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Conversation Over Appearance: Finding Social Media Engagement Leaders

Company engagement using social media is not just the appearance of activity, rather that which is most important in a good social media marketing program; monitoring, dialogue, outreach and action. As a consequence I suggest industry observers should rank companies on how they use rather than if they use social media.

Over 60 companies in the Fortune 500 run a corporate blog according to the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki, a project I organize as a community volunteer where the community counts the number of blogs in the Fortune 500 and asks bloggers to write reviews. The number of companies in the Fortune 500 with a corporate blog is around 13%. 30 or so reviews of the f500 blogs listed on the wiki have been published. Looking across the reviews bloggers judged that engagement and outreach were the factors that rated lower than other success factors for f500 blogs. Companies might feature their blog on the main corporate website, but a number of Fortune 500 companies did not have a good outreach strategy to their blogging community, or even interact with customers on the comment section on their own corporate blog.

How a company develops an outreach strategy, putting the resources in place and implementing an effective feedback and outreach campaign is the most important aspect of marketing using social media. How companies engage and conduct a dialogue with their community is still a new concept to businesses, executives either don't know how to conduct an outreach strategy within a social media community, or are aware but have not committed sufficient resources to make the engagement successful. Really the medium of social media is not really important; rather it is the strategy you use to connect with customers. I've been thinking it would good to develop a new rating system for the use of social media by companies based on their ability to listen and engage customers, the strategy of engagement, listening and action if you will. That system can be used to determine the best practitioners in the industry, whether they be small or large companies, and the whole community can learn from their efforts.

Here’s my first attempt at the new social media engagement rating system.

1 Listen
1a Monitoring
1b Feedback

2 Action, Acknowledge & Demonstrate
2a Conduct dialogue
2b Resolve problems

Each factor would be rated on a scale of 1-3 as follows:

1a Monitoring – We review and estimate the level of active monitoring of the wider community by a company using social media. Has a triage system been developed by the company to sort and pass on information within the company?

1 = No monitoring is being conducted.
2 = Limited monitoring is being conducted from free tools such as Google or Technorati, to limited use of paid services monitoring, but monitoring restricted to brand monitoring.
3 = Monitoring resources are heavily deployed, and a formal monitoring system developed and deployed, one that uses a triage system to pass information onto people who need to act on the information gathered.

1b Feedback – Is it possible to give feedback to a company on their website?

1 = No ability to give feedback to a company on their site.
2 = Feedback welcomed by a company but the mechanism for sending feedback is primitive, some embryonic development of a feedback system within the company emailed primitive web 1.0 system. Feedback passed onto people.
3 = Sophisticated web 2.0 tools used. For example, bazaarvoice’s feedback system or’s idea engine.

2a Dialogue & Engagement – Determining a company’s ability to engage and its level of engagement with customers and the wider community.

1 = No engagement
2 = Engagement happens, but on a limited basis; just on a company blog or within social media networks, the company is taking a web 1.0 stance in a web 2.0 world. Or a company is using social media just for thought leadership rather than innovation management or customer support.
3 = Extensive engagement happening on company social media sites, outreach to community through technologies is being conducted by the company, and outreach when it happens occurs beyond the goal of thought leadership for controversial issues, innovation management and customer support.

2b Problems are resolved using social media through action - Reviews the extent of the infrastructure within a company for handling innovation, customer support issues, ideas and suggestions where the company deals with the consequences of engagement.

1 = No mechanism for resolving problems. A company may even be active on social media but only reacts rather than taking action.
2 = System of response embryonic and when problems are resolved an organic approach is taken.
3 = Resources and people have been committed to taking action, and a process has been developed. When action is taken, those actions are published on social media for public consumption whether the action taken agrees with requests and suggestions or not.

This was my first attempt at the corporate social media engagement rating system. Let me know what you think and if I should add something or edit the description? Do you think the scale is big enough, perhaps instead of 1-3 we use 1-5 for example?

Here’s a Google Document Spreadsheet of the three companies rated using the Social Media Engagement System.

Inspiration for the additional development of this rating system comes from a post written by Elizabeth Albrycht, "Don't Become A "Walking Dead" Brand: Listen, Acknowledge, Demonstrate.” And my accompanying post, “Fortune 500 Companies That Demonstrate Their Crossing Of The Blogging Cultural Divide.”