Engage Your Community

In the previous post, Reaching Out to Your Community, we examine how you can begin to reach out to the social media community you’ve identified in previous steps. Now let’s take a look at how you can engage that community.

Engage Your Community

“There is no demand for messages.”

Doc Searls, The Cluetrain Manifesto

Creating community is one of the hardest things to do, online or offline.

Yet online, communities can easily and spontaneously form, grow, age, and disappear in a matter of days. So forming communities is one of the easiest things to do online, right?

Confused as to what these opposing effects mean for your community? You’re not alone.

Despite what you’ll read online, and even in this book (see the section Building Your Community on page 385), there is no foolproof method for creating a community. There are some principles that seem to be tried and true, but the reality is the personalities who inhabit your community will have more effect on its viability and effectiveness than you will. Of course, you’re one (or more) of those personalities, and controlling your actions and activities is extremely important if you are going to have a chance of being successful.

This means think before you post.

We suggest you create a poster of the slogan below and distribute it to everyone in your organization.

Think Before You Post

Many people have alienated others online through ill-considered statements and toxic encounters. To avoid making a mistake, never say anything online you wouldn’t want

  • Your own family to see
  • To see on a billboard
  • To be published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal

You also need to consider the heft your enterprise may have. What you say matters when you are a “someone.” Your enterprise stands for something. Thus, people are likely to listen closely to what you say. Think before you Tweet/post — and think this: “If someone said this about me, would their organization or good name be harmed?”

Another thing to remember: Inauthenticity is the enemy of your social media effort. This means you need to truly understand the difference between using social media as just another one-way communication channel, and truly engaging your community.

One of the main techniques your community will hate is known as sock-puppetry: the disingenuous use of a real or fake user to parrot the enterprise’s party line — just like sticking your hand in a sock puppet and expecting to be immune to criticism.

We collect a rogue’s gallery of bad social media moves in our Social Media Hall of Shame at bit.ly/HallOfShame. It’s a good primer on what not to do with social media. As far as what you should do, first you should create an engagement plan.

Next up: Elements of an Engagement Plan

Engage Your Community is the 22nd in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?Social Sites DefinedWhy Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1