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Social media is nothing new. It’s been around for almost two decades. However, new practitioners are constantly entering field, and with every new marketing professional comes the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past. The old aphorism, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” is just as true in marketing as it is in life.

In this series, we’ll examine modern enterprise social media strategy, what marketers need to know to make social media work for the midsize or enterprise organization.

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Part 7: Collaborate

Simply publishing content to social media and waiting for the world to beat a path to our door is an ineffective strategy at best, and a disaster in the making at worst. Social media differs from other forms of media in that our audience can not only talk to us in return, but they also talk to each other about us. To maximize the impact of social media, we must do more than blindly push content out the door.

Most social networks today are algorithm-driven, meaning that sophisticated formulas calculate whether to show our content to audience members or not. The bedrock of this calculation, for unpaid social media, is how engaged any given user is with us and our content. To improve our social media results, we must generate engagement.

Sparking Engagement to Identify Community

Part of engagement is developing and publishing content that is helpful, useful, and/or entertaining, but another significant part is conversing with our community to generate engagement. That requires us to listen, to participate in conversations when appropriate, and to cultivate human to human relationships with key audience members.

On a regular, frequent basis, assign someone (or do it yourself) to scan through the feeds of our social media accounts and engage in conversations, especially with influential people identified in part 5. Discuss. Ask questions. Respond to ideas. Do this for 30 days to determine who legitimately is interested in interacting with us.

Once we’ve developed a list of people who have legitimate interest, consider next building a community around those people.

Creating Community

For the people we’ve identified as legitimately interested in what we have to offer, our next step is to create a community around those people. Depending on how much we’re willing to commit to them, such a community might be as simple as a list or a scheduled interaction (like a live video chat), or as complex as a private, invitation-only group.

However we choose to create community, we must decide how much and what to give this community. We must provide value before we can ask for value in order to create any lasting impact. Most commonly, this means leveraging the power of our subject matter experts to serve the community.

For example, if we’re a coffee shop, we might offer tips, ideas, suggestions, or other useful information about roasting coffee.

If we’re a marketing firm, we give to gain, offering our experts’ opinions, answering questions, solving problems up to a certain point at no cost, for our select group of active audience members.

If we’re a software firm, we might contribute code to Github or other open source repositories, or contribute developers to other projects to build community goodwill.

One of the most effective strategies I’ve witnessed in the management of community in the past few years is the walled garden group, using services like Facebook Groups or Slack.

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Here’s how they operate:

People

For a group, we cultivate the influencers we want to work with, the highly engaged people in our audience whose voices are respected and known. We also appoint a team of people to manage the group, conversing with them on a regular, frequent basis.

We assign resources to the group, in the sense of budget and materials, such that we provide unique access for the group. For example, in one tech influencer group I’m a part of, the sponsoring company pays for travel and expenses to its conferences.

Process

Define a clear set of rules for the group, from behavior to expected outcomes. Group members should agree to a code of conduct. Depending on the strength of our brand, we may be able to outline expectations up front, such as participation or amplification.

Just as we have a coordinated calendar of execution for our general social media efforts, as outlined in part 6, we also must have the same level of coordination for our group. Host chats on a regular basis. Ask group members to amplify each other. As the sponsor of the group, make every effort to promote group members publicly if they ask, from re sharing their content to giving them first right of refusal for speaking slots at company events.

Technology

Choose any grouping technology which provides the lowest barrier to entry for members while still meeting our needs of conversation and amplification. If the vast majority of our audience is active on Facebook, choose a Facebook Group. If our audience is B2B and not super technical, consider a LinkedIn Group. If our audience is highly mobile, look at apps like Slack.

Embracing the Walled Gardens

The impact of these walled gardens for collaboration and conversation is potentially enormous. In one example, a walled garden of 500+ blogging parents drove incredible results for a major retailer, and for individual group members. One group member announced their new book for sale, gave the group a private pre-read, and hundreds of five-star reviews appeared the day the book launched, propelling it to the top of the charts. While no one group member was a super-influencer, the group as a whole moved the needle significantly.

Collaboration and community is straightforward: be a good citizen, and give before you ask. Follow these rules plus some basic processes, and we will build a strong, vibrant community.

In the next post in this series, we’ll discuss communications, particularly around crises.

The 8C Enterprise Social Media Strategy Framework


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