Friday, July 11, 2008

Social Media Strategy

I've been working for the past month with Visible Technologies, a company pioneering the path for companies to monitor, analyze and engage in the consumer generated media. I've also found that there are few straight forward explanations about the steps necessary to reach the last engagement phase and to do so in a manner that ensures success, eg proper preparation, strategy and the tools required to execute.

So I wanted to see if I could draw upon a real life analogy. I call it the "Cocktail Party Conversation". Enjoy

Analogy: Take for instance a cocktail party and group of people having a conversation you wish to enter without making a fool of yourself. When approaching the group, the likely and most appropriate first action, would be to Listen. Gain context on what is being said, who is saying what, and their respective opinions on said topic.

This is the necessary first step that begins to build a relationship foundation but has borders and characteristics unto itself. For instance, listening is basically about gathering data. To do this requires the appropriate tools, eg. physical ear and a decent quality of hearing and memory. These tools at this stage are suited for this one task, listening, which has one objective, to gather.

To further advance towards one’s goal a being an active participant in the conversation there is another step that we take if even though it is often an unconscious one. It is that of interpretation and analysis. We take all the gathered data we heard and Learn from it. Learning implies an analysis of a set of data to extract information from it. One needs to learn who has opinions about what topics in the conversation. Learn the social dynamic of the group and who seems to exert the most influence?

By Listening one is able to gather data but this is the limit/only purpose of this phase. To further advance, or rather consider participating in intelligently, this data has to be interrupted before one can engage in the conversation. Just as with listening, learning has specific tools and characteristics that make it distinct from the other two phases. For instance, the mind captures, arranges and draws patterns from the data to extract actionable information. We contemplate about this data means; the meaning behind the words. This analyzing phase allows a person to target and form a plan of engagement. Again, this usually happens unconsciously, but this is what is happening. We use this step to plan when we are going to open our mouths, what are we going to say, what tone to use, and who to initially direct the message to.

The final phase is Leverage, and what I mean by this is leverage everything you’ve learned to now move forward and participate with this knowledge in the conversation. Here’s where we open our mouth and execute the strategy formalized in the last step. Here’s where we control our message and direct our attention to those in the group we deem most desirable to achieve our stated goal, usually message acceptance. In real time we gauge the groups reactions and adjust our speak where necessary. We our now truly engaged in an active conversation we wished to be apart of.

Now consider the group we wished to speak to is as larger hundreds of millions, growing everyday, and they are all speaking to each other about you whether you like it or not. They spread rumors or praise about you and others all while you stand there quietly. Now imagine you’re a large enterprise with an enormous amount invested in your offline brand image and reputation and you find that that doesn’t carry over to the consumer generated, world as well.

I guess its time to start this conversation process with the world. Its time to start managing your online reputation and engaging but as we know brand management and corporate marketing is a bit more complex than the analogy. All the more reason to entrust this valuable asset in a trusted partner to guide you through this process with solutions at each of these stages allowing you to scale and eventually engage successfully.

This is an analogy so please let me know what you think.

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