The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 5: Getting Feedback

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.

Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Thanks
Before getting to the responses I want to thank Doug, Chris, Cathryn, Aaron and Brian for giving generously of their knowledge. This has been a wonderful experience and I know I have gained a lot from their experience. I am in their debt.

One way that I wanted to thank Cathryn personally was to ask everyone who has read this and gone through the experiment with me to contribute to the Frozen Pea Fund in honor of a friend of hers (and many others including Doug supporting her experience through twitter), Susan Reynolds who is undergoing surgery today to get rid of breast cancer.

And thanks enormously to Marc Orchant who provided the rocket fuel to get this thing off the ground and for Aaron’s original round table that inspired this discussion.

Today the fifth and last question: How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?


Brian Solis

We’ve all heard that participation is marketing. As well, we’ve seen the banner that reads conversations are marketing.

Great.

So, what about relationships?

We speak of building mechanisms into frameworks and while we search for the right answers, we’re overshooting the very thing that Social Media revolves around, people.

Social Media isn’t a catalyst to summon marketing for marketing’s sake. It’s an opportunity to engage with groups of people by tapping into conversations that mutually serve the benefits of the very people we wish to reach.

The key is participation and I define participation as the ante that’s determined by each distinct community. The minimum investment to play is sincerity, authenticity, trustworthiness, and genuine intent.

Answer the following questions. What do you want to get out of each network and why should people care about your involvement?

Then identify those you want to reach by monitoring the very conversations you wish to join.

There must be value associated with the dialog as most are seeds for potential relationships. But, these things take time, focus, and nurturing. This isn’t broadcast marketing. This is one-to-one discussions that can provide incredible value back to you and your company as long as the rules of engagement are clear and not manipulated.
Social networks provide the foundation for one-to-one interactions and even one-to-many without losing its openness, as long as the intent is clear and honest.

Basically everything comes down to how you relate to the communities you wish to embrace and in turn, how they embrace you and your involvement. It’s pretty natural to enhance feedback when your stature in each community represents your investment.

It takes time, patience, sincerity, and value. This is about relationships and it’s much bigger and more relevant than just you and the company you represent.

Again, companies will earn the relationships they deserve.

This is about people and the evolution of business marketing, from broadcast to interaction, from marketing to solutions.



Aaron Brazell

This is the mother-lode question and I would actually rephrase it as, “What steps should I take to increase my engagement?�?

The reality is that you engage people in everyday life. You start a new job and you engage your coworkers. You read an entry on a blog you’ve never been to and you leave a comment. You sit in a Starbucks and talk with a friend. This is engagement and the fact that there is a computer sitting between you and the world doesn’t change the dynamics of engagement.

I think social networking has watered down the word “friend�? quite a bit and understanding and pursuing the real meaning of that word will cause your mileage to increase in your marketing efforts.

I travel to a lot of conferences and have met a lot of people. I can say I know this person or that person. There are some of these people though who I truly consider friends and through those connections, I’ve been able to very effectively extend reach into other groups and crowds. You can get this benefit from social networking friends, but social networking friends who truly are friends can get you so much more.



Chris Brogan

Feedback comes from creating reasons to say something and then making it really easy to say something. Great examples of things that promote feedback: Flickr, LinkedIN, YouTube, Amazon products. In all cases, there are opportunities to give an opinion where the people providing the feedback are the experts (at least for the moment at hand).



Doug Haslam

Feedback is the hardest part of social media and social networking (or any marketing campaign). One thing to remember is that the things you say (ok, your “messages�?) get heard far beyond the folks who actually respond. A recent personal example: I posted some videos to my blog (and via Twitter, YouTube and Seesmic in my own little experiment) about my horrid commute (gratuitous link).* I got some comments, maybe a few more than usual, but not many. However, I found when I ran into people from my peer group a t a Boston Social Media Breakfast a few days later, almost everyone greeted me with “I saw your video.�? So, message received; but how to call people to action? Here are my thoughts:

  • Ask: did your outreach specifically ask people to do something? Go to a Web site? Answer a question? Provide advice? Begging can work as well (how did you get your Pownce beta invite?), but let’s not call it that.
  • Offer: What do people get if they act? A free trial? A gift? Membership in a group? Think about what would motivate people to respond back. Let’s not go overly cynical and call this a bribe, but when I was in market research you could not get a survey completed, even with your own panel, without offering incentives for completed questionnaires. Sure, a nice outward message, a great product or service, and a stellar reputation helps, but sometimes people just want something.
  • Give Value: Dialing back the cynicism and bribery theme a bit, let’s invoke the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. This goes back to participation, and becoming a part of the group you have joined or started. Do you answer the questions others pose? Do you check out there links and offer feedback? If you don’t, should you really expect others to do for you?

