There are thousands of blog posts that explain the importance of quality engagement. Brian Solis even wrote an entire book focused on it. By now everyone using social media knows and understands the intrinsic benefit of genuine human engagement with customers. What I haven't seen is an equal amount of coverage about what happens when we move too fast and how engagement maintenance can really tax social media teams and company resources. When you bring social into your business fold, especially if you are an enterprise-level company with a customer-base of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, many times the engagement aspect of social media can creep up with a vengeance and tap you out before you even realize it's happening.
If you've ever seen the classic movie musical Little Shop of Horrors, you know all about "Audrey II" the flower. Audrey II started out as this little potted plant with a single flower. After said flower got a taste of blood, its hunger was insatiable. Every day it was blood thirsty and ready to eat 3 times what Seymour fed it the previous day. In a short amount of time, the flower was over 10 feet tall with roots and leaves taking up an entire room ready to devour anything in its path. I equate the nature of social media to our friend Audrey II in that, the more you feed it, the more exponentially bigger and hungrier it gets. In social media, that growth has a demand that far exceeds the supply we can put towards it sometimes, especially if we are doing things right.
Taming the beast...
The demand for meaningful and legitimate engagement is one of the facets of a social media initiative that grows the fastest. Before long, it's not hard to feel like your business is chasing the demands of its engagement potential, whose growing pains can happen quickly when you are off to a good start.
Here are a few tips to help you stay in check so that you don't set customer engagement expectations that you can't keep.
1. Build your social footprint slowly.
While you might have a global-sized vision that rivals most mortals, able to leap the tallest of communities in a single bound, you need to make sure several protocols and processes are in place to ensure the sustained success as you grow.
2. Don't be afraid to say NO.
If you are in charge of social media at your company and have a track record for success, it doesn't take long for other departments and executives to get excited about what you and your team are accomplishing (a good thing). But because social media can be a very low-cost way of doing PR/Marketing and business in general, your work can sometimes be viewed as an opportunity to squeeze gallons of blood from a pebble. Be realistic about what campaigns and initiatives you commit to, given your current resources, to ensure that the quality of your company's social perception stays in tact.
3. Monitor the pitfalls of others.
There are plenty of examples, blog posts, charts and numbers telling us at a high level what we need to do if we want to do things right. However, it seems like every other day I discover some new unexpected 'gotcha' with a customer, or a certain TYPE of customer, or a certain customer scenario. Take some time to watch other enterprise size businesses engage with their customers. More importantly, watch how your competitors are handling tough cases. From a competitive standpoint, the beauty of social engagement is that most of it happens publicly so you can see very clearly where the competition is struggling (an opportunity for you to fill in key gaps and gain marketshare). You can also see if they're trying something you were considering. The benefits of this are obvious (what's working, what isn't) which allows you to be even more calculated moving forward.
Navigating the maintenance and TLC requirements of enterprise-level engagement via social media can be overwhelming at times. Don't be afraid to take things slowly and down a few notches if the excitement of social media success feels like it's starting to drive hasty execution within your business. Your success and doing things right is far more important than feeding the unstoppable beast just for the heck of doing so. More is not necessarily better.