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5 sins – social networking for business

kanye-interupts-taylor-zoom-70a71533-889a-49c2-a8a9-4645cf0775c5As a humble member of various social networks including Twitter it never fails to amaze me how lame some businesses are in their approach.

I don’t know what is happening inside the brains of the people behind this behaviour on behalf of companies. But it is like they’ve forgotten what it is like to be a real person.

Here are five sins that I’ve seen businesses commit in social networks:

1) No foreplay

Social networking is precisely that ‘social’, that means it works just like real life.  How many times in real life do you just walk up to someone and say: “Hi I’m X, do you want to buy my product?” without saying “hi”, making some eye contact & introducing yourself?

In real life, apart from outbound telemarketers, we typically shoot the breeze for a while before launching into the hard sell.

2) Not being real & not letting staff be real

One of the reasons that @comcastcares and @zappos have worked on Twitter is that there were real people behind those accounts & they backed it up with consistently having real people there. Some companies forget that the social nature of these networks means that they need to be more transparent and open up to the outside world. It’s time to personalise the experience in the social world. This also means letting your staff be real people too.

3) Not being interesting

Are you interesting? What have you got to offer? Besides your products why would anyone bother interacting with you socially? Many companies seem to assume that their products are fascinating – but let me assure you, apart from a few special brands like Apple, most people don’t give a toss about your product especially in a social context. That means you will need to be interesting on a personal level. Being helpful & friendly can go a long way on this front.

4) Not getting the culture

Each social network has its own culture and mores of behaviour. Woe betide a company that messes with these. Important questions to ask about your social network presence: Are you interesting? What have you got to offer? Does your brand make sense within the social network context? There is nothing worse than being in the wrong place in the wrong outfit – it’s like walking into a biker bar in your best preppie outfit.

5) Lack of consistency

Are you consistently friendly, helpful and real? If not it jars with the human beings that you’re interacting with in a social context.

One thing that characterises all the problems listed above is that they reflect a lack of understanding of the social contract inherent in social network participation. Social networks mean that the traditional marketing context & the social contract that goes with it are absent.

For example, in the traditional marketing context there is social contract – you try to sell stuff to me & I consume your media, potentially taking up your offer. But in social networks the social contract is more like you’ve joined me in my living room. The social contract here is about being sociable and making human-like contact with other people.

The essence of the social web is that it enables humans to be human.  Where in the past we had to conform ourselves to the constraints of the technology and participate within a pure business or marketing context now we are free to be human.  The people in businesses need to reimagine how to interact with customers on a human to human level.

In  a similar vein check out Louis Gray’s post: The Era of the Faceless Giant Corporation Is Over

5 thoughts on “5 sins – social networking for business”

  1. Kate
    Those are the wisest words I’ve read in a long time – it seems so simple doesn’t it? Companies need to embrace this catchy new phrase “social business design” and keep in mind that “it’s ok to fail”- they will be just fine once, as you say, they learn to reimagine how to intereact on a human to human level.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

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  3. Politicians – especially those with e-comms advisors – should take these points and have a long, hard look at their involvement / engagement in SN.

    Great piece, Kate.

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