Teaching a man to “social” fish: A proverb for marketing teams
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By Tina Williams, IBM Program Manager for Social Business Initiatives
@ideasattjw

My days are spent focused on helping marketing teams to engage sales teams and technical communities in social activities.  I’ve heard a lot of opinions and approaches to helping “newbies” learn to Tweet and blog for the first time. In this post I’d like to share my thoughts on addressing this challenge by applying the common proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Let me know if you agree, or even if you don’t! 

Sample content is just the baitimage

In recent years, “tip sheets” have emerged across our organizations in both email and document formats. I’ve heard debates about whether tip sheets that include sample Tweets are a good practice or not.

Those who like tip sheets feel they need to provide content around key messages to their communities if they want the messages to get out. They want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get involved and share important information in a timely manner.  

Those who don’t like tip sheets argue that sample Tweets just cause communities to spam the social venues. They worry that because members of their communities may likely be involved in similar social channels, if they just cut, paste and post the sample content it will result in a negative market impression.  

Both opinions have merit, but to me the challenge isn’t really the sample Tweet content. This content is just the “bait.”

Let’s apply this concept to fishing. If you are new to fishing, what if someone didn’t supply you with worms or some other bait? What would you do? You would have to have the right tools—a shovel. You’d have to know where to look—some moist soil. And you’d have to know how to do the work—the digging, sifting and searching. And then you’d need to know how to keep the worms alive until you go fishing.

The same is true for social content.  Often those in sales or other positions who we would like to Tweet or post simply don’t have the time to research relevant content or keep up with new announcements and information. So it is important for marketing teams to invest time and resources in researching and sifting through their marketing messages; collateral and assets; and market and industry news to find relevant content. 

In my opinion, it is more effective to centralize this activity, with a collaboration tool like Connections, with staff who are experienced at using social listening and research tools. They can make sure the content is written in ways that will result in the highest engagement. And they’ll have the skills to find and develop different types of content to attract different “fish” or potential clients into conversations and engagement. 

imageProperly hooking the bait is critical to catching the fish

Once you have your worms for bait, you wouldn’t just throw them into the water, right? This would make you popular in the local fish community—“Here comes that guy to feed us again!”—but wouldn’t help you actually catch any fish.  

How does this apply to social content and posting? To me, the cut-and-paste approach is pretty much the same as dumping your bait in the water. It is pretty obvious when someone is posting canned content because it lacks any personality. 

To catch fish, the bait has to be placed on the hook skillfully to make sure it doesn’t just fall off when you cast the line. Likewise, to engage your audience in social channels, you need to properly “hook” social content you’ve been given so that it will attract your audience.

The hook is your own slant or personal touch.  When you read the sample content and review the links your marketing team has prepared for you, what are your thoughts? What information is useful to you that you now want to share? You should modify the content to reflect your personality so that your network will feel that it is authentically coming from you. I like this site that provides a nice reference for “Types of Content We Crave.” As the author states, “If your content doesn’t resonate with your audience, then they won’t follow you where you want to take them.”

Casting your line where and when the fish are biting

Now that you’ve gotten the content samples from your marketing team and personalized it to share, you should consider where and when to best cast your thoughts. What social channels are your peers involved in, especially those who would be interested in your thoughts on a particular subject? When are they most likely to be in these “waters” to see your “hooked bait”? 

By using this fishing analogy I don’t mean to imply that being social is all about trying to get someone on your “line.” However, providing relevant content, personalizing it and directing it to the right social channels at the right time are all keys to successful social engagement.

Being effective in social channels is really just an extension of how we build relationships face to face. And while I can understand marketing teams’ worry about creating sample social content for the communities they support, if we also teach these individuals to use this content in the appropriate way, it can result in meaningful and authentic engagement and discussions.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments here or let’s have a discussion on Twitter. You can find me at @ideasattjw


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