Thursday, May 01, 2008

listen and be useful

I went on a rant this morning on a friend's blog. It had little to do with what she wrote, beyond it prompting me to think about my growing distaste for social media marketing tactics. In fact, I told her,

"Most of what agencies are doing in the space is a load of horsesh*t. Disclosure doesn't impress me anymore."

She works in an agency. The same agency I once worked in. I work in a new agency. This isn't about either of those agencies.

So, when is it not "horsesh*t"?

When you use social media as an, admittedly, unscientific "focus group": Screw the nonsense about "starting a conversation." Unless you're launching a new brand or product, there already is a conversation. Listen to what your customers are saying because they're telling you how you can be better or why they think you're great.

When it's an extension of your customer service department: While you're out there listening to what your customers have to say, offer to remedy the errors of your ways. Train your front line to know when and how — in a noninvasive way — to be responsive. Word of mouth about customer service is strong. Help to make yours positive.

When you use it as an opportunity to share your values: Are you innovative? Socially responsible? Global? Committed to your community? Transparent? Prove it. Tell us about it. And don't fake it because we know what fake looks like.

When you provide utility to a pre-existing community: If you've been listening, you'll know what to provide. The folks at listened and they gave the crafting community a store front to reach people, like Dooce, who will buy their beautiful wares. Elisa, Lisa and Jory listened and they created BlogHer to give women bloggers a community, conferences and the opportunity to be compensated for their writing. "Utility" takes on many forms. Figure out what it means to your customers and think -- think hard -- about how you can give it to them.

Everything else is horsesh*t.

As I told my friend, "This last one (utility) is the most interesting to me. What can you do to make things better for the people with whom you're trying to build a relationship?"

When you go to a new friend's house for a dinner party, you bring a bottle of wine, you don't bring a hammer and rebuild their house.

You provide that bottle of wine because you want to help the host to entertain their guests. Help them achieve their goal and they'll say thank you and maybe even kiss you on the cheek.

But don't expect them to ask you to move in with them. Just be a good guest and maybe they'll invite you to the next dinner party.


ElisaC said...

Love that dinner party analogy, Alison. I may have to start using that myself...with proper attribution, of course :)

Thanks for the shout-out.

abf said...

It's yours, Elisa.

You guys make me happy. It's the least I can do. See you in July. (I hope.)