We need a Facebook page and we need it right away

Rip-Van-WinkleYou probably still get requests like that.  Either your own company or a client wakes up a little late and realizes that it simply can’t avoid social media any longer. Perhaps it suddenly noticed that its largest competitor has 5000 fans on Facebook and is bragging about it in its annual report.  Maybe the urgency was inspired by our challenging economy, giving someone the bright idea that a presence on Facebook or Twitter could save them money on paid media.  Either way, the next thing you know, everyone’s scurrying around to get up a fan page.

But here’s a better idea.  Take a deep breath, back up, use this new enthusiasm for social media as an opportunity to educate your client or employer.  Here are four things we try and get clients to understand about community and conversation before we slap up a Facebook page.

1.   It’s not about the platform or the technology; it’s about the relationship you want to create.

So what is that relationship? How do you want it to change over time?  Are you gathering a community so you can learn from them and gain a better sense of what they want in your products and services?  Do you want a place to connect them with each other so they can share ideas, solutions, tips?  Or are you hoping to provide them with the kind of content that will build loyalty and evangelists who’ll spread the word?  You should each give something and get something out of it. We have our opinion but it’s good to get a client to think about this, too.

2.    How does your community want to engage?

In Groundswell, Charline Li and Josh Bernoff tell us there are five types of social media users:  creators, critics, joiners, collectors and spectators.  So what are yours?  Knowing makes a difference in the content you create and share and the strategy you use for inspiring and activating your community.  If they’re creators, you need a way for them to add content and perhaps build their own reputation.  If they’re joiners you need to create privileges of membership.  And if they’re simply spectators, you better damn well create content worth watching or reading.

3.    What kind of conversation, content and utility will you offer to make it worth their while?

We remind companies that social media isn’t simply a free place to broadcast your messages.  And it can offer much more than accessibility for, and interaction with, a community.  Some of the best brands using SM succeed because of the content and utility they provide.  The Wine Library makes knowledge about wine accessible to everyone using video.  Ford Motor Company created a living laboratory around its new Fiesta. The New York Times offered a way for readers to connect on their own around shared interests.  Starbucks gives customers a say in future products and offers.  In this space, you are your content.

4.    Let your customers lead you

We all know we’re supposed to listen.  But we sometimes forget the best way to listen is to ask questions.  You don’t need all the answers.  Yes you should have a pretty good idea of what you might bring to the party to kick it off, but chances are you’ll be wrong.  Rather than start exclusively with the video, announcements and other sound bites you might want to share, have a list of interesting questions. Then ask them. It’s amazing how customers, fans, even critics will help you figure out how to succeed in the space.

5.    Know your objectives and have a definition of success.

Usually the first question asked after we tell someone that, yes, we can get them up on Facebook is,  “How many fans can we get and how long will it take?”  We suggest a different question. “What kind of value can I get from my community if I listen, engage and inspire?”  Ten well-connected fans who become evangelists or ambassadors might be more valuable than 5000 semi-committed ones.  Focus instead on what you want to accomplish – awareness, feedback, product trial, loyalty, positive buzz, sales – and concentrate on making that happen.  If what you have to offer and share is valuable, guess what?  The fans and followers will show up.

“Can you get me a Facebook page?” The question may be pre-mature, but it’s the answer that counts. What do you tell your clients when they ask for a Facebook page?

14 comments
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edward boches
edward boches

Mitch:
Shh. Trying not to let the lawyers know about this. That's the last thing we need. ;-)

@mitchblum
@mitchblum

I never thought that I'd see the day where I'd welcome legal into a marketing discussion, but in my experience there's often a huge gap between the brand managers' SM objectives and the willingness of their legal department to allow them to engage fully and transparently with their consumers. (Typically, the bigger the client the more conservative the legal department.)

So I'd add "Define permissible legal boundaries" to your excellent list.
.-= @mitchblum´s last blog ..The Secret to Giving Effective Creative Feedback =-.

David Saxe
David Saxe

Another great conversation. hopefully this doesn't spin into a tangent, and Edward, I think I remember you discussing this in a past post. These knee-jerk requests from clients typically come in the form of, "we need a fan page!", "why aren't we on twitter?", or "[competitor a] has a youtube channel." They want to reach for the tools before defining what they're going to build.
Some clients are quite adept when it comes to SM, so I don't mean to over-generalize, but 9 times out of 10, this is what I experience and the reason we have to reel them back in a bit. This is over-simplified, but they have to understand it's a 2-step process: (1) define what you want to accomplish in the digital space and (2) pick the tools that will help you do it. You just can't start with (2).

Rory Keohane | Oat
Rory Keohane | Oat

I agree with your approach. Social Media is in its relative infancy, and there will be plenty of time for these platforms to be leveraged to execute solid relationship strategies.

