Being Social and Personal, As A Company

Recently, I watched a video of David Armano presenting to a TEDx crowd on reinventing social media. A big part of his message was a reminder that the media we produce is not social, but our interactions around the media are social. It's the interaction between the author and the audience and between the audience members themselves that is social.

I think recognizing this distinction is a big step forward. In essence, just publishing content is not in itself a social interaction. Granted, that content may be the catalyst for some social interaction, but that is not really enough, in my opinion.

For content providers to be more social, and few extra steps are required:

  • At a minimum, be present to discuss the content you put out there
  • Even better, start the conversation by asking questions of the audience
  • Prime the pump a little by arranging to have other people who has a voice on the subject to weigh in on your content

Have you noticed how a lot of book now come with an interview with the author about their process of writing that particular book, as well as a book club discussion guide. Those same principles apply. What is every presentation you put together was accompanied by a blog post that chronicled the process you went through to get the presentation done? Better yet, what if the presentation was preceded by a series of tweets that gave insightful clues as to key points in the presentation?

But what about the other part of this blog post title? What about being personal?

Listening to David speak, I immediately heard this question in my mind? Is there a difference between being social and being personal?

I think the answer is yes, but I find it very difficult to define clearly. What does it mean to be personal in social media? How does one get personal when communicating electronically? Does it simply have to do with tone of voice? Or is the make-up of the content somehow more personal?

When I look out at some of the social media success stories from companies, there seems to be some commonality. Most of the time, the voice used to communicate in social media was attached to a person (Frank at Comcast, Lionel at Dell). Does a company have to have a one person do all of the social media communicating to achieve personal communications? Zappos offers a counter point in that all employees interact personally. But again, does it have to be a personal account (even if used for business purposes)? Can't a company communicate with a social media audience as the company and still be personal?

The reality is that most organizations don't have a dedicated person to do social media outreach, and so they either don't do it or they have a distributed team of authors who communicate out through a persona. This creates efficiency, but does that come at the cost of personalization? I have no doubt that there is a difference between a conversation where a person is writing from the heart and a person is writing from the marketing heart.

I need your help on this one, folks. I'd like to hear of any examples you know of where a company/organization is doing a good job of communicating with it's clients/constituents as the entity but still being personal. How are they getting it done?

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