Chess is an intricate game of strategy, and precise execution. The basics can be learned in an hour, but the subtleties necessary to win, with regularity and predictability, can take years of experience to master. To be an expert at chess requires intense study, discipline, care and painstaking skill. In short: It’s simple, but it isn’t easy. The same can be said of Social Media.
There have been countless discussions of Social Media that touch the surface of what’s necessary. By now, most online businesses understand, or at least recognize Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook; and many businesses are actively participating in these social venues. The subtleties of strategy are more elusive.
As reported in the Harvard Business Review, “If social media warranted a mantra, it would sound something like this, “Always pay it forward and never forget to pay it back…it’s how you got here and it defines where you’re going.” Brian Solis, the author of the HBR article, as well as the landmark book Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web, explains it this way: “This intentional form of alternative giving is referred to as ‘generalized reciprocity’ or ‘generalized exchange’.
The capital of this social economy is measured in these productive relationships and those relationships are earned through the acts of reciprocity, recognition, respect and benevolence.” Historically, many businesses have adopted a strategy opposite to this recommendation, namely what Solis calls… “a pay it backward approach (ie, ‘pay me for my goods and services’).” In the culture of the New Web, this type of me-first business attitude is not only frowned upon by many, but can actually be counter-productive when attempting to marshal Social Media power for business gain.
The alternative is a linear concept Solis describes as Relevance >Resonance > Significance. By this he means that when you engage actively in Social Media your strategy must encompass three objectives as a minimum:
Relevance: Your company branding, and the messaging that springs from it, must be relevant to your various audiences and constituencies. This sounds simple, and it is; but it isn’t easy. It is not sufficient to be selling widgets if your audience wants to buy widgets; that would be far too similar to the old me-first approach. Social Media, to be effective and efficient, begins with a crucial first step: Listening. You can’t just sell your products and services to your Social Media contacts. They are far more demanding. They expect you to listen to their wants, interests, points-of-view, and even complaints, before you attempt to sell them anything.
And that new “engagement period” must last as long as necessary to resonate with your audience. In some enlightened Social Media campaigns, such as those employed by the Ford Motor Corporation under the guidance of Scott Monty, their head of Social Media, epitomize this powerful approach. In just one such campaign, Ford engages their online visitors with the following question: “Do you have an idea you’d like to see on a Ford?” Their innovative website continues by asking: “Got an idea for a new technology, or new functionality, or storage space, or anything? Post it and hear what the community has to say. Review other people’s ideas, and rate them. We hope this discussion will inspire us all.”
Resonance: Once a relevant Social Media message has been distributed to the audience, the next objective is for it to be shared. In the social parlance, this is sometimes referred to as “going viral”, and it is the Holy Grail of Social Media. In effective social strategy, this must be far more than a YouTube video of a dancing baby. Solis explains it this way: “The popular concept of KISS, which once stood for Keep it Simple, Stupid, can be shifted here to Keep it Significant and Shareable. Social objects rich with recognition and reward resonate with individuals and encourage sharing from person to person.”
Significance: According to Solis, significance is much more than online stature: “It is the culmination of reputation, trust, influence, accessibility, value, and capital within each social network. Significance is not measured by size and shape, but instead by affinity and through the collective influence of the actions and reactions that follow every interaction.”
By combining these three objectives with the intense study, discipline, care and painstaking skill required to win at chess, the Social Media practitioner can play more than an integral role in a company’s marketing effort, he can revolutionize it.
By Michael Williams