7 Key Rules of Social Optimisation

These “rules of engagement” apply to Social Optimisation both online and off. Maximise your impact while minimising effort through following them.

  1. BE AUTHENTIC: You can only be what or who you are. This is dynamic and changing as well as multidimensional. Represent that clearly and with both pride in success and humility in failures. It is much easier and will be respected. Deception will only come back to bite you.
  2. DEFINE GOALS: Understanding what you hope to gain from a relationship minimises time spent on relationships with no gain, and often drain. Have a strategy and understand both what you have to offer as well as what you need. Unhealthy relationships as well as those connections that just create added noise without relevance most likely should be removed to make room for accomplishing goals.
  3. LISTEN: There is much to be learned by listening, we gain insight into others, their needs, their feedback, the knowledge and their experience. Understand who they are and learn their story, this creates depth in relationships.
  4. SHARE: Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but without sharing it is worthless. Share what you know with others and build. Connect peers that have mutual needs or potential synergies.
  5. BE PRESENT: Isolation is not social. Learn where your peers, or audience are and participate in the conversation.
  6. BE POSITIVE: Solutions never come from whining or shooting the messenger. If you see opportunity for improvement suggest it. When you come across something you like, provide praise.
  7. BE CURRENT: Update your peers on your status, on things that are relevant and keep current with the tools which will always be evolving.

These are the foundation steps. They are meant to be generalised to accomodate both online and offline as well as individual and organisation scenarios. I welcome your thoughts on these “rules of engagement”.

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Social Media Not Just Marketing & Socializing

Finding the holy grail of engagement in social media, we have to be ready to take it on whole heartedly. This means not just throwing a web page or fan page up or even creating a social platform for participants. It means interacting and “engaging” for the maximum effect. Think in terms of stakeholders/people/social. It means listening and speaking.

Why do we participate in LinkedIn and keep our profiles fresh? To represent ourselves accurately in the case of a referral or a request. Why do we participate in a group? Because it is of interest and stimulating. Otherwise we become “lurkers” in our interactions online. We log many hours but never leave a trace, besides a number in the Analytics (which might just as well register the time while I leave my computer on a webpage while I go to lunch).

Let’s look at several different forms and impact of engagement. First, PLAN!
What is the purpose? Is it engaging my consumers? Communicating with my shareholders? Selling something? Recruiting? Connecting remote teams? Define resources/time I have/wish to commit to it. In this case, let’s say, I create a blog and start by talking about my work and things that impact my business and what I think is interesting about it. Hmm, the analytics show low traffic. Promote it with tags relating to the posts on other related social media sites. Ok, good start, still not much though. Remember that someone needs to be interested. So write to your audience. Your strategy includes understanding who you are communicating with. Context delivers quality and increases interest.

The beauty of social media is that it is based on “user generated content” (UGC), that means there is a person behind it. Speak to the person and show that you are one too, in other words, respond. What you are building is TRUST and RELATIONSHIPS. This is not limited to the world of marketing, but to the sphere of people. People are your peers, shareholders, employees, clients, customers, members, designers and developers, testers, and more. They will be talking regardless. Become part of the conversation.

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Social Media is Good Business

After a series of rather heated discussions on this topic, I felt it was time to put the words down on paper (or at least my version of paper, save a tree). It is mistake to think that social media is just about marketing and the social media optimization is only about building more traffic. Without even realizing it, many companies both big and small are using social media in all areas of their business practices with a very positive effect. Why do they not realize it? Because, social media and networks in general are being used by “users” who work for them as tools that optimize their work. Either way, it is still quality of the interactions that result in optimisation not quantity.

For example, most human resources departments commence by doing the simple Google search to learn more about a potential employee before they interview. This will lead them to other social media interactions like a blog or profile listing on LinkedIn and Facebook and on other sites. This practice has become standard in the first stage of reinforcing that which stands on their application, or weeding out individuals who will not fit with the company culture.

Imagine this chain for recruitment using twitter as a starting point: twitter search for subject matter expert on “socialmedia” –> See several posts by same person and follow link to their profile –> On their profile more interesting entries so check out the website listed in profile –> Leads to blog with more interesting/relevant content –> Look at the profile on the blog for full name –> Check LinkedIn for profile –> See some of their presentation posted on SlideShare –> just the kind of candidate we are looking for –> Send them and inMail requesting a Skype talk –> Speak to get the real connection via voice and see if they are available (or if not have a referral to someone else) –> Follow them on twitter to see if they react publicly to the call. This of course could go many ways. But each one of these steps to could apply to any field and costs nothing other than the person’s time to follow through completely.

Product / Service development is another area in which the implementation of social media strategy can shorten the innovation cycle with direct consumer feedback. Whether B2B or B2C the end consumer is the one who needs to be satisfied. So, why not engage them in the process. Customer surveys have been done online for years. Now they can be integrated into conversations that are a true dialog. We can speed up development cycles by understanding our consumers’ needs based on conversations rather than assumptions.

