Recently, I came across another Web 2.0 product that might or might not hold the key to revolutionizing my life and do what no other tool, tactic, or technique has managed to do: get me organized.
A year ago, I would have just signed up for the free service and either incorporated it into my daily life (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or dropped it immediately (Second Life, Pownce), but I am trying to limit the number of services to which I give personal information.
So I went to the virtual coffee shop that is Twitter to ask for advice. What I ended up typing gave me pause, and should give the world of paid advocates concern.
“Anyone using Company X? What is its point? Not looking for response from someone at Company X.”
In my statement, I was essentially saying that I would make my decision based on the unconfirmed opinion of someone following my Twitter stream (a group of which I probably know 10% of the population) rather than an educated, but also compensated, opinion from the company or its agency representative. I wanted answers, but on my terms only.
Running a PR business publication, I'm well aware of the value that marketing communications pros bring to their organizations and, when done right, the public. But my hastily assembled thought betrayed an opinion that many consumers have: PR pros might burden you with a hard sell if you express interest in their client.
It's important to remember that communications should be opt-in, and peer influence holds sway on social media. There's nothing sadder for a brand that attempts to join a conversation with people who don't want to hear from it. As mentioned in this week's editorial, Comcast has won plaudits for its work on Twitter. Praise was earned because it did not jump into any conversation that mentioned TV, Comcast, a rival, or a bored entity looking for something to do. The team behind the account realized that its greatest asset is to listen, absorb criticism, and respond when the Comcast service fails.
As brands continue to populate social media spaces, there will be some discomfort from the natives. Witness the conversation on Twitter (tinyurl.com/66yzrh) between the woman running Carl's Jr.'s Twitter account (who is otherwise performing admirably) and AdWeek's Brian Morrissey, and you will know how people can react to brand incursions.
There are no definitive rules to engaging the social media space, but there is one overarching concern that should be heeded. Interaction should be done on the public's terms, and about topics people find palatable. If you are handling a brand's social media, think of your interaction like a conversation at a packed party. When you eventually speak, make sure you have something to say; don't just do so because you were given an opening.