Navigating the New Rules of Engagement

Te shift from traditional media to social media moves companies into an unfamiliar arena, where the rules of engagement are entirely different than those by which they have played for the past half century or so.

Pontiac Gets Hip with Social Media

Case Study: General Motors sought to use social media to pimp their Pontiac brand of automobiles: using media sharing sites and blogs to publish information, encouraging owners to share their experiences, and engaging them in direct conversation, in addition to more traditional approaches. The Ponitac G5 brand allocated its full budget to online marketing.

The odd thing is, the authors tell what was done. But not how it turned out.

ENgaging Customers, One at a Time

"Engagement" is an odd term that's bandied about a lot. The author grapples with the definition as well, but more or less arrives at the concept of creating "personal relevance" and an "enduring positive response" to a "meaningful brand experience" It's a total buzzword jamboree - pretty clear that there's really no substance to this.

On the bright side, he does classify the different kinds of users by their online behavior:

  • Creators - Are a highly engaged group, who regularly contribute information (post blogs, upload photos and videos, participate in forums)
  • Critics - Are active participants, differentiated from the creators in that they do not contribute original content to the Internet, but regularly post comments or reviews on items posted by others.
  • Collectors - Are individuals whose highest level of engagement is aggregating information, generally with a goal of making others aware of the resources that exist
  • Joiners - Are active on social networking sites. They participate as members of groups, and participate in forums, but do not do much as individuals
  • Spectators - Consume social media, but do not contribute, comment, or participate
  • Inactive - Have Internet access, but do not participate in or consume social media.

Naturally, the more "engaged" a person is in using social media, the more likely your online initiatives will reach them, and the more likely they will be affected by them.

Rules of Engagement

The "Digital Influence Group" suggests the following ten tips for using social media:

  1. Make sure your organization is on board with the initiative (it should not be isolated to one department)
  2. Develop governance so that all parties understand their responsibilities (to prevent conflicts)
  3. Establish clear goals of the initiative
  4. Establish success metrics
  5. Be transparent (as opposed to clandestine) about who you are, whom you represent, and what you're doing
  6. Speak plainly and sincerely - overly-polished messages seem insincere
  7. Consider the reader's interests: inform and entertain, but don't "sell"
  8. Welcome feedback, positive and negative, and respond promptly when appropriate
  9. Participate in other communities as well as building your own. If a dialog exists, join it rather than attempting to lure participants away
  10. Use rich media and humor to engage audiences

And yet a another list, because it's a lot easier to fire bulleted lists rather than structure information:

  • Trust the Community: Companies have asked customers to trust them for years; now the roles are reversed. Attempting to control or direct online conversation is seen as an unwelcome invasion.
  • Join the Networks: There are many existing networks with established audiences. It will be easier to get your message out by leveraging them rather than trying to establish a new one.
  • Hang Out In The Right Places: Find places where the people you want to reach currently go, and meet them there as a participant
  • Listen and Learn: Companies are often so eager to get their message across that they don't take time to listen to what others are saying. You miss out on a lot of good information by not paying attention.
  • Contribute Value: Just as dialogues are two-way communications, online relationships are two-way as well. Before you can expect to receive value from someone else, you must give value to them.
  • Mind Your Voice: Make sure that the persona you create online has the same "voice" as your communications in other channels.
  • Be Authentic: This is a combination of being truthful and forthcoming, but also ensuring that you are driven by your values and character rather than your immediate objectives.
  • Be Sharable: The term "viral" was a fad for a while, and it still is effective, but you can't control it: you should make your media sharable (no barrier to others passing it on), though you can't really press them to do so.
  • Monitor Your Reputation: Be attentive to what others are saying about you. This can have a more dramatic impact than what you say about yourself.
  • Be Transparent: Do not attempt to be anonymous, or disguise your motives, or be secretive, or attempt to hide things under the rug.

Skills for Engagement

Engaging in online reputation management requires a broad array of skills: public relations, brand marketing, search engine optimization, writing, digital imaging and media production, online research, coding, and planning. You will need to decide how to handle all of these tasks - or where you can obtain help for the competencies you may lack.