Rules of Engagement

Social Rules of Engagement

Using advanced social media monitoring tools, like Alterian SM2, which was my choice for the Star Group, has incredible value. They aid in building an awesome foundation by allowing you to:

  • Find your audience and relevant communities of interest
    •Understand sentiment in regard to your industry or product/service/brand
    •Observe the behavioral cultures within each network
    •Recognize pain points
    •Uncover where your competition is/is not
    •Discover advocates or influencers who can come in handy during your campaign

All of which can support your team in building sound strategic direction.

Get Set, Go!

After listening and uncovering valuable insight and planning appropriately, make sure you are set. While you are getting set, and just before you are ready to go, read the following rules of engagement and stick to them!

  1. Be Transparent
    Being honest and open will be greatly appreciated by your audience. Make sure to fully disclose who you are and what organization you are representing. Transparency builds TRUST, which is key. Dishonesty or misleading people will be quickly noticed in social communities and will anger your viewers.
  2. Be Judicious and Smart
    Stay out of trouble and respect yourself as well as other brands. This does not mean you should not engage in conversations where competing brands have a presence but like mom always use to say “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”.

Be smart about protecting yourself, your privacy, and confidential information. What you publish is widely accessible and will be around for a long time, so consider your content carefully when you participate in engagement activities.

  1. Build Your Personality
    Determine the identity, character, and personality of your brand and match it to the persona of the individuals representing it online. Be consistent and reinforce! Lack of consistency leads to confusion and confusion results in reluctance to participate.
  2. Perception is Reality
    When distributing content on the web, make sure you know what you are talking about. Do not write if you are not totally familiar with the subject or situation. Do your homework! If your audience feels like you are out of context, this can be very counter-productive. Stick to subjects you are exceedingly familiar with. Conveying your knowledge, expertise and experience is a great way to be perceived as being a credible source among your audience and can greatly add value and build TRUST.
  3. Add Value and be a Resource
    This rule is EXTREMELY important because this builds a sense of community and puts the icing on the cake when building trust. Content should be on point, thought provoking and useful. It should help people, solve problems and keep them coming back for more. If they are coming back, seeking help, contributing and thanking you for it, you have been successful in adding value and becoming a resource.
  4. It’s a Conversation
    Talk to your audience like they are your friends. Being authentic is okay but you should not be responding to questions, comments and concerns as if you are a robot. Don’t speak at audiences through canned messages, introduce value, insight and direction through each engagement. Express the personality you are building but do it in a personable manner. Write your content to be open-ended and inviting a response to encourage comments.
  5. Learn from Success and Mistakes
    Learn from each conversation and engagement. Learn by assessing your successes and failures. This will help you adapt and become stronger. If you have made a mistake in a social community, admit it! Your audience will thank you for your honesty.

If anyone has questions, comments or concerns or would like to discuss this in further detail, please feel free to post them here, our Facebook page or via Twitter.

Stay tuned for Part 6 – Crisis Management coming next Thursday!

And if you’re just “tuning in” and want to catch up, here’s links to the previous posts relating to this exclusive series on Social Media Marketing Analytics:

Social Media Marketing Analytics – First Of An Exclusive 7-Part Series

Social Media Marketing Analytics – Brand Monitoring, Part Two Of An Exclusive 7-Part Series

Social Media Marketing Analytics – Competitive Research, Part Three Of An Exclusive 7-Part Series

Social Media Marketing Analytics – Strategic Development, Part Four Of An Exclusive 7-Part Series

Social Media Marketing Analytics – Strategic Connections, Part Five Of An Exclusive 7-Part Series


This article is by Marita Scarfi, CEO of Organic, a digital ad agency unit of Omnicom Group with clients that have included Kimberly-Clark, Chrysler, American Express, Sony PlayStation, Sprint, and 20th Century Fox.

With so much emphasis on attracting friends and followers online, little is worse for a marketer than losing millions of fans.

In 2006 Organic, the agency I now lead, launched a campaign for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: The Last Stand movie on MySpace. It was huge: It was the first branded MySpace page, and users could activate an exclusive feature by friending the page. In just a few weeks two million MySpace users were our friends. I’m confident the effort helped make the movie’s $107 million opening the largest Memorial Day weekend opening ever at the time.

