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Too bad this is a post that nobody will ever read.

December 4, 2010

If your reading this, I’ve likely done something wrong.

I’ve read several books by well-know, established, and seemingly credible “experts” on social media, and each one has encouraged new bloggers with the comforting reality that nobody will read your first blog post. Their collective wisdom in this area boils down to something akin to, “So get over yourself and just write something.”

As a communications professional with more than 15 years experience working with publicly traded firms of all shapes and sizes (and the occasional stints consulting for small, community businesses and non-profit organizations) I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to tell Person A about Company X’s new product or service to help them be more (insert appropriate industry specific adjective here).

These messages have been traditionally pushed “at” faceless, nameless audiences with little chance of learning whom you have engaged or how well you have captured their attention.

Enter social media and the new Web.

Still perceived by many in the corporate world as the fringe of online communication, social spaces are now dynamic networks inhabited by real people who we know and with whom we actually want to connect. But beyond simply getting in front of these audiences, it is critical that companies learn to engage these individuals and begin to establish relationships.

In his book Engage!, Brian Solis asserts that simply using social tools to put your messages in front of people does not guarantee that they will listen. Solis notes that engagement happens when you create opportunities for mutually beneficial conversations and empower  customer as true participants in your marketing and service efforts.

That is a powerful, but too often uncomfortable shift. For companies who do it correctly, social media enables brands to cultivate loyalty and trust–the holy grail of marketing.

Communicating via the new web is more personal, more powerful, and more immediate. Social media demands authenticity and humanizing our messages. Companies and communicators must abandon the way we have traditionally created and pushed messages at audiences.  Spewing corporate jargon and pounding our chests about sales growth or incremental improvements in software release 7.0 does not engender trust or establish relationship. Market growth and sales penetration may be the underlying goal, but it’s noise to everyone but the C-suite and sell-side analysts.   It does nothing to engage your audience.

The social web is personal. We need to invite audiences into conversations like inviting them into our homes. We have the opportunity to learn about our customers information needs–what they are just curious about and what keeps them up at night. We can speak with them directly. We can respond when they say nice things about us, or when they are critical. We must listen and respond. If we are interesting and polite, honoring the etiquette of the community, we will become part of the conversation. Like any traditional form of social discourse, conversation lead to familiarity which leads to relationship.

There’s a lot going on out there, and mine is just one of many voices crying out in the wilderness. We all have a lot to learn, so in this space I will chronicle my experiences, share what i think is interesting, and highlight others who are innovating in this rapidly changing “socialverse.”

Now, if by chance you are reading this first post, welcome. Let’s hear your voice too.

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