Customers Expect SOCIAL In Your Social Media Leadership

Customers Expect SOCIAL In Your Social Media Leadership

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by an Italian newspaper regarding online marketing and social media best practices. Since most of our readers probably missed that one, I figured I’d share my answers here.

What about your work? What is your story and your educational path?

I majored in philosophy and psychology at William & Mary. No grad school, though I’ve guest-lectured to MBA classes, so go figure. I’m co-CEO of – it’s the third time I’ve been CEO. The first was my own language school, then a nonprofit helping poor children get their own laptops and use them to learn critical thinking skills.

By the way: like a lot of entrepreneurs, I’ve made more mistakes in my career than most people could stomach. You don’t want to do what I’ve done – for the most part. But once or twice now, yes, it has worked out for me. The trick is to learn fast, and never make the same mistakes twice if you can help it.

Oh, and my #1 rule of life and business: have fun!

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What are the essential features of a good web marketer?

Think of it like this: SOCIAL (media). Engage, do not broadcast. The biggest failure I see in brands using social is that they think of it like a billboard or magazine ad: the brand tells the prospective customer, and the prospect is supposed to read silently and somehow be inspired to buy. That is very 1993.

In 2013, if you try something like that online, your prospects will ignore you entirely and go have actual conversations – and build relationships – with your competitors.

This is what the prospect is thinking: “Talk to me. Show me you know me. Show me there’s a human there, a person I’d like to do business with, on the other end of our Twitter chat or Facebook page or in the comments section of your company’s blog. Give me some content of interest on that blog, or in your tweet stream. Then – only then – will I be interested in buying from you.”

This is like dating. Romance your prospects. Make them want to become customers. How will you treat them after they’ve spent the night with you? (…”spend the night” at your hotel or restaurant. What did you think I meant?) ;)

What do you see as some up-and-coming social media platforms?

We’re splintering – the sweet spot in social is going from everyone on one or two platforms (Friendster, then Myspace, now Facebook and Twitter, with a bit of LI and G+) to the long tail of many different platforms.

I don’t think Pinterest, for instance, is going to replace Facebook and the others, so much as be an additional place that many of us go. You’ll go here to connect with this tribe, and here for another, and on and on, all throughout the same day.

This is what the prospect is thinking: “Talk to me. Show me you know me. Show me there’s a human there, a person I’d like to do business with.”

This means the business models will have to reflect that. I’m already working with some startup CEOs who have a pay-to-play model in their social sites, rather than the now-prevalent model of “capture zillions of users and sell ads.”

Provide value, and people will play. Hell, protect me from ads (and the creepiness factor of selling my information to your advertisers), and I’ll pay with pleasure!

What are 5 things you would recommend to us to do immediately in the social space?

Most companies have at least a rudimentary handle on the practices, and maybe even the tactics, of social media on a day-to-day basis. Yet again and again I hear from many of the leaders I talk to, “Our investment in social is not bearing fruit. Is it even worth it? Is it necessary, but just as a defensive measure – because everyone else is doing it, and consumers expect us to now – or will it actually benefit us in some tangible way if we do it better?”

Engage, do not broadcast. The biggest failure I see in brands using social is that they think of it like a billboard or magazine ad.

The reason for this is straightforward, but few social advocates have identified it yet. Very few companies have a social strategy at all, and almost none have aligned that strategy to the corporation’s principles (if they even know what those principles are).

With that in mind, here are my five immediate must-dos, in order:

1. Identify your corporate principles. Align your social efforts to that.

2. For social to work, you need to practice open leadership – not just in the digital media department, but as a company. (This is the core of the new book I’m writing with our COO, Mark Babbitt, due out next Spring).

3. With #1 and #2 done, your social media strategy should be in lock step with your corporate strategy.

4. Take social out of the Marketing Department, and integrate it throughout the corporation.

5. Hire a Chief Social Strategist to work with your other C-level leaders. You get what you pay for. Don’t skimp and then be surprised that you’re failing.

And the last one: What about your blog? Who should read it?

Switch and Shift is about how business is led in this exciting new century. A lot of old-school leaders are still running companies, but maybe not for long. We speak to the board, the CEO and the rest of the C-suite, and the rest of management in companies large and small, about The Human Side of Business.

Who should read it? People who still want to be leaders – and still want to be in business – five years from now. Our topics include leadership, culture, social media, and employee engagement.

Art by: Arnovw

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