We all know the sort of boys who deeply think that brands are stupid. They forget that most of the guys they have in front of them also come from the agency world, and that they deal with huge amounts of topics every day. But anyway...
These guys claim absolute truths: "you need to be transparent", "listen first, engage then". And the most annoying one is: "Don't feed the trolls". They look at you as if they had actually created your own organization. And during afterworks events, they complain about their bloody clients. (stereo)typical.
I do believe these guys are deeply wrong. And that it's even getting worse now.
A few facts:
"you need to be transparent"
Come on, when you're invited for a dinner with a family you don't really know, are they going to tell you all the dirty little secrets they own in a second? That's not what you expect either. You probably just want to have some fun and nice talks. You want an authentic relationship instead of a transparent one, for example. Why would it be different online?
If you want to be a bit more cynical, "transparency" is even a mistake from a Social CRM point-of-view: you want segmented groups of people, not a massive indistinguishable bench of shadows. You can't give the same amount of love to any random single fan or follower; otherwise, there won't be real love, friends or enemies in our lives.
"listen first, engage then"
A lot of "Social Media strategists" are wrong when they "monitor" online conversations. If you're lucky, you'll get a trustfworthy view of the mentions of your brand in online conversations. And so what? I mean, unless you're Pepsi and that you're fighting against Coke, were you really expecting a huge numberof blog posts or mentions online?
Most Social Media agencies stop their analysis in digital channels; but the real listening starts in real life: polling your local activists, diving into sociology or anthropology studies, analyzing the latest market trends are probably more interesting than just watching the buzz. How come? Because the digital footprints are first and foremost grounded in cultural habits and energies. They are sometimes the beginning of massive trends, but are quiet - often consequences of deeper interactions.
If I were a product manager, I would hire an agency not to analyze me and my brand, but to give me some insights about topics related to my products: underground communities often add massive value compared to mainstream audience.
As a content publisher, there's a relevant analytics trend: the most "shared" posts we've been writing are not about the most "popular" topics; they are often talking about subcultures, niche activists. It does not mean that you have to ignore Mr John Doe. It means that you need to understand if you could add some fun in Mr John Doe's life thanks to the local crazy band. Grazia in France made a very interesting operation during Paris Fashion Week: instead of providing Grazia outfits to their hostesses, they asked Gambette to design nice visuals on their T-Shirts. A way to widen the reach, mashing up a rising artist to the fashion magazine communities.
Don't feed the troll
This is probably what annoys me the most. You don't buy a brand because it's flat, flawless, conservative, then BORING.
You buy a brand because it's inspiring, exciting, relevant. You want passionate brand, proud of what they do and not afraid of what they're made of. Instead of shaping exclusive guidelines, forbidding negative comments on your social pages, you could finally implement inclusive rules, accepting the display of controversial opinions, because you have the right to answer.
Do you seriously think that because it's not visible the guys aren't going to tackle you anytime they can? They will. But if you're authentic, that's your response, feeding the trolls will lead to a good outcome for you: you'll have earned your reputation on a social playground and generated support from your communities. I love this O2 example in the UX:
@ashleyroberts61 She says no thanks.- O2 in the UK (@O2) July 12, 2012