I’ve learned quite a bit in my dealings with large and small companies in social media. Mostly that there are still some pretty dangerous misconceptions about the best way to build a community. While companies may understand the importance of getting involved, they’re still not getting what it means to fully become a “social” company. Below are five common misconceptions I see businesses making in regard to social media and community building, and how you can beat them.
“We can give it to the intern.”
Community building may not take the same type of skill learning or certification as plumbing or dentistry, but that doesn’t that just anyone can do it. You want to find someone who has a knack for talking to people and who will be able to blend social relationships with promoting your company. The person you put in charge of your social identity should be comfortable with the tools, comfortable speaking on the behalf of the company, quick on their feet, and be someone who genuinely enjoys making connections with customers. It’s possible that person is the intern already working for you, or maybe it’s someone else on your team. Identify that person before you accidentally push social media off on your teammate with the least amount of social skills. It’s not easy to blend marketing with being human, but it’s important that the person running your social accounts can.
“Community building is an online activity.”
The bulk of your community building will probably take place online. For example, you’ll be tweeting, creating Facebook calls to action, responding to blog comments, putting out fires, etc. But a good community builder will also find ways to take those online relationships, off. Whether that be through attending community events and local seminars or hosting an event in your area, the best way to strengthen contacts you meet online is to bring those relationships to real life. People want to do business and support businesses where they have a connection with the people involved. By routinely creating opportunities where you can “meet” your online friends, you take someone from passive observer to loyal fan.
“Your Community Manger should be friends with everyone.”
Just because you can market to everyone on the Internet, doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to. Or that you even want to. Focusing your time and energy on people who will never be customers or who don’t understand the value of what you do or who you are, is a time suck. That means it’s not your Community Manger’s job to be friends with everyone on the Internet. That’s not a good use of their time. Instead, focus on attracting the people in your area who WOULD find what you do valuable and useful. And engage them. Stay away from the Power Influencers with 100,000 followers or the Twitter users who are angry at the world. Instead, find the people who influence your community, the people using your product, and the folks using your competitors’ products. Become friends with them.
“As long as you’re nice, your flaws don’t matter.”
Excuse me a moment for being upfront: Being liked in social media won’t make your company suck any less. If you’re not putting out a quality product or service, than it doesn’t matter how friendly you are or how well you engage in social media. People are still going to talk badly about you and you’re not going to effectively promote your company. You can’t use social media as a way to avoid fixing a larger problem. Use social media to keep people informed and up-to-date as you fix that larger problem. Simply ignoring it in favor of tweets is only going to anger people more. Ask Comcast.
“Your community comes from your Community Manager.”
One of the most dangerous myths SMB owners buy into with regard to social media is that all they have to do to be social is hire someone to man a few accounts. This couldn’t be further from the true. Having a community manager or a Twitter account doesn’t make you a company that is truly “tapped in”. Being a “social” company means changing how you do business. The ultimate example of this? Zappos.
Zappos build their company around being social and creating “wow” experiences. They did that by:
- Paying employees $2,000 to quit. If you take it, you’re not serious about the company.
- Creating a culture book put out once a year where employees share what the brand means to them.
- Interviews and performance reviews are based 50 percent on values and culture fit.
Zappos has put the steps in motion so that they bleed their brand from every outpost. And that’s been important for them because the brand is now their biggest marketing tool. That’s how you grow a social company. It has nothing to do with Twitter. It’s about shifting the focus inside your company.
Those are some of the biggest social media and community building mistakes I’ve seen companies make. What have been your experiences?