But not long after the movie left theaters, the number of followers on the X-Men MySpace page dwindled to 1.7 million fans, meaning 1.3 million fans vanished. I don’t blame them for bolting! The page went from an alluring online hub about characters they loved to a page where they could do little more than buy DVDs. Sure, that’s fine for a lone film, but X-Men was a burgeoning franchise. Losing 1.3 million fans was devastating when you think about how valuable their continued support would have been going into the promotion of 2009’s X-Men Origins:Wolverine or this year’s X-Men: First Class. These fans could have been used as influencers for the follow-up flicks. The buzz factor from this community could have been used to measure in advance the potential success of each sequel. Marketing budgets could have been accessed based on the buzz. The cost of this effort? The salary of a community manager.

Most marketers and agencies, including Organic, have learned a lot about social marketing since then. But some have not. I’m surprised when I hear marketers ask: “How much Facebook do we need to buy?” It’s as if they think marketing online is the same as putting a message on a roadside billboard—a boring, static ad you hope people will see as they flit from here to there. I see too many boring Facebook brand pages that were created and now look abandoned.

Social marketing takes a lot of work if a company wants to appeal to and engage distracted consumers. It isn’t an ad buy. It’s a commitment play.

Some rules of the game:

Solicit feedback and opinions.

Consumers want to share their thoughts and opinions online—I’m shocked by how much they say—and this impulse is good for marketers.

A few months back Organic launched “Ban the Bland” for Kimberly-Clark’s U by Kotex asking customers to go online to design a new line of sanitary products and vote on the most innovative ones. In just two weeks, there were more than 270,000 visits to the website and 185,000-plus sample requests from social media awareness-boosting efforts alone. On Twitter, there were more than 2,300 Tweets about U by Kotex. Since the launch there have been upwards of 2.7 million visits to the U by Kotex brand website and nearly 1 million sample requests.

Consumers often have good ideas. They just need outlets for them. Consider My Starbucks Idea blog.  There, consumers can suggest new products, customer experience improvements, or new ways for Starbucks to get involved in the community. It’s engaging and ever-changing: Readers can peruse the most recent suggestions (vegan brownies, please); check out cool ideas (hey, add a pin feature to the Starbucks mobile app); interact with other coffee lovers; and communicate with Starbucks employees who are responsible for listening and offering feedback.

Starbucks is using social media to empower consumers, keep them engaged and give them a voice. That’s smart online marketing.

Encourage and incorporate user-generated content.

Pringles’ Facebook page has more than 15 million fans.  Why all the hoopla over potato chips? Because Pringles invites fans to use the page as they do their own profile pages. The brand encourages them to upload photos—many feature a Pringles can—share videos, and express opinions by answering poll questions. The page draws in digital natives and makes them want to engage.

Starburst is another savvy online marketer.  Its “Contradictions” campaign on Facebook asks fans expound on their “juicy contradiction” slogan by submitting personal contradictions. (Example: “I clean other people’s rooms, but my room is a mess.”) The 600-plus fans who have submitted their ideas get their name on a donation to VH1’s Save the Music Foundation—and their words and faces become part of an engaging interactive feature.

Use social media as an extension of offline ad efforts.

Domino’s took a risky but refreshing approach when it came to marketing its product overhaul in late 2009. The pizza maker launched an offline and online campaign blitz centered on its effort to improve its pizzas. The $75 million campaign included national TV and radio commercials. The company also set-up to chronicle the responses and development of the campaign with videos and gave consumers behind-the-scenes access to the new recipes on Facebook. This company is cooking: Its stock price jumped more than 60% in the months after the campaign launched.

Employ search engine marketing.

Google is the starting point to so many online interactions, and advertising based on questions typed into the search engine will only become more important. Some marketers, including Converse, are buying ad space on Google against seasonal or common searches—“how to kiss a girl” is one Converse has used.

Eventually, marketers will be able to search based on the opinion of online social connections. When that happens, companies that don’t have a grasp on social media will be forced to start over again with each campaign.

I can cite 1.3 million reasons why that is a total loss.