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Three Themes for Success in Social Media

I am sure we can both agree that Social Media as we know it is not going away anytime soon.  Sure it will evolve, take on a new flavor, social networking sites will come and go, but Social Media as we know it has become a fundamental way our culture chooses to share and gather information about the world around them.  Think about it.  Have you ever asked your social networks for advice on a product and or service before you yourself made the purchase?  I know I have and would be willing to wager that many of you have done the same before making said purchase.  The fact of the matter is that we have built trust with many of those in our social networks, we value their opinions, and we rely on them for advice at times.  Why wouldn’t we tap into that as a resource?

As an avid user of several Social Media channels (Twitter being a current favorite – yet they all have their place), I have had ample opportunity to meet and engage many people, willing to help me become more successful in this arena.  With their help, coaching, and foresight over the last year, I feel more confident in my approach to Social Media.  Let me be the first to tell you I have gotten some constructive feedback in the past when I was starting out, but learned from it, tweaked my approach, and improved.  Due to the assistance others have given me I am not only using these mediums to build stronger personal relationships, but also leveraging the power of relationships to improve business results within my work life.

During this time I have picked up on, what I believe to be a three key re-occurring themes, which those successful in the Social Media arena have embraced and are doing very well.  The observed themes have helped me to enhance my ability to build online relationships with people (many of which have turned into face to face interactions), build trust, build loyalty, and help others in the process.  Also noted was a clear distinction between those that “get it” and those that just don’t have a clue.  If you find yourself having to think about which category you fall into, I have bad news – It’s probably the latter.

Now for the good news, there is hope, but it takes an open mind and a willingness to learn from others around you that have in fact found success developing relationships through the Social Media vehicle.  In an arena such as Social Media, that is changing every day, no one is an expert – it’s simply not possible.  There is certainly room for people to claim to be knowledgeable and have a great sense of direction on how to leverage Social Media, but to dub oneself as an expert in an arena that changes almost every day, that’s a little far fetched. Egos need to be checked at the door to truly get ahead in Social Media.

As mentioned above I wanted to highlight the three themes found over the past year as I have worked to move effectively leverage Social Media in my life. First and foremost you need to be willing to listen.  People are using Social Media as a sounding board, a place to socialize, get information, and yes even a place to vent.  Watch the feeds, monitor what people are saying, especially about your brand, and acknowledge concerns.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort to reach back out to people when they have a concern or problem with something you said, posted, or experienced with a product or service you offered.  The fact that you took the time to respond to those concerns shows you were listening.  Thank customers and potential customers for discussing your brand, offer creative solutions to problems, and work to take escalated issues offline for resolution. These actions go a long way in showing Social Media users that you are in fact listening to them.

Second you need to engage with people.  This can be done in a manner of ways such as asking questions, creating polls, and posting valuable content related to your professional field or areas of interest. Another way to engage online is to involve your self in the conversation with others.  Add value, insight, and a new perspective with your comments or responses.  Over time people will embrace the contributions you have to offer.  Lastly one of the most important ways to engage online is to help others.  This can be done by reposting their content to your networks helping spread the word about their cause and/or moving the information onto a larger circle of people.

Recently there was an amazing example of this happening in Milwaukee, WI.  A local White Fish Bay resident recently lost the majority of their home by way of having their entire neighborhood flooded about six weeks ago in a large rainstorm. After the rain passed the family was advised that insurance would not cover any of the damage to the home.  One of the members of the family, Tim Cigelski (@teecycletim), was already giving so much to the online community in addition to running an amazing business and website www.teecycle.org, that is helping to reuse our resources in a more responsible way.

A Two wonderful members of the Twitter community Sue Spaight (@SueSpaight) & Katie Klein-Murphy (@Bootyp) decided to step up and give back creating a movement to help Tim and his family rebuild the damaged home.  The movement that was started was #SaveTeecycle (as a searchable hash tag on Twitter) or online at www.saveteecycle.org.  This movement quickly went viral receiving support from Twitter users everywhere re posting the message that this family needed help.  The movement even began to gain support from many local businesses that were able to donate money, supplies, and offer their assistance to get the family’s home rebuilt. Just last night it was highlighted on the Channel 4 news for the entire viewing area to see.  In the end the movement is on pace to generate enough awareness and funds to not only help rebuild the Cigelski family home, but also some of the neighboring homes as well.

The third theme I have observed of those successful in leveraging Social Media is the ability to create positive awareness for your brand (from both a personal and corporate brand position).  This is first done by adding value to the online landscape.  Monitor your verbiage, be tactful, and professional.  The online communities are already full of nonsense talk and clutter.  Rise above the rest and stand out above the noise.  By being unique and creative online you will draw others to you and your brand increasing your overall awareness in the marketplace.  It’s also ok to share what you or your business is doing within the community to give back to others. To me this shows you have goals to make the world a better place and don’t just have a what’s in it for me attitude.  I firmly believe it is these things that will get others to talk about you to their networks, share your information, and get more people to want to connect with you or your brand.

In the end after considering these three themes uncovered in being open to learn from those successful in the Social Media arena, consider this: the online environment is constantly changing.  Even if you start to master these steps, new trends will come about and you’ll need to be willing to adapt and change to them.  Never stop wanting to learn more, try new ways of connecting and engaging people, and let your personality shine through in your communications.  After all we are dealing with people here – we need to recognize that as the same rules that work in our face to face world of communication apply equally if not more online.

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