without integrating social to extend the reach via the web. Make sure your app offers a way for people to share photos and video among conference attendees and easily publish them to Twitpic, TwitVid, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook as well. Remember my cardinal rule of usability: ease of use drives adoption.
Notifications – Don’t make your attendees have to open your app to see new activity. Offer push notifications as an option and make darn sure the mobile app icon on the device home screen displays a number in a red circle in the upper right hand corner of the desktop icon to indicate new activity since last time it was opened.
Offer a “Pull” Option – The value of syncing your Linkedin account with your Twitter account is not so much the ability to syndicate tweets to Linkedin, but rather to search the tweets of other Linkedin users by industry, geography, company and time frame. Go to Linkedin, sync up your twitter account, and try searching Linkedin Signal. The tweets from your first, second and third tier connections appear, and can be segmented by a variety of options. If your app can pull in and display all the social networking activity of other conference attendees, that’s useful, even after the event is over, because it serves as a sort of lens to bring social networking activity of a particular community into focus.
Offer Keyword and Klout Score Search – B2B decision makers in different parts of a company have different priorities. Give users the ability to isolate the discussions they’re most interested in by keyword or phrase. To fight digital illiteracy, let them also filter by user’s Klout scores, so they can learn what online influencers do to stimulate engagement. These are features in Hootsuite’s premium service, which is very useful when conducting influencer relations at live events.
The Cisco Events app that I mentioned earlier offer many of these features. But if I had one piece of criticism, it would be that the app offers social sync for Facebook and Twitter, but not Linkedin, which is, in my opinion, the most important network to B2B users. According to my discussion with the folks at Double Dutch, this is something they expect to offer very soon. In fact, some time has transpired since we spoke and I wrote this up, so it’s entirely possible they’ve got it up and running now.
In my book Social Marketing to the Business Customer with Paul Gillin, we deep dive into every aspect of B2B social media marketing, from winning buy-in from disengaged managers and clients to B2B search and social optimization, and it will be no surprise to readers of this blog that Linkedin is by far the most important social network for business professionals.
I hope my B2B mobile app list of features is helpful. What features did I miss and what B2B mobile apps do you think are most effective?
Which are the best B2B mobile apps from a user and a B2B social media marketer’s perspective. Please post your favorites here, and let’s see of we can get a list of the most important functional specs for event-focused B2B mobile apps ever assembled.
What features would you put in a mobile app designed for use at B2B events?