Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First Time Caller: Social Media Squawkback

I had an interesting conversation yesterday and it's really got me thinking
I was presenting some social media options as part of a communications plan and explaining the importance of social media tools for media monitoring.

"You now have a feedback loop on your communication channels that you need to manage. Social media monitoring. Important."

Very experienced media relations exec and former journo then floored me.
"Isn't it like talkback radio though. You don't really care what some random caller says. You're only worried about the main commentators."

My immediate response was 'of course you care'. The power of the individual, referrals and trust and involvement and tribal influencers. How do you truly measure the effectiveness of your communications without listening to the feedback?

Her response was disturbingly logical

"When I was media manager for [large sports team], people would parrot stuff at you off two or three commentators. A couple of sports jocks set the agenda. Why bother with the rest?"

It's the clutter argument. And it's a good one

I've often thought of microblogging, like Twitter, as being very "talkback radio". Each username has their own little media platform and they talk, and talk, and talk.
There's not a lot of "long time listener" going on and everyone's got something to say.
  1. Are you more worried about what the host says or about what the callers say?
  2. How does this translate in social media?
  3. Is the host and caller metaphor accurate or is the communication flow different?

My small brain is still processing and I don't know the answer
The resource requirement for running a CIA style social media phone tapping operation would be massive and surely outweigh any benefit. Maybe just pick off the loudest drum bangers and get alongside them. Ignore the background static. Turn 'comment moderation' on and polish up the rest?

Love to hear your thoughts on this callers-talk to me now--hello?


SamNZed said...

You're both right.
The answer is you have to be in there already and being proactive.

The issue for communications people in large organisations is they can't follow everything. You can set up temporary watches during key operational issues to cover a range of radio stations, community and regional newspapers, key blogs, key noticeboards and social media. You can't catch everything and you'd need a big team to cover everything AND you need people in the regions. Most clipping services send you community newspapers a day late (if you rush them) and by then TV has rung if it's big. So you have to be smart. there are some key papers, a handful of blogs, four or so radio stations, noticeboards (TradeMe for example) and social media. If it is going to have legs eventually someone will ring, if you know what they're ringing about that's good.

But you can't follow everything in business-as-usual. You need to be even more selective and monitor a few things.

HOWEVER... the key issue is are you being reactive or proactive? if you have a robust issues and risk management plan (with trained staff and spokespeople and a crisis response plan) and do monitor key blogs, newspapers, radio, etc.... you'll keep up to speed - you may get jumped but you're ready.
The best position is to be there proactively. You can build relationships with key people in all the sectors, key journalists, bloggers, people on key social media, AND you'll already be in these promoting your messages.
Social media is about relationships and networks, if you're in the networks with some relationships you'll do better than sitting back reactively.

There are times where you do need to ignore some channels, you can't fight ideological bloggers or twitter so you need to pick when you respond and when you don't. The issues and crises management planning should tell you what is most important and most likley to go up so these issues are where you are more likely to go in and respond early with facts if you can. However from experience i know posters to newsgroups and bloggers have more time than you and aren't often wanting to be convinced. As you as you enter a debate with them you're on quicksand as their issues can change. If you go in, you need to be very clear about what you're going in to say and that you ain't going back.

By the way - corporate coms people don't really have a lot of time, you can keep an eye on things, but you can't always be there. even with the team of 7 or 8 monitoring social media won't be a resourced activity (very few organisations could designate and fund a position on that basis) so the media relations person will be expected to cover it, - getting the coms team acting proactively is the answer.

nzlemming said...

Doesn't matter. These callers are seeking you out - they're not running across you at a party or disco and bending your ear in a drunken manner. They're your customers - if you don't engage, however trivial you might think it, word will get round on other channels that "X don't give a crap about social media, it's all for show" and pretty soon you won't have a problem because no-one will be your customers. So, you'll have spent money to create a social media presence in order to alienate the people you want to reach. Unless you're only marketing to thought leaders, of course, but are you sure you really know who they are? In the digital age, every contact is potentially a thought leader with a huge unseen following (what if you blew off Stephen Fry??)

Of course, if you *don't* have a presence, everyone will think you just don't "get the net".

Her response wasn't logical, it was lazy.

If you don't pay attention to what people are saying about you, whether caller or host (and really, can you tell which is which), then you are not, in marketing language, "protecting your brand". Which is stoopid to the max.

kiwimmigrator said...

Interesting indeed. Here are my musings...

My natural response to the 'call radio' metaphor is, yes you may well be more interested in what the host has to say, although in a 'radio' sense you may well hear an interesting, intelligent, relevant caller you'd love to follow but the nature of the technology simply doesn't allow you to... the host is the only constant.

Things like twitter ALLOW the listener to connect to other listeners, and those bonds made through a communal interet in a brand, or host, can only strengthen said brand/host.

Problem is that there's seemingly no easy way to know what @ messages are refering to, so you end up largly ignoring the 'callers' as their communitcation is indecipherable 1 on 1 communicataion not often worded in an inclusive way.