The Internet has and continues to affect just about every facet of business communications. Although the industrial sector is behind in terms of embracing all the Internet has to offer, especially in the area of social media, they are beginning to take notice. Websites for industrial companies are being redesigned with more strategic content that is search engine optimized. Manufacturers who scoffed at all the fuss about Twitter a year ago are suddenly appearing in the Twitterverse and taking their first tentative steps at social media marketing. Engineers at industrial firms are joining groups on LinkedIn for industrial marketers where discussions take place about how best to harness the potential of social media networking.
Industrial marketing and sales paradigms are beginning to shift. The days of “the hard sell” and “marketing in your face” are over. Customers and clients are looking for relationships with vendors – not just their products and services. In the service industries, the benefit of someone’s expertise is often expected for free before it is paid for. The world is getting smaller and competition is getting stiffer. Customers expect vendors to be available in “Internet time” (24/7) rather than the traditional 8 to 5 business day timeframe. Social media has created an environment in which the companies who get noticed are the companies who are more . . . well, social.
As all of these changes and new ways of communicating are evolving, it’s good to understand the new rules of engagement for networking. I read a blog post by Brad Shorr of Straight North, a web content development company, with a short but appropriate list of best practices for communication on the social web. I couldn’t say it better myself, so following is Brad’s list straight from his post.
How Business Should Communicate on the Social Web
1. Be Available. People expect businesses to respond and engage at any hour of the day. Corporate walls, hierarchical structures that stall communication must be dismantled.
2. Be Authentic. Spin doctoring is out. Admitting mistakes, acknowledging ignorance, seeking input and advice – that’s in.
3. Be Open. Customers want to see behind the curtain. They want to understand your thought process, the policies, plans, and products you reject as well as those you launch.
4. Be Relevant. We’re inundated with information on the web. Communication must matter.
5. Be Brief. We’re inundated with information on the web. Communication must come to the point quickly.
6. Get Personal. The social web is … social. People want to do business with people, not faceless corporate entities. Mixing business with pleasure has gone from taboo to table stakes.
7. Give to Get. Hardball negotiating tactics go over like a lead balloon in social media. Bloggers and online networkers are a generous lot, people who believe that no good deed goes unrewarded. It’s a new mindset for certain organizations