Many companies are reluctant to fully dive in to social media, either because they are afraid of losing control, or because they believe their customers aren’t using social media. The latter is especially prevalent among B2B companies, and when viewed from a purely numerical perspective they may be right. (photo by The Dana Files)
An agency client of mine – Bliss PR – works with many large financial services companies whose customers are established CFOs. Are there 50-something CFOs using social media? Of course. Do most of them congregate in typical social media outposts? Probably not.
Consequently, my advice in these circumstances is to abandon an outpost strategy in favor of a humanization strategy. Find a thought leader in the organization, and make them the star, instead of the company itself. Chris Brogan calls these folks Trust Agents, and cites Frank Eliason from Comcast, Scott Monty from Ford and others as examples.
Related: Twitter interview of Scott Monty about social media at Ford.
I mostly concur, and I think for many brands it’s smart marketing (even beyond the huge potential customer service benefits).
9 Ingredients of a Humanization Campaign
For agencies, your role in a humanization campaign is almost like a publicist. Find ways to make the designated star a thought leader:
- 1. Build and optimize a blog
- 2. Reach out to other bloggers in the category for guest posts
- 3. Syndicate content to vertical aggregation sites
- 4. Publish white papers and ebooks, and/or conduct Webinars
- 5. Create a few killer presentations and get them on SlideShare
- 6. Do at least a little video blogging to make him/her three dimensional
- 7. Hustle for speaking engagements
- 8. Get on Twitter and make sure he/she sets aside time to really engage people
- 9. Make sure current company customers know all about the initiative and are invited to partipate
By making a real person in a company the social media outreach vehicle, you can at times bypass potentially thorny legal and corporate confidence hurdles, and give the organization plausible deniability if it for some reason goes horribly wrong. “He went rogue!” they can cry.
Simultaneously, you get almost all of the benefits of a corporate-branded social media program. Honesty. Transparency. Engagement with customers.
Forrester is the king of this strategy. When was the last time you went to the Forrester Web site? Contrast that with the last time you went to Jeremiah Owyang’s site (or Peter Kim or Charlene Li before they left). See what I mean?