Is a good social media strategy merely the application of common sense?

Digital and social media are much debated, overused and often abused terms. Everyone wants to be connected with consumers and influencers “digitally”, aided by various tech platforms and cutting edge devices. Conversations are largely peppered with words like “Radian 6”, “Klout score” and sometimes with what I know my 4 year old niece will gobble up gleefully – ‘Jellybeans’ and ‘Kit Kat’.

Today there are twitter celebrities who are invited for panel discussions on television shows, ‘Facebook Gods’ who can make or break your brand and Pinterest queens who are pinning down things at random. They tweet, Facebook and pin at a fastest-finger-first speed that generate conversations and make things “trend” (and the dictionary tremble)!

If you are not in this zone, dear reader - you are doomed.                     

Well not exactly!

Like most things in communications, this journey can also be based on, what I believe is a rare commodity, common sense. My simple formula for people who wish to embark on the digital/social/online reputation media or anything else you may like to call it, is based on common sense – KISS and here it is for you. 

Keep using the various platforms

The rule book for engagement in the social space is still being written. There are guidelines and operation directions for your convenience. So go ahead, log on and enjoy it. Get used to it, make mistakes, and learn from it. But, do it before you start counselling your stakeholders on how to use it.

Information is key

It is really important to constantly update yourself with what is happening in the ecosystem including new devices, technology and of course, the emergence (and death) of various social platforms. Remain curious. The more you learn, the more comfortable you will be in the space. And the better you will feel attending the sessions by the digital gurus – more often than not they know as much as you do. They just present it with more confidence and hence sound better!

Stop, Hear & Listen

Our 140 character driven world, aided by wafer thin devices, resting on 4G network, will always make you wish you should shoot from your hip. Stop. Hear. Listen.

The digital universe is sending you cues on how you can help them. Listen to what they are actually saying about your brand, company, product or the environment in which you operate. Are they giving you feedback? Are they giving you cues? Are they just simply ranting? Is this actually quick and easy research that can throw up insights that you never had? Can you listen to what they are actually saying?

Simplify engagement

Simply listening is not enough. You also need to speak, and you need to engage. Like in most cases in life, the most powerful engagement, is the simplest one. Keep your publishing genuine. Reach out with the intent to help, inform and educate. Use visual and audio cues in your message. Use info graphics and data points. Make your message something even a child will like.

Admit your mistakes – then apologise.

Conversion of online influencers to ‘brand ambassadors’ will happen over a period of time.

While you are at it, be prepared for the following

Mob mentality will rule, anything negative will spread like wild fire. Positivity will have a relatively short run. Map out the key influencers and engage with them offline and see if you can change the outcome. Mostly they see your point of view. The ones’, who are ranting aimlessly, just let them be.

2. Voices that will ask you to buy followers – growing follower base inorganically can be tough. Fight this tooth and nail. If you are found out to be paying top dollars for the million followers you have, your credibility will nosedive.

3. Sometimes prominent online personas/offline personas with strong online presence will trash you in public because they want a favor. Take these conversations offline and deal with it to the best of your ability. You will want to “lose” it, but don’t, they will get exposed over a period of time.

4. Journalists will break news online while you are planning your press outreach and that will kill your plan. Connect with the journalist and request him to wait. If they don’t, release your news on the same day to all. And if that is not possible, just go with your plan. You will find acceptance in the blogosphere – just tweak your communication

Now how is any of this different from what you deal with every day? So don’t let the next session at your friendly neighborhood ‘digital’ conference scare you. Sit there and keep tweeting.

I end with a short quote from Seth Godin that I just read:

“When you rent a car with unlimited mileage and a full tank of gas, how far are you willing to go? You're only limited by desire and time. The web feels that way to me. You can share as many secrets, ask as many questions, write as many blog posts as you can dream up. You can invest the time and energy to connect with as many people as you have something to offer... The opportunities for generous sharing and connection are unlimited by anyone (except us).”

Now Go KISS the World Wide Web!

Deepa Dey is Head of Communications, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd