Q. How do we reach these young people? A. You don't, you wait for them to invite you
The social media folks and their blogs have been buzzing lately over a story that seems to have come from Deloitte but perhaps was more widely circulated by the WSJ. Josh Catone at Sitepoint drilled down further into the story from where it got picked up by Marshall Kirkpatrick on ReadWriteWeb.
Both Josh and Marshall have great points and their posts are a good read. Marshall's post had the most provocative headline - Corporate Social Networks Are A Waste of Money, Study Finds. I thought I'd pick up the story there - A Waste of Money. Companies have a bad habit of throwing money at everything that moves, especially if it looks like "something we should be doing."
Here are my thoughts distilled from my own writings on the subject and insights borrowed from Josh and Marshall's posts:
Here's an extract from my essay 'On Social Media, Blogs and Advertising.' - To understand and embrace social networking is to place the idea that says "technology makes this possible" to one side and embrace the idea of the basic human need to stay in touch with other like-minded people at all times. As Clay Shirky says "The desire to be part of a group that shares, cooperates, or acts in concert is a basic human instinct." Read the rest of this post here.
With that thought what follows is:
Businesses can not "build a community" however much money they throw at the idea. They merely need to look outside of their own walls, find the influencers who are already championing their products and join the communities that already exist.
Businesses can not attract "visitors" as measured in traffic to their sites. People who enjoy their products will be talking about them elsewhere in other communities. See above.
Businesses have to realize that having a Facebook page for their products makes them look ridiculous and could actually harm the brand. See my post about Spraychel and "her" Facebook page brought to us by the folks behind I Can't Believe It's Not Butter®
It is the way of businesses to make predictions about their market. They should not invest in software that makes predictions, or even social-networking technology, unless they have discovered a clear market need.
Positive word of mouth marketing by online communities that enjoy a businesses' product is a far better metric than the ratio of visits to the corporate web site or its community.
Online communities led by influencers that champion a businesses' products are doing just that, championing the products not the corporation that brought them to market.
So what should businesses do? Here's a list that I have reworked to address businesses as it was originally written with rock bands in mind.
01. Run a blog to which actual company members post regular updates.
02. Ensure that the blogosphere is alerted to any new and breaking news or important posts.
03. Offer early access to special offers and discounts for their customers loyalty.
04. Give away free samples of their product.
05. Be active in their customers online communities.
06. Never push unwanted messages to their customers.
07. Ask their customers to interact directly with their product, for example through competitions and giveaways.
08. Allow the sharing of their products amongst a community.
09. Work closely with influencers.
10. Embrace radical transparency. Openly discuss their problems with their customers and allow negative comments to remain on their blogs.
That's the top ten; number 11 in my list would include - have dedicated staff working on your company's online communication 24/7.
Read more of our thoughts on Social Media here.