We have seen a rise in requests for the development of white label social networks for niche markets. Obviously, the tools/platforms exist, but I have always felt that people gravitate towards a finite number of networks where the potential for scale and exposure is more robust. What are your thoughts?

edward boches
edward boches

Rory:
It may be what clients gravitate toward, but the relationship and user should define. Look at American Express's small business forum. Or Gary Vaynerchuk's integration of YouTube, FB, Twitter and his own site. Or company created experiences such as Starbucks or Dell. Really should depend on what a brand is trying to do. FB and Twitter may be the flavors of the month or even the year, but SM and conversation is bigger than the platform. Yes?

David Breznau
David Breznau

edward - thanks for sharing. i agree with everything that is being said, i'm just always confused by the "context" of "new." here is my take on your 5 points.

1. determine if your focus is, marketing, public relations, product development, or customer service.

2. five types of social media users? other than their ability to connect and gather in mass, how are they different from "non" social media users?

3. spot on. but again, integrated and focused?

4. "great" brands haven't become "great" without asking questions. our ability to "connect", listen and engage will continue to be the "keys" to any successful endeavor. the biggest difference is the "numbers" involved in the "process."

5. market dynamics 101

i'm not trying to be difficult. just trying to "push" the conversation. thanks.
.-= David Breznau´s last blog ..Focus, People! =-.

Meredith Gould
Meredith Gould

Ah yes, the big fat rush to...where? How's about some strategic thinking before pulling stuff out of the tool kit.

Just today I told a client I was deleting Twitter off his list of ways to connected. Why? He set up an account months ago without a picture or a bio and has never used it. "Let's not squander capital you don't yet have," I said. "Yeah, but, everyone else..." I deleted the reference anyway.

R. Devin Hughes
R. Devin Hughes

Great post, Edward. Completely agree. Lately it has just seemed like clients (and sometimes the PR people) want to just jump into social media pages because that's what they are "supposed" to be doing. However, these pages are like any other PR tactic: they require thorough planning, a specified audience, key messages, etc. I wrote a blog post a couple weeks ago (which I linked to above) on saying no to social media, in which I listed some questions to ask before you implement it. As young PR students who are all excited about this stuff, those of us working in our student-run firm at Ohio University always want to say "Let's make a facebook page/twitter!" and don't go through the proper steps to plan it out right.
.-= R. Devin Hughes´s last blog ..Remember, you're more than "just the PR person" =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Mark:
I think you nailed it. First there's resistance (the classic fear of losing control), then comes the overreaction when senior management decides it's necessary. However, the good news is that it means more brands and companies are getting ready, which creates opportunities to "create" in the new space.

mark silva
mark silva

We call that knee-jerk "make me a..." (viral video, twitter account, facebook page, etc.) that is inspired by media coverage and competitive activity "management by press-release."

Usually it won't be for lack of our advocating early for developing a space that aligns with larger business and brand strategies, but we discover a sudden relaxing of previous objections and corporate impasses when the C-Suite manages by press release.

The best solution is always strategic. That's why we're seeing a lift in demand for more textured Social & digital strategy. Maybe "take a deep breath" is an euphemism advocating for strategic space. The rest of the post is right-on regarding "what, how, why, etc."--the essential seeds of strategy. Thanks for another good provocation, Edward. Be Great. Cheers! silva
.-= mark silva´s last blog ..marksilva: thinking #amazon #zappos and #wow will be trending terms on twitter search for next several hours =-.

Ben Friedle
Ben Friedle

I have to say that almost all of my clients are industrial B2B so we usually bring up the topic first. We encourage experimentation with clear goals such as "what would make this successful to you?", is it about fans, exposure, data? We also typically ask what the personality of the page is going to be to avoid just restating the same message on a new channel. Nice article.

Leo Bottary
Leo Bottary

Great advice. In PR, we're often confronted by clients who say,"We need to hold a press conference." Well, they may have an announcement to make, but that doesn't mean staging a press conference is always the best way to go. By asking good questions, one can usually get to the heart of the matter and determine the best course of action. Jumping at the request, whether it's a press conference or a FaceBook page will bite you one way or another every time.
.-= Leo Bottary´s last blog ..Client Service And Trust =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Phil:
You are absolutely right. No list in this space is complete; in fact there's a lot of things missing. But figured we have to start the conversation somewhere. Though once we get to that list of content, utility and ways to engage, that is often the next question: the time, resources, people required.
Thanks.

Phil Lauterjung
Phil Lauterjung

Take a deep breath is always good advice when a client makes a request that this. Your follow on questions are all excellent. I would add one thing - make sure part of your conversation is about considering the resources (people and time) necessary to achieve their goals and objectives. Someone, perhaps more than one someone, needs to produce the content and monitor/respond to the conversations.
.-= Phil Lauterjung´s last blog ..Tips for Effective Email Marketing Campaigns =-.

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