This is a continuation of a previous post:
Being a Kentucky native, and University of Kentucky grad, I’m a HUGE Kentucky basketball fan. Living in California it is often difficult to see games, and participate in the local vibe that surrounds basketball season in the Bluegrass State, so I find myself obsessively following media reports, sports sites, and blogs that cover my team. I recently realized that I’ve been successful building a small online repartee with one of the premier sports columnists covering UK basketball – John Clay. John is a social media maven in his own right. He blogs, he’s on Facebook, he Liveblogs from UK games, he Tweets. He has thousands of readers, followers, and FB friends, many of whom he engages with regularly.
He is one of the state’s top sports reporters, and yet, he’s conversed online with little ole me on several occasions.
Why is that, and how can I apply that lesson to my corporate social media fumblings?
As I looked back on actions that I took over a course of time, I realized that there were steps that I followed (just like all the ones in all those books we’re all reading) — but naturally and authentically — that led to this small success.
Long before I ever tried to engage in conversation with John, I read his blog every single day. In fact, I often checked it several times a day (and still do). I clicked on the links in his blogroll, and read those blogs. I devoured the columns he writes several times a week. I read what his peers were writing. I also read anything else I could get my hands on about Kentucky basketball. I have passion for the topic that shows to anyone who knows me, and I am knowledgeable about both the team and the sport overall. In short, I knew his topic: Kentucky basketball, and I got to know his writing and what he might care about before I engaged with him.
This process takes different amounts of time for different people, topics, groups, sites, etc. I devoted alot of time to it naturally because of my enthusiasm. Perhaps most importantly — I HAD NO PLAN OR AGENDA — other than to learn and participate. I was just engaging in a hobby that I loved reading and talking about.
Warning: It can be painfully obvious if you’ve skipped the listen/understand portion of the program, or if you have a self-serving agenda once you start to engage in dialogue with people in an online community.
- Then, Participate & Enrich
My next step was to start to share John’s columns/blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, along with my own, value-added commentary (usually some colorful quip about how UK was going to DOMINATE this season, uh and as of today we are the LAST UNDEFEATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY!!!). I did this on a regular basis, at least several times a week. All of this activity took place months before basketball season started.
Once the games did actually start, I tuned into several of his Liveblog broadcasts of UK games and actively participated by asking him intelligent questions about the team and submitting comments about game action (comments I never could have submitted without understanding the game, the Liveblog format, etc.). I friended him on Facebook, and he accepted (he keeps a large friend base of his readers, so this wasn’t necessarily significant).
One evening, after I’d just finished participating in one of his LiveBlogs, and reposted his post-game column, he instant messaged me on Facebook to thank me for participating in the LiveBlog, and we conversed for a few moments about the game that had just taken place.
I started submitting comments to his blog posts. I sent him a few emails (very sparingly, like 2-3 over a six month period) complimenting or commenting on stories, or even suggesting topics I thought would be interesting. I found out on Facebook that a former UK star would be attending that day’s UK basketball practice, and I let him know. Of course he already knew, but he thanked me anyway.
He responded to the majority my emails, answered all my questions, and the next time I participated in his LiveBlog, he elevated my status so that my comments appeared instantly without first having to be approved. I was excited to be given such a privileged status. “Wow, UK’s basketball reporter sort of virtually knows who I am,” I thought. (I will admit that at this point I entertained fantasies of becoming a sports commentator. I’m not sure why I viewed these small exchanges as signs that I could have success in this field).
When I finally stopped to think about it, I realized that this is the formula for successfully engaging in any social media community — in this case the thriving online community of Kentucky basketball.
The steps of listen, understand, participate, enrich are important ones, but perhaps most important of all is to approach online communities sans agenda, and just try to engage, contribute and learn something — about your customers, your field of interest, whatever. Along the way, perhaps more customers and better customer loyalty will be forthcoming.