Social media has played an important role in our marketing efforts for some time now (my first blog post here went up in May 2006) and I wanted to take a second and share a few of the things that I’ve learned over that time.
1. Give People Ground Rules and Let ’em Go
The “social” part of social media means that you have to get as many people involved as possible and we’ve focused pretty intensively on empowering our team to do just that.
First, we’ve continually provided people with training around the various social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, podcasting, blogging, etc.) and how to take advantage of them.
Secondly, we’ve given people broad but clear guidelines on how to participate.
That is, we make sure that they understand that when you are writing or experimenting in social media under Novell’s banner, you are going to be perceived as speaking on behalf of the company. For this reason, what you say has to be factual, you can’t be disparaging, and if you are offering up your own personal opinion you need to indicate that very clearly.
You can’t program what people say, nor can you entirely prevent them from getting involved in social media. Given that, you get the best results when you encourage people to participate while at the same time plainly state your expectations with regards to this participation.
2. Integrate Social Media Into Your Marketing Efforts
We’ve had our greatest social media successes when we’ve tied social media elements into our broader marketing campaigns. Stand alone social media experiments have not worked particularly well.
The best example of this is something we tried early on. Back in 2007 when we began running campaigns around our Linux offerings and the power of open-source in the enterprise, we ran some “spoof” ads that mirrored Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” spots. We added Linux into the mix and got a very positive response which included over half a million views for some of these ads.
Although there was a viral element to these ads – we really wanted people to share them – they were very tightly integrated into other things we were doing. A couple of key tests of marketing effectiveness are particularly true with social media. In particular: “Would I like to see this again?” and “Should I share this with others?” If you can’t answer yes to at least one of those questions, you probably have missed the mark.
Which brings me to my final point:
3. You Can’t Manufacture “Viral,” but You Can Experiment Endlessly
When marketers first turned their attention to social media, we were all looking for that big viral hit where you spend next to nothing but get a ton of exposure. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.
You can have good intentions, you can try to create something that will go viral, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be you who determines whether it’s going to succeed or not. You just can’t make it so or wish it so.
What you can do, though, is continually experiment and continually get things out there that might go viral. Who knows, something might work? Ultimately, the low barrier to entry and the ease of use in social media allows you to run an infinite number of low cost experiments. The only real limits are your imagination and your willingness to put in the effort. In the end, our job is to positively contribute to the conversations occurring in the market.
So that’s some of what I’ve learned. What have you learned?