Social Networking - How To

The Corporate Social Networking Manifesto was originally posted by Loric Le Meur on his personal blog. We've been having a lot of conversation about engagement, community, and all the tools we use. A lot of times, I am finding out that people don't understand what all is needed to be successful. They think because they have a network, they've done all they need to do, which means they are completely missing the point. Loric created the manifesto that corporations should follow and these apply to any company or organization.

1. Listen

Use Twitter, Google blog and Google Realtime search and see what people are saying about your brand. They say nothing or not much? Your brand is dead online or not born yet, work on it. They say negative things? Great, it means people care. Too much to read it all? Fantastic, just find tools to filter. 

2. Answer

Many brands only listen and never participate because they have old style push marketing habits and scared to engage users. It's the best thing you can do, engage in a conversation.

3. Focus on the negative and thank people for the compliments

Negative remarks, criticism and even insults are marks of attention. Answer those first and understand what the problem is. Follow up when it's solved, explain when you are working on it.

4. Engage 24h a day

Social software never sleeps. Hire a team (which can be a team of 2!) in two opposite timezones. It is the best investment you can make and similar to a PR agency budget. We have at Seesmic two community evangelists in the US and one in Europe so that we can cover questions non stop. Have the management participate as well, you will find me answer tweets about my products often at 1 am :)

5. Be as transparent as possible

Don't cheat. If your products have a problem or lack a feature, recognize it and explain what you are doing about it. Don't use old "put it under the carpet nobody will notice" methods, with everyone talking in public on Twitter and Google Buzz there is no chance it won't go out, in fact it's already out. Go ahead and acknowledge issues and engage with the users.

6. Group the feedback on a site such as user voice (see ours http://feedback.seesmic.com)

We're getting about a mention of Seesmic every minute, many brands get much more. Difficult to read it all and all the suggestions, using a feedback site "Digg like" where users can submit their own ideas and vote on the ones they want the most will help you and make them happy as they feel they can influence your product roadmap. I call it our public roadmap. Make sure you close the most requested features often.

7. Be agile as you create the products

Of course it's easier if you are a software editor than a car manufacturer when time to market takes years. Your users will notice if you listen to them and adapt your roadmap to what they request the most and if you release as fast and as often as possible. It is a good way to create traction around your products (or lose it if you don't update and listen often enough). It's not taking off? Don't hesitate and move on, create something else. I changed my entire company mission and vision from a video conversation product to helping you manage social software after I saw the video conversation wasn't taking off as expected (it will eventually, we were too early).

8. Change priorities often in your roadmap with the most requested features 

To a certain extent of course, look at what is the most popular and deliver just that, your users will thank you.

9. Don't forget to innovate

Robert Scoble once said "if Porsche had listened to its users their cars would look like a Volvo". Think Steve Jobs too, Apple does not engage much but innovate and create game changer and genius products like the iPhone. If you only listen to users suggestions you might not innovate enough and your competition could take you by surprise.

10. Create a presence on most popular social software 

You would be surprised by how users are not the same from one network to another. Create a profile on all of them: Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, Ning, MySpace... 

11. Create content and share on all of them 

You can either create different content for every network but it's very difficult, I have chosen to update them all with the same content except specific interactions to one (exemple @replies or RT should only go to Twitter) seesmic and ping.fm can help you share on all of them by just emailing, texting or using an app.

12. Identify your best fans

Some of your community members are very active and in addition to liking your products and your company and team, they tell all their friends, convert them, help evangelizing just because they like what you do. Identify your best fans and treat them as best as you can, they are your ambassadors. Read Seth Godin's Tribes, only 1,000 fans can get the word to millions.

13. Create your own little social network for your tribe

Your inner circle deserves more attention from you and will also like talking to each other in a smaller community. Creating a dedicated group on Google Groups, Facebook Group or a dedicated network in Ning will be ideal (we created teamseesmic.com and often test our products with our most dedicated users before we launch them).

14. love your users, give them small gifts and special events or products

We send hundreds of stickers every month to anyone who asks us, we created previews "for teamseesmic" of our products and special events such as this one. Your users like to be loved.

15. help them share about your brand with share buttons 

That's an easy one we don't do enough, a simple "tell your friends" button to help them share it with their own community if they like it can help. Don't force them to do so though.

16. be everywhere and on every platform

That's a tough one but if you want to maximize reach you need to be available on Windows, Mac and have an iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia and Windows Mobile app... We're getting there as it's our mission to build apps, but it's very challenging for brands, especially since you need to maintain them after... Companies such as mobileroadie can help you with customizable apps which are already built. 

17. use social networking internally

A good way for your team to familiarize with social networking and the real time web is to start internally with tools such as status.net, Yammer, salesforce.com, socialtext or bluekiwi. Risk is very limited.

18. participate or better, support by partnering with the events

where the social software junkies go such as SWSW, DLD, Lift, LeWeb (Nespresso got huge coverage on Twitter for offering great coffee to all attendees), TechCrunch50 or throw dinner or parties at bigger events such as CES (Ford does it well)

19. Show us real people

Companies being just brands and products is also a thing of the past. We want human beings. We want to know who we talk to. See how @richardatdell (Dell) and @scottmonty (Ford) do it.

20. Use video, it's human and carries much more

Even Apple who does not engage that much has real employees giving product demos or tutorials in video, they are much more human and get much more across than text, they can get thousands of views even if they are not professionally produced, see how I do it from now and then. That video was shot without any editing or preparation. 

21. Be proactive and share as much as you can. Add value, not just marketing crap.

It's great to react to the conversations, but think about creating some content each time there is something important happening. Add value. Ask yourselves how you can help others. This post for example is probably helpful for some of you even if it's also an opportunity to talk about my products, helping was the goal, not the products, but no one will blame you if you help and use your products as reference from now and then. You won't create any following if you speak like a press release. Press releases are boring. Would you talk to me like a press release if we had lunch?

22. Patience!

It does not take weeks or months, it takes YEARS to establish trust and create a real community around your organization or action. Don't expect anything coming for free or shortly, it won't happen. Share, listen, reply and start all over again. Don't get upset when you get criticized and treat it as attention. Focus on the most active users who support you they will make you happy and help you continue on the long run. 

Have fun and don't treat it too seriously, be natural or let your employees be natural, it will just work.