The following is draft material for my next book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate (the follow up to Now Is Gone, which is almost out of print). Comments may be used in the final edition. You can download the first drafted chapter of the new edition — Welcome to the Fifth Estate — for free.
It’s clear that as you look at everyday corporate and non-profit social media efforts, an attitude adjustment could greatly benefit these organizations. Instead of always showing a shiny happy picture or offering a top down messaging approach, there’s a real need to get into the metaphorical streets and become actual members of the community.
Case in point, consider an automaker that has experienced troubles recently: Toyota’s USA Facebook fan page is a veritable love fest. At first glance, you think, wow isn’t this great? But as you scroll through you see no one from Toyota communicating, and when there are a few negative messages, no response from corporate. There is a rare appearance and post from a community manager. Where’s the engagement? While other top auto manufacturers seem to have livelier conversations on their pages, you don’t see much more direct interaction. The top down social media approach lives.
Conversely, check out Audi’s Facebook page. It takes negative comments and interacts throughout the weekend. It’s conversational tone is superior to that of the other auto manufacturers who seem to boast or have flat, corporate tones. From a non-profit perspective, go to a well run Facebook fan page like the Humane Society of the United States, and you see three times the interaction from a community manager.
This is participation-based communications. It’s real, it’s human, and it’s the kind of dialogue that people crave from companies. As powerful as these two brands are, they don’t take an above the masses attitude.
Why does this work? Because companies are made of people, and people want to talk to people, not brands. Over and over again, we’ve seen this approach work, from Zappos and Comcast Cares to LIVESTRONG and and the National Wildlife Federation.
To become well-liked by the Fifth Estate, you must become a member of the Fifth Estate. Consider the difference, the traditional method has your spokespeople — in the modern parlance community manager — talking from an ivory tower delivering messages. But in the most social communities, this is considered spamming. Instead, you need to get out there and have real dialogue with people.
Consider the Altimeter Group’s recent study, “The 8 Success Criteria For Facebook Page Marketing.” Three of the recommendations hold key tenants here. Be Up to Date suggests an 80/20 rule, where only 20 percent of your updates are about the company or organization. Live Authenticity and Participate in Dialog encourage organizations to show a real person that has genuine two-way conversations with people.. Not someone delivering messaging.
From a social standpoint, this means transforming your information provision to a more journalistic approach. Give them the information you have as a subject matter expert… This is the information that the community values, wants and needs, not necessarily the information the organization wants to promote.
Will it hurt your communications? No! Believe it or not, even when providing factual information, no one assumes the organization is anything but biased. There’s really little need to arm wrench; people assume you want to sell products or advance your cause. In fact, a smart, integrated approach will have calls to action on the page to do just those things.
When it comes to the actual social part of the equation, focus on building relationships through good information and conversation — actions of a corporation, nonprofit, government, etc., to foster goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc. This is the role of a modern ombudsperson representing an organization, the attitude of a Fifth Estate member that wishes to become an integral part of the community.