Amazingly enough, I can’t tell you how many glazed over looks I still receive when I tell people that social media is not about how many networks you can list, nor is it about throwing up a profile on a social network like you did with your website 12 years ago. It’s not necessarily about building your own social network either.
Whether anyone likes it or not, social media engagement is really about blogs.
I’m not saying you or your company must have a blog, but building relationships with relevant bloggers and understanding how blogs work is essential to any social media strategy.
What social media engagement really requires is a fundamental shift in how companies approach mass communication. Without this shift — even if it comes about gradually, any attempts at throwing up outposts onor anyplace else on the web will basically be a waste of time.
The key is not to create a social media check-list with names of social networks or tools that dictates you have a Facebook page and apage.
Most of the time, companies are filling these spaces with all the same old content they already have on their website. Depending on your objectives, that may be okay, but it’s always better to research and identify ways those spaces, and others, can be used to engage the people who are already there and empower them with the ability to share your message — maybe even reward them for doing so.
To reap benefits of engagement, even those spaces should promote a level of call and response as well as some kind of takeaway for consumers to share within their own corner of the social web. This keeps people interested in what you have to offer.
Sure, a good understanding of how these technologies work will come in handy, but companies are better served by understanding how information travels along the social web. Whether anyone likes it or not, information no longer travels in a straight shot from company to journalist to public.
Instead, it bounces back and forth between all three. It’s just as possible for information to swell up from the public to the journalist to the company, or from the public to the company to the journalist. Or from the journalist to the company to the public and back again.
You don’t have time to write a press release and get key messages ready for every little statement companies will be demanded upon to make. Ignoring this will simply make your company look like it’s either out of touch or worse — that it doesn’t care.
People within organizations need to be empowered to have conversations with others on the social web. Does this have the potential to get messy? You bet. Does it end there? Not at all.
The nature of a dialogue is that there are ample chances to clarify and correct your position as you go along. Admitting errors quickly and moving on is a quality we tend to admire in other human beings — we respect this quality in companies, too.
As a side note, I’ve used this example before, but if you need a good visual for how information travels along the social web, check out David Armano‘s Influence Ripples. I like it so much, I even carry around one of his business cards with the image on the back just so I can it to show people at parties.
What may be shocking to some (especially those in the technology sector) is that in many industries, companies still don’t think blogs are important.
Q Who reads blogs?
If for no other reason, companies should pay attention to blogs simply because journalists do.
More than three quarters of journalists see blogs as helpful in giving them story ideas, story angles, and insight into the tone of an issue, according to a study conducted last year by Brodeur, a unit of of Omnicom Group in conjunction with Marketwire. I found out about this study from a post Valeria Maltoni wrote on her blog.
This fact proves that information journalists receive from blogs helps them know what questions to ask, what are the hot-button issues, anecdotal evidence of consumer attitude, etc.
If you don’t think this is important, you’re not seeing the big picture.
Another item to consider is that blogs, by their very nature of regular updates, incoming and outgoing links, are very search engine friendly.
Q Who uses search? (i.e.
A Just about everybody… but also journalists
The most commonly referenced figure is 92 percent. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project March 2007 report, 92 percent of journalists use search engines to research story ideas. This means that they are not searching their inboxes looking for your press release. They know how to find information on their own.
What does search have to do with blogs?
Blogs automatically archive old material, they’re regularly updated, chock full of content as well as incoming and outgoing links. These qualities make blog posts downright irresistible to search engines like Google.
Back to relationships
Add to all these great facts about readership and search the passion that people who blog about your company have for what you do.
People who take the time to write about your company — even if it’s an angry diatribe that curses your product or your company’s very existence — care enough to write about your company. If you work to turn the situation around, treat them like they matter, they’ll care that much more.
In the future they will likely turn to you for answers during a crisis out of respect for the person within your company who addressed their experience. They will no longer be content to grouse around on the Internet complaining to anyone who will listen because now they have you — not your brand, but a human relationship with someone inside the organization.
Back to search
Information doesn’t travel in a linear way and neither does this post.
If a journalist searches for your company, and blogs are inherently search engine friendly, would you rather they happen along a blogger who feels they have a personal relationship with someone inside the company, or a stranger in search of an audience?
Stop worrying about whether this or that blogger has a large enough following to warrant a response or whether or not the person fits into the right bucket and simply acknowledge them. With technology, this really can be done.
As usual, I care a lot about what you think and appreciate your feedback. Maybe you think I’m overestimating the power of blogs or, maybe you think there’s a better way to prove why blogs matter. If so, please let me know in the comments or write your own blog post in response and link back to me. After all, isn’t that how this conversation thing is supposed to work?
Photo by vaXzine