Seeing is Believing

At almost every meeting, I’m asked a familiar question: Why aren’t companies participating the right way in the social media landscape or why do they take an approach that leads to confusion, miscommunication and sometimes too much loss of control.  Here’s my simple answer.  For the first part one of the question, companies are not listening, so they really don’t know what’s being said about their brands or where there is opportunity for them to become a valuable resource in a social networking community.  The second part of the question is answered the same way.   Brands tend to jump in too quickly and don’t put strategy behind their social networking outreach because they are not listening.  In turn, some of their strategies turn into damage control for a campaign (i.e., when Skittles changed their homepage to be a wiki and gave their customers too much brand control).

A surefire way to prove to a brand that it needs to participate in the social media landscape is a lesson in listening and the Conversation Prism.  For those who are not familiar with the Conversation Prism, it was created by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas in 2008.  It’s an incredible, colorful visual that provides brands with endless choices of where there may be opportunity to engage.  A Conversation Workflow process walks the brand through a process: observe, listen, identify, internalize, route, process, participate, provide feedback and repeat.

My agency, PFS Marketwyse starts with the Conversation Prism, but then we take it a step further to show our clients how over a period of time, these conversations increase, which we then plot for them on a Conversation Grid (this represents an increase in the dialog in a particular network between a group of interested influencers).  Here’s what a Conversation Grid may look like (this is a generic example).

The Conversation Grid

Conversaion Grid
Click image to enlarge

Then, when the conversations become more in-depth and increase in scope and breadth, we pinpoint exactly where the brand should engage in a social network and who they should engage with in order to build a relationship and to become a resource in a community.  We call this the Engagement Grid.  Through monitoring, we can precisely map a brand’s social chart and the point of engagement around a specific topic of interest, brand related dialog or an industry trend.

The Engagement Grid

Engagement Grid
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The Conversation Grid and Engagement Grid can also be used as a tool to map how a brand’s competitors are using the social media landscape.  I’m working with an oil additive company right now and our social media competitive research project is revealing how several of their competitors are actively participating in community building and even recruiting strategies in social networks, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Ning and LinkedIn.

In 9 out of 10 times, if you show where the competitors are, then the brand feels compelled to listen more closely to identify where they should participate and engage in dialogue with customers, media, bloggers and other company stakeholders.

For most, seeing is believing.  And, the effort to show a brand their Conversation Grid/Engagement Grid is minimal compared to the return.  Whether it’s conversations about the brand or what their competitors are saying, it’s extremely important to know.  Many companies are surprised by the outcome of listening, which results in a tremendous amount of information that can be obtained and then used properly to approach social media outreach.

In the end, taking the right approach and listening first is the key to connecting and building relationships.  It will also save you the time, money and effort spent on damage control for not approaching a social network the right way.

What steps are your brands taking to engage and is seeing believing for them?