Why this blog?

A friend and I were having a debate on whether or not there was such a thing as a digital planner. Did being a good offline account planner automatically mean you could be a good digital one? What does it take? Since I love my job and the power it gives me to be a consumer champion I've decided to embark on a journey to prove that a 'traditional planner' can embrace the digital world.

Realising that I am going to be pulling from several sources who know what they are talking about and that there must be other planners out there in my shoes, I thought it would be worth blogging what I find. At the very least it's a good place to pull together everything for me. Without this I have a strange feeling that I will be as redundant as the banker who said 'yes buying another bank's bad debt is a really good idea'; wish me luck.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Social strategy - it's not about a single minded proposition, but a many-minded conversation

Many marketeers effectively kill social strategies by trying to exert control over 'their' community. They believe it is the only way to get what they want and deal with what they don't want. Letting a community go is scary but more effective in the long run. (thanks V Dub)

The thing about a community is you can't control it.  It's like having a child that you give birth to, nurture and love, then suddenly it becomes this unwieldy teenager you can only hope to influence. For many marketeers this is hard to swallow given their modus operandi of one way, single messaging, totally controllable advertising.  This is where an Account Planner can come into their own. Instead of developing single-minded propositions, we should be managing many-minded conversations.

Here are a few things us Account Planners can do:

Don't make it up yourself

It's received wisdom that nobody likes to post the first comment. We can't control if, when or how the campaign takes off. However, we must not let fellow practitioners make the fatal error of DIY posts like Kingsmill Confessions.

Nobody buys it.

Instead, facilitate a way of collating genuine consumer views.  Many brands survey customers for satisfaction scores and comments.  This could be a perfect place to start as long as you have the customer's permission to post their comments, and that both good and bad comments are publicised. This is one of the only ways to achieve authenticity.

Face up to the facts

Mistakes happen. Allow them to be aired within the community, but deal with them promptly, painstakingly and publicly. I'm not suggesting it's an Account Planner's job to deal with the comments themselves, there are Community Managers for that. It is our job to persuade Clients that the good and not so good need to be posted and to ensure they are prepared to handle the consequences.   

First Direct customers can now post comments for all to see.  This is a brave move especially at a time when bankers are less trusted than politicians.  The positive and negative go up. Bravo.

But unfortunately there is little evidence of follow-up from the bank.  This is more like a graffiti wall with one way messaging that the bank have little permission to control.  This is marketing harikari.

Be seen to be listening 

Unfortunately the graffiti wall now feels like a brick wall. First Direct is damaging their hard won reputation of customer-centricity and transparency by not replying to the comments posted. 

Account Planners must build into their strategy the ability to deal with comments and also to leverage them.  In instances where it needs to be a private conversation, say so, do it privately but keep the community posted.

Many-minded doesn't mean many-sited 

The community will grow organically, choose what to say and where to meet. Rather inconveniently it's not always at the designated place brands create. So does this mean brands need to have space in the myriad of social platforms now in existence?  No, in short. Brands do need to keep their ear to the ground as conversations happen about them, without them.  (First Direct take note.) But brands should get involved in these conversations and then direct the conversation back to its nerve-center.

When deciding which platforms to formally partake in, brands need to ask themselves the classic marketing questions. Are target-consumers congregating there? Does the brand have permission to be there, or at least have the ability to develop this permission over time? Does being there help to meet marketing and subsequently business objectives?

If planned in this way, your social strategy can be all pervasive yet cohesive. 

In short, if you're going to embark on social media marketing be prepared to:-
  1. Leave your control freak habits behind
  2. Get the ball rolling with true authenticity
  3. Listen and react to, and learn from the community
  4. Be everywhere and only in one place at the same time.
Nobody said it would be easy, but done right, it will be extremely rewarding. 

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