Part of the difficulty with working in Social Media is when "measuring success" comes into play. In traditional forms of sales and marketing one has quotas or objectives to meet. This system is fairly fool proof, it is easy to know did we sell 1,000 units or didn't we? Did we get the ad with CBS or didn't we? Social Media is nebulous because the platforms that they are based on are nebulous. Facebook is constantly reiterating itself, Twitter is still evolving, and YouTube is still trying to keep up with how fast it's user base is growing.
Facebook and YouTube have "insights" which allow you to see basic metrics. Twitter has yet to implement any form of metrics, which begs the question is Twitter really meant to be used for business. Perhaps that topic is better dissected at a later date. These dashboards only allow you to see a small numbers-based mapping of your community. You can see that your numbers are growing or dwindling, but knowing the numbers is not enough.
When I was interviewing for jobs with companies in the SF Bay Area, I got the impression (either from the way they seemed to understand/not understand about social media, or because they flat out told me) that they knew "social media" was important but weren't really sure where to go. Companies get the impression they "need" to be on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube but they aren't really sure why or what they need to do once they are signed up. Success doesn't come from registering an account on one or many of these sites. Success comes from truly understanding your audience. You have to understand their behavior, their desires, and know when those desires change--because believe me, they will.
That is why I don't think numbers are the most important part of social media success. It is certainly important to grow your numbers, but don't get blindsided by increasing numbers and miss out on the most important part: health.
When I started with Creative, there was a Twitter account and a few different Facebook Pages. The two pages I selected to dedicate the majority of my attention to were our Sound Blaster gaming page and our Vado HD pocket video camera page. The trouble (and the great thing) about Creative is that our product offering is vast. We sell speakers, headsets, MP3 players, sound cards, HD video cams, web cams--the list goes on. When setting up a Facebook account, or any account for that matter, you have to take a few things into consideration:
- Make the subject of your account broad enough that you will be able to consistently update it with new and relevant information while still remaining targeted enough that your users are all like minded.
- Leave room for growth. As your company grows & your product lines potentially increase, will the new products fit under the umbrella, or title, you have labeled this account with?
- Allow for personality changes. As your brand evolves and your marketing message changes, will your title still remain relevant?
In our case, Creative set up individual product Facebook fan pages. A classic case of this is our MP3 line. We have a facebook page for Zen X-FI, Zen X-FI 2, Zen Mosaic, Zen...do you see where I am going with this? Creating multiple pages means that your like minded audience are all compartmentalized based on their one time purchase. When the technology improves and new generations of the product come out, the fan page they are attached to is no longer relevant. Also, creating tons of pages is too cumbersome and makes managing fairly impossible. Instead of separating your fans bi-product, group them together by lifestyle. A label of "Creative Music" would be much more fitting. It would allow us to capture the audience of all our Zen MP3 players while still permitting us to cross promote our headphones and wireless audio product like the Sound Blaster Wireless which streams music wirelessly to any room in your house.
We are all well aware of people's changing taste and multi-tasking brains. Hardly ever will you see a person who wants to join a fanpage and get monotonous, homogenous updates. Entertain your audience. By playing to their many tastes & providing them with interesting content, they will in turn be brand evangelists and happy customers.
As I mentioned, growing your numbers is important, but health is number one. It is important that you pay attention to your user-base. Be genuinely interested in them, learn from them so you can provide them with information that you know they want and need. If you do not nurture your community, your community will not grow. And then, where will your numbers be? Numbers are just a bi-product of health.
Tips for a healthy community:
- Q&A: When users ask you questions, give them answers. "I don't know" is considered an answer in my book. It is always OK to give your community some visibility into what your company is doing. For instance, "I sent a request out to our engineers after your request for a firmware fix. We are working around the clock, testing on Mac and PC and we will keep you guys up-to-date on our progress."
- Identify yourself: Tell people who you are, let them know your personality. Write emoticons if that's you're thing. It's easy to tell me and our Social Media Intern, Kristen, apart (aside from actually signing our names) because she uses =) and I use :) amongst other typical terms that we use. (one of my favorites is "Ace!") It allows your community to connect and identify with you. If they post a video of a band you like, have a conversation with them about it. Let them see you--better yet, start making videos that actually allow them to see you. Even though our era lives on computers most of the time, we still connect when we make eye contact.
- Encourage your most active users: Let them know that you appreciate them, site them when you answer other questions if they provided you information you didn't already know. "Bob Foundry let us know there is a sale on Vado HD cameras on Buy.com, go check it out and be sure to thank Bob for the good find!" People who are most active in communities, better known as "Super Users", love notoriety. They don't necessarily want rewards in the form of prizes, they want their own slice of fame, right there with your community members. They want to be known as the smart ones, the crafty ones, the funny ones.
- Give your community incentives: be creative (pardon the pun) with how you reward your community. Try having them participate in contests that not only allow them to win cool things, but allow them to pitch in. We did a contest for our Sound Blaster World of Warcraft headset where we asked them to tell us their favorite part about the headset. This gave us a better understanding of what features were most coveted and what their individual personalities were.
What kind of issues are you encountering with your social media implementation? I am always happy to discuss and brainstorm.
Also, for similar discussions about "health" check out Lithosphere from Lithium. Lithium is the leading online forum platform & they are at forefront of understanding precisely what "community" is and does. They even have a measurement called CHI (community health index) which calculates precisely what I am talking about above. The only difference is, this measurement tool calculates CHI on their community platform- they don't (yet) measure in social media. With their recent acquisition of Scout Labs, I am hoping that will all change.