Some have seemed a little cranky on Twitter the last few days. I’ve seen more tweets lamenting the spamming of marketers and crowding of tweetstreams with useless or automated updates. There also seem to be alot of social media etiquette blog posts/reposts, and tips for successful engagement and relationship building, as if SOME PEOPLE need reminding.
It was inevitable, I guess. Study after study after study has come out the last few months chronicling the rise of social media. More marketing money is being spent, more companies are dipping toes in the water. More marketers are trying to muscle into conversations, communities and networks, and they haven’t all taken the time to listen and learn how best to participate.
Is it any wonder that those who’ve been out there for a while might sometimes get irritated?
I’m reminded of when corporations first starting to put up web sites and using the Internet to facilitate business and sales in the mid 1990′s. During these early days of the corporate Internet, disgruntled academics bemoaned heavy-handed corporate tactics that threatened the free-spirit of the ‘Net. These academics were cranky when companies came barreling in with new websites and technologies, fearing a commercialized Internet would be crowded with corporate clutter (we call that spam now), and the debates and discussions on the Internet would be irreversibly altered in the name of profit-seeking. All of this happened of course, and so much more…
Social media, however, harkens us back to some of these earlier academic ideas of free discussion, idea-sharing and community building, albeit with a much larger group of participants. And I can understand how more savvy social media pros might feel irritated as unwashed mass marketers with little understanding of how to engage try to barrel into communities that have been carefully created–once again with the hopes of making a quick buck.
Listen, Understand, Participate, Enrich…
I’m far from being an expert, but to me, engagement has multiple levels, and new participants often don’t take the time to first listen and understand before barging into the middle of conversations with irrelevant promotions.
Only after companies understand what’s being said can they THEN start to participate and build relationships within their chosen communities. Then (hopefully) they can ultimately seek to enrich conversations by adding timely, relevant, useful conversation and/or content.
Obviously, this is easier said than done, and while there are certainly some unsavory marketers out there (ahem, anyone using the keyword Haiti to spike clicks to a fake promo jumps immediately to mind), most marketers are simply befuddled as to how to go about all this “conversing” and “relationship building” that is supposed to be so helpful to building customer loyalty in the social media world.
I often fear I share this cluelessness, so like many marketers I’m trying to learn all I can, I’m experimenting with various tools and tactics, and I’m hoping not to piss anyone off too badly along the way.
Although I’m having good success in my corporate social media forays, it dawned on me recently that it is actually a personal interaction of mine that serves as a great case study for following a good path to social media success. Since this post is getting long, I’ll break that case study into a second part, which you can read here.