I’m often asked to set up or assist in setting up social media for a brand, group, public figure, or other organization. When approached with this new prospect the first words out of my mouth are generally something like “What’s social media?” Usually I let whomever is asking me go through their befuddled smattering of how people “twit” this and “bookface” that, and that there’s something about “linking up in space” before I toss them a lifeline and get them started on the preverbal right foot.
There are two reasons I use this question as my initial response:
- Separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the honky-tonk from the girl… ok you get it. I need to know “their” level of understanding when it comes to social media. It’s really like one of those quizzes that we all would get in high school the first day back from summer break to “establish what we’ve retained” from the previous year.
- For those that actually pass the pop-quiz, it helps me know specifically what they’re asking for and how they’re going to use it to advance their brand. (For those of you following along at home, I’ll use ‘brand’ often; it plays nicely with other words like organization, church, public figure, business, et cetera.)
You see, it’s not enough for your brand to know what social media is, you have to understand it at it’s C.O.R.E.
(OK- I have to stop right here and say that I am NOT a person that loves acronyms. In fact, I typically loathe them. That being said, please actually read the entirety of the rest of this post, rather than skipping to the individual letters, jotting them down, and then going on your merry little way. Thanks yo!)
C – Community
This is the palm-of-hand-to-forehead part of C.O.R.E. Yes, social media is about community. However, it’s where that community comes from that has completely changed the way we do everything.
This community is driven by nothing more than our natural desire to connect with each other- it just happens on neat electronic devices rather than in real life. Or does it? More and more often I am hearing, and participating in, conversations that elude to the fact that John met Bob via Facebook, or that Harry and Sally met not during their shared drive while moving to New York but through a match-making site.
FACT: 1 out of 8 couples married in the US last year met via social media.
Your core is your community, and your community is your core. It’s the people that you want to connect with. For some it’s very specific, a micro-niche really. For others it’s as broad as the 13 year old that just got braces and the 60 year old that is celebrating their retirement. Chances are those people will be continuing their “virtual conversation” when they next see each other, and wouldn’t it be nice to be a part of that conversation?
Recently GreenPeace went after Nestle via social media for their use of palm oil in some of their products. Of the many lessons learned from Neslte’s gross mis-handling of the entire situation there is one that stands out to me:
You will never be able to completely control the conversation regarding your brand, but it’s still important that you be a part of it rather than ignore it.
(What? I said I’m not an acronym person!)
R – Residents
I live in Idaho. Like most states, it takes 30 days to establish residency in order to be eligible for voting in elections. When I went to register to vote I was required to produce something that had my name and address printed on it- like a utility bill. I had to make an effort to show my willingness and desire to be part of the community I wanted to participate in by casting my vote.
Likewise, the people that are part of your online community have established their residence, be it on Facebook or Twitter or Linkdin, they have made an effort to connect with your brand. Just as I signed up for electrical service at my home on the power company’s site, your Community Residents have OPTED IN to participate with your brand. Yes, all the residents of your brand community will participate on differing levels, but that doesn’t negate your responsibility to participate with them. We can’t be everything to everyone, but, at the very least, we should aim for the majority. I’m a firm believer to communicate, over-communicate, and repeat.
E – Engaged
Your Community of Residents ARE Engaged with your brand. They CHOSE to “Friend/Like” or “Follow” or “Link” (to) your brand.
Engaged is reciprocal- it’s a two way street that requires effort from both ends to work properly. Does this mean you need to respond to every comment on your Facebook page? That really depends on the Page. If every time you post something to the Wall of your Page 500 people comment, the practicality of individual comments is soon lost. But, if you get just a few comments when you post to your Page’s Wall, individual comments will help to deepen the connection between your brand and its community residents.
Here’s another way to look at this: Would you ask someone to marry you, then not talk with them until the day of the big event at the alter? That’d be crazy right!? That doesn’t work in the “real world” and it certainly won’t work with your brand’s community.
I hope I haven’t understated my point that engaging your community residents takes consistent, purposeful and genuine effort. Get it? Got it? Good.
So where do you as a brand go from here?
You have to designate and delegate your resources to this new C.O.R.E. (If you’re a leader reading this, you need to read that sentence again.)
For those of you that are a part of organizations:
If you’re a smaller organization, find a volunteer that’s passionate about social media- you know, the person that seems to always be on their social networks. They don’t have to be an expert, they just need to have passion and hustle. Passion means they understand the value. Hustle means they’ll get things done.
If you’re a larger organization you may need to seriously consider creating a paid position in this area. However, DO NOT pass this off to someone that doesn’t have the passion for it, because it will quickly go by the wayside.
Lastly, but most importantly, social media is literally changing the face of our society.
I am a huge fan of social media, but I’m a bigger fan of real, face to face interaction with real people with skin on. Our greatest example of this is modeled in Jesus: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” -John 1:14 (The Message, emphasis added)
If our calling is to extend Jesus Christ to the people of this world, we must be Jesus with skin on.