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Social Communications: It’s Walk, Not Just Talk

I know; you’re on it. Your organization “embraces social media.” You have dedicated staff working the social networks. They are creating and curating content, and interacting with customers. They are talking. But are you taking a good look at the walk?

Social Communications - Walk the Walk

Communications is just as much walk as it is talk. Your actions lead your communications. What do you want to be? How do you want to be perceived? Are you being that at every level of your organization? And when I say being, I definitely don’t mean are you just saying it on social media. There is a big difference between being on social media and being social.

I love to tell the story of a new restaurant and their involvement of community from the ground up. Literally. Their part-time community manager built a Facebook page for them and slowly began growing a local following through her connections and their networks.

Next, she began involving this small community in the decisions of the building of this restaurant. She’d ask what they thought of the paint colors on the wall and which one they preferred. As the chef began designing the menu, they asked their community to vote on plates and provide their input.

What this did is build an engaged community out of the chutes. The restaurant opened to an existing and engaged online community. Brand ambassadors felt “ownership” and the word of mouth helped them to have a successful opening.

Don’t leave me here if you’re at the enterprise level, or a B2B organization. This applies to you as well. Regardless of industry, community is invaluable to a brand and it’s not something that gets tacked on to the marketing plan as section 2A-ii. It happens organically and culturally, being embedded across the departments. Launching a blog and content strategy without a community is much like the proverbial tree falling in the woods. Did it happen if no one is there?

It’s not enough to say you’re social. It’s about being social. Following are some principles to consider for a socially integrated organization.

You aren’t afraid to put yourself out there on the digital landscape. If you’re uncomfortable opening your blog to comments, or starting a Facebook page because you are not prepared to “go there,” you are hiding something. Look inside, identify the source of the potential backlash you fear and fix the problem. Then, go do your best champion self-talk in the bathroom mirror and face the masses as an organization.

Head in the sand - social communications

Be ready for the good and the bad.

You understand negative discussion will happen with or without your presence. Invite the negative discussion to your forum, wherever that may be, and address it head on. Be prepared and have a crisis plan in place.

You inspire: Your audience wants to be inspired and learn lessons from someone like you. We want to know what you’re reading, how you start your day, how you manage your time, and where you get your inspiration. We want to know about your people and what happens behind the scenes. We want to be part of your experience, as Danny Brown puts it.

Take us in and show us around. This is bigger than just selling your widgets. Be a great place to work, be a steward of your community. Share your knowledge. We’ll do the talking for you.

You are inspired: I’m sure you are curious about your audience. What are their habits, behaviors and preferences? The more you know, the better you can cater to them. Wow, you can conduct your own market research under the guise of just you know, talking to your audience. And when you show an interest, and they are sharing their stories? That’s engagement.

Don’t be a stranger. If you’ve been inspiring us and engaging with us, you’ve built a community that knows and trusts you. In times of crisis, you’ll be pretty happy to have them on your side.

So when you sit down with your marketing team or agency and ask, “How can I get people to understand we’re a big community philanthropist?” The answer should be simple: Be one. When you ask, “How can we get people to think of us as the go-to such and such?” Be one.

Be one. And let your community do the talking for you.

Shonali Burke will expand on this in her presentation at Demand Success next week, entitled What Social PR Really Means. Dismantling the Digital Divide. Please let me know if you’ll be there. I look forward to meeting you in person. What I love about her presentation is not only does she talk about social as an integral part of your business, but she included her community in the development of her talk. Shonali is social to the core.

Want to hear Shonali and other amazing marketing and PR speakers? Register now for Demand Success on June 5 and 6 before it’s too late!

Lisa Gerber is the founder of Big Leap Creative, where she helps organizations and executives take their big leaps by communicating their ideas. 

For more marketing advice from Lisa Gerber, click here.

Image: Magdalena Roesler, Peter (Creative Commons)

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