The simple (but not easy) secret to successful Corporate Online Communications

[Originally posted on NewCommBiz]

A lot of us spend a lot of time writing strategy documents detailing the best practices for engaging with customers via social networks.

A lot of us write the same things over and over.  We do a good job of showing off our digital chops, and encouraging people to be ‘authentic, valuable, transparent’ (three now-meaningless buzzwords).  However, we also go off and talk amongst ourselves about how the world does not need another “Become a Fan of Company XYZ on Facebook!” or “Read the Company XYZ blog about all the great things Company XYZ is up to!”

On many levels, we know that there are a minuscule number of brands that have developed enough of a deep emotionally resonant connection with their consumers to have them raise their hand and say “I’m a Fan!”, and yet often we will recommend a brand-centric Facebook page or blog.  Even when these properties are created, the engagement tends to be low enough as to be unsustainable (we’re all fans of pages with 10,000 members and zero interaction).

So, what to do? How do we adjust to create real value?  Well, it may seem counter-intuitive to clients, but in order to build a truly successful community, you will need to drop the corporate ego just a big and follow this piece of advice:

Don’t talk about your company, talk about things that people that are attracted to your company would be interested in.

This is a tough sell.  Companies are used to talking about themselves.  They have gotten very good at talking about themselves.  They have convinced themselves that the way to get someone to buy something is to tell them how great it is, or how famous person XYZ uses the product, or whathaveyou.  This may (debatably) be effective in mass advertising, but its exactly the wrong way to get someone to want to spend any time interacting.

You know what ‘bring value’ means? It means stay away from promoting.  It means don’t talk about yourself.  That brings value to you, not to me.

If you’re a cream cheese company, don’t talk about how awesome your cream cheese is, or how much Woody Allen loves his smear.  Give me some recommendations about the best local bagels.  Talk about resources for lactose intolerance. Ask me what my favorite carrot cake recipe is.  These are all things that I’m probably going to be interested in, if I’m attracted to your company.

These concepts are simple, but not easy.  They go against years of training. They don’t make sense for a lot of people.  It seems frivolous, fluffy, not important. Is this why we are so averse to making this recommendation? How can we get people there without getting blank stares? Is there a way in, here?

This is the direction I’d love to see the conversation going.

Away from “How can we leverage social media to get people to be interested in us”.

Toward “How can we leverage social media to be satisfy our people.”

The world does not need another “Become a Fan of Company XYZ on Facebook!”.  There are a minuscule number of brands that have developed enough of a deep emotionally resonant connection with their consumers to have them raise their hand and say “I’m a Fan!”

Jeremy Meyers is an Engagement Strategist at Waggener Edstrom and blogs at JeremyMeyers.com