Braving the new world of social media

A year ago, I never expected dialogue with my favorite reporters.

Now it’s expected.

The rules all changed once traditional media outlets began embracing social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Some resisted, thinking the “comments sections” after every story sufficed as feedback. But the smart ones realized that you can’t have meaningful exchanges in virtual spaces where everyone is anonymous and most are emotionally overheated.

Attach a name and face to the comments, however, and the civility and level of intelligence goes way up. Actually respond to the negative posts, and what emerges is a general sense of camraderie between reader and journalist even in disagreement.

That’s what makes Facebook fan pages, when done right, such great communities. Look for New York Times or Washington Post and you not only get lists of stories but an honest dialogue on each.

It works even better when you can break up your readership into segments, like Slate does with fanpages for each of its podcasts. These podcasts themselves feature top Slate reporters and drive traffic to the main site. So each fan page serves as a fun mini-community for political junkies, sports nuts or culture mavens. Post to the page, and you often have a host of the podcast respond to you directly. The pages got me hooked on Slate’s podcasts and overall news site as well, since I have an open invitation to reach out and comment to the creative forces behind the content.

This approach isn’t limited to news. It works well for just about any company looking to actively bond with its customer base (and really, what company isn’t?). The corporate world is beginning to catch on. A recent survey by PR Week of 271 marketers found that 63 percent use social media for their companies. Facebook emerged as the most popular tool, as “connecting with customers” was the most common social media goal marketers listed as “very important.”

In interviewing these early adopters of the trend, a theme emerges of representing the company honestly and openly. Blatant sales pitches (or worse, sales pitches disguised as user-generated content) are highly frowned upon. The marketing executives who have had success in boosting their brand through social media did so by having productive exchanges with their customers, responding to feedback and taking it into account.

It’s not always pretty. The company on Facebook will hear a lot more negative comments than the one hiding behind a static website. But those comments will get said regardless. Only through social media can the company not only hear them but also respond, often solving the problem and building a long-term relationship at the same time.

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    • andersj
    • October 30th, 2009

    Thoughtful, detailed, with great links. Thoroughly enjoyable and useful!

  1. I love this post. It is well-written, useful and timely. Thanks! – Shelley

  1. November 12th, 2009

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