So, if you want something; ask, have something they want in return, and reciprocate (or “pre-reciprocate�?). Plus, don’t forget all the people that didn’t respond. They’re probably not ignoring you.



Cathryn Hrudicka

For one, I think you have to give it more time. It took at least 60-90 days of fairly constant social networking before I got a major media interview, and I didn’t pitch it or ask for that one specifically—it came to me because I had started an ongoing conversation with the journalist involved, met him at an event, to which I was invited due to a social networking connection, and I happened to be up late at night when the journalist was looking for someone to interview, and I fit the criteria needed. There have been several other media interviews since, and I didn’t directly pitch any of them. I happened to be immersed in conversations with either the contacts themselves, or people who knew them and had noticed my comments on a social network.

I have also received business referrals, from people I did not know before getting on the social networks—and again, I did not pitch them asking directly, but got to know people through a series of conversations where they were able to read or hear my ideas that were relevant to their referral. More recently, I have set up phone calls with some of my social network friends to explore collaborating on projects and looking for new clients together.

As far as feedback mechanisms, if you build a community around your blog and social network “brand,�? whether as an individual or an organization, you will get feedback eventually. Social networking takes a while—I would give it no less than a year to really test it out.

Definitely ask for feedback about specific questions, in your blog or on other social media, and really converse with people about it. You may also want to link them to a survey you’ve created, and make that fun to fill out. You can offer a contest where you give away something to the first few people who respond, and you can send out an e-letter with a survey, but don’t make it spam-like. You may want to form a smaller group around a specific issue (such as a Ning group). It seems that people are often willing to comment on short video clips (under five minutes), so you might consider doing a seesmic or Kyte or Blip-TV clip and ask for comments.

If you comment on other people’s or companies’ blogs, you are likely to get into a discussion with other commenters or the owner of the blog. It is helpful to think strategically about which blogs and issues to comment about, although you may just want to do it by personal interest as well. Obviously, commenting on a blog that will raise your company’s profile, that has a large group of readers that would include your business audience, would be an obvious advantage.
******
Jonathan
One of the reasons I started this experiment was that quite by chance I came across a question in LinkedIn asking who had used online office tools such as ThinkFree, and a few others. As a marketing person, I want my company to be included in any and all relevant conversations. What I began to realize is that these conversations were happening in conferences, through traditional media, and increasingly through social networks. But, I wanted to validate that this was an appropriate use of my marketing time and resources. The best way I could think of was to dive right in and get immersed in the culture which led to this round table and getting advice from the experts.

Along the way what I learned (in no small part thanks to this group):

  1. It isn’t really a choice of if anymore but a question of when and how companies will start devoting resources to social networks in disseminating their messages.
  2. Be willing to invest the time over the long haul. I went into this thinking it was going to save me time in getting my marketing messages out. It hasn’t! But it certainly has been fun getting to know that a certain blogger has a one year old that he takes to the park, or that people are doing some amazing things to support causes they believe in. And in the end the company has certainly benefited from my interaction in these communities.
  3. You can’t expect a friendship to develop overnight. In some ways building your online network is a little scarier in that you basically have to ask someone up front if they want to be your friend which, as Aaron pointed out, is just not the right terminology. No beating around the bush – will you be my friend? But don’t be shy either. in the end what is the harm if someone ignores your friend request of Facebook? What does it cost you to start following someone on Twitter? And as was mentioned earlier in the series, people are fairly forgiving.
  4. Reciprocate. In building relationships with journalists, it is just plain rude to go around pitching them at every opportunity. For goodness sake would you be friends with someone who was always talking about what they were doing and never asked about what you are doing? The same is true on social networks. Take the time to find out what they are interested in. Ask, advise, view their links, suggest things of interest.
  5. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the immediate results you wanted or expected. But, this is true of other marketing activities as well, who knows what leads the next tradeshow will bring. A business partnership at one conference may be worth 1000 leads at another. If you are being an active member of the community you will see results. They may not come in the form you expected, or from a place you expected, but you will benefit one way or another.

And now for your comments…
What do you think about the advice these people gave? Do you agree? Disagree? Care? If you have an opinion now is the time to trot it out.

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

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