Friday, April 10, 2009

Get A Grip: The Summary

Yeah. I'm finally going to climb off my soapbox on this. I just thought I'd summarize things a bit.

At some point (I don't really remember when anymore), I asked five questions. Here's your executive summary of the answers:

Now what do I do?
  • Make sure that this social media tools actually support your goals.
  • Make sure your intended audience members are actually using the tools you choose (as opposed to just jumping into whatever online tools make the morning news shows).
How fast does it work?
  • Not fast. Get over it and set your expectations appropriately. Be suspicious of people or organizations offering "quick results" for a price.
How much will it cost to run?
  • Unless you are very lucky, a lot. Adjust your strategy and budget to allow for a long haul.
What can I do to get results?
  • Look for ways to engage many voices toward your communication goals. That helps the credibility of your efforts, as well as spreads the tasks across many people (giving your team energy for the long haul mentioned above).
Now what do I do?
  • Clear your mind of the "overnight success" stories about using a social media tool or network. I think that you'd find that very few happened "overnight" and that even fewer were "successes" when measured against the original goals or (*gulp*) corporate ROI.
Social media is here to stay. To not engage with it is to miss a wonderful opportunity for really talking with your customers or members in a very individualized way -- but be realistic about it. People have lives and loves and joys and problems and aren't just visiting these networks hoping that you'll pop up and tell them what to do. You can't ignore the customs and norms of human communication just because you are talking via a computer.

I like to keep going back to a wonderful list of "reality checks" created in 1999: the Cluetrain Manifesto. Nine years later, many of the cautions listed here are still valid for most organizations:
  • "These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."

  • "Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do."

  • "But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about "listening to customers." They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf."

  • "While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it."
You can use these tools strategically and effectively. Just do your homework, speak with a genuine voice (or many voices), and get a grip on your expectations.

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