Friday, December 5, 2008

Know the Rules of the Social Media Game before you Start to Play

Whilst many marketers are quick to get involved with the social media, few adequately investigate the community culture prior to creating a presence therein. Failure to understand the informal rules and social etiquettes of the community will almost certainly result in hostility eminating from the community; and understandably so. Social communities belong to the users therein, and whilst an organisational presence is often permissible, it is highly advised that the organisation undertake a stringent cultural analysis to gauge the possible outcome thereof.

Online communities differ very little from offline communities, comprising groups of individuals who, as a collective, come together to achieve a shared goal. Clearly, the views of individual community members will differ; such is human nature. It is highly probable that the collective will comprise multiple contrasting perspectives concerning the most effective methods for recognising these shared goals. Whilst the presence of contrary views to our own is without doubt conducive to achieving a more complete understanding of a given problem, from an organisational perspective, such contrasting opinions can make uninformed community engagement incredibly hazardous. We need only look to the recent Motrin video ad to see the potential negative repercussions of such an uninformed community engagement. Had the organisation possessed a greater knowledge of the community prior to the campaign being launched, it is likely that the subsequent negative publicity could have been avoided.

We are all aware of the potential organisational uses of the social media. The likelihood of successful application depends highly on the organisation's understanding of the community cultures and etiquettes. As an organisation, you must ensure that adequate time and effort is directed into developing your understanding of the community prior to establishing any campaign. This information will invariably provide a great deal of insight, and there is little doubt that these findings will influence the campaign direction.

What it comes down to is ensuring that your organisation understands the community rules before playing the social media game.

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  1. Spot on analysis as usual, Chris. Which begs the question, when will this kind of advice start to be heeded?

    Anyone in doubt should take a look at Intel's company social media guidelines - now THAT's a company that's on the ball.

  2. Funny isn't it. In offline conversation, there would be no question of whether or not research into the segment being targetted was carried out. Why does this suddenly change when the conversation moves online? If anything, there is more reason for an in depth study to be carried out into the culture and etiquette of online communities, as the information is inextricably recorded for all to see. Inappropriate community engagement can, and invariably will, continue to haunt the organisation.

    Thanks for the comments, Danny. I am interested in seeing those Intel social media guidelines... I will look through those after work this evening.