Try this example for using social media for product development à a company is looking to create new flavors –> Create a Facebook Fan page for product –> Hold a contest for most popular innovative flavor using their product as a base –> Promote it on Facebook, homepage, twitter, blog and anywhere else they know their consumers are with a tag –> Let contestants submit YouTube videos, audio, images or text narrating their recipe and post to Fan page –> Create link to daily best of on twitter –> Allow other users to rate flavors based on new recipes using base product –> Invite best flavors to share and compete via video conference –> Invite active fans to join the video conference by voting –> The Fans choose the flavor (the engineers develop it to scale, and then offer the fans a chance to test it) –> See if they got it right, thank those active fans who took time to help by giving them free product and ask for feedback (repeat until get it right) –> These fans in turn will spread the word through their channels (twitter, Facebook, etc.) –> Let those great videos and other content become part of a virtual recipe station and fun viral compilation video build your brand afterwards. –> Keep ear to the ground on reactions via all social media channels –> Reward their efforts, creator of winning recipe gets free product. The sites I am using for examples here are simply that, examples. (Oh yes, and by the way you will build your brand in the process as a by-product)

These are just two examples of business areas. Imagine the impact if they coordinated these efforts and incorporated them into their enterprise or business strategy. Now, THAT is social media optimization. I am not recommending that your R&D or your HR departments become social media experts. What I am recommending is that they learn to listen and watch. Social media in its basic forms are simple to use. More and more tools are being created to optimize how we interact with social media so that it becomes less of distraction and more effective. It is these tools that should be focused on. Planning is critical. How can you best apply a social media strategy to increase effectiveness in your organization? That is social media optimization.

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Be Social for Success

Understanding the value mix of online media participation and face to face interaction is key to the success of the modern business and individual. There is a delicate balance needed between on-line efficiency and off-line effectiveness. New tools are created to make our work easier and to connect us to our stakeholders and communities (those-whom or that-which we need/desire in our lives). The ultimate challenge in today’s connected workplace and lifestyles is to find the perfect balance or mix. When not used effectively they achieve just the opposite of their intended purpose and priorities get re-arranged. Interacting with people whether face to face or online and sharing is how we learn and improve as individuals as well as organisations. In networks and face to face interactions we build the foundation for deeper connections and context for further interactions both online and off. In social media, we reinforce these relationships and are referred to others through authentic connections that further add value.

Three basic principles or “R”s should lead us to how and where we interact (REAL, RELEVANT and RESPECT). It is much harder to be someone you are not and it will catch up to you. Being authentic will earn trust, whereas getting caught being fake will ruin your reputation and those around you. Whether you are using social media to connect to your old friends, your remote colleagues, your employees or your clients or to meet or gain new ones, the quality of your interactions and their being in context to your audience and the arena are what count and resonate. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. In other words, constructive criticism is far more effective and it won’t come back to bite you later. These basic principles are core to face to face networking as well, and what creates the foundation for valued relationships.

Strategy needs to be considered on all levels. Participating in social media or face to face networks should not be limited to marketing. If used properly they impact product/service development, employee engagement and turnover, brand building, customer satisfaction and relations, business development and individual success. Ultimately there is a person with thoughts feeling and views of their own called a “user”. We feel engaged and become advocates when we learn about the things that impact us, we appreciate having our voice heard (and listened to), we appreciate respect and return it. We derive value from our interactions when the three R’s are observed. That value creates incentive for further interaction and referral.

Social media optimisation and social optimisation should go hand in hand when building lasting and strong relationships with our friends, our employees, our consumers, our investors and extended community of stakeholders in our lives and our businesses.

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Embrace Social Media

Social media is a “cost efficient experiment” according to the Social Computing Journal. Smart Brief says polls on LinkedIn and AdWeek show “Recession will yield ad improvements in ROI, Web, social media”. Bryan Eisenberg of ClickZ states that “social media should be a part of any forward-thinking and transparent company.” Smart Brief has gone so far as to recognise the importance by creating its own section of Smart Brief on Social Media.

So what does this all mean? Social Media has hit the mainstream and we need to learn to manage our interactions with it, as individuals and businesses. It has enormous possibilities and we are all invited to partake, in fact we cannot avoid it once we go online. It was not so long ago we were learning how to deal with ratings and comments being the extent of the online interactions. Now we are creating global communities everywhere. In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations we are drawn deeper into the impact of communities or organisations that are self created. As marketers we need to learn to not simply “harness” the communities but become active participants. As receivers we need to embrace the wealth of knowledge to be obtained and learn to optmise our interactions so that we do not become even more overwhelmed by the influx of information. Do not resist, but take the time to take part and learn what is out there to make the most of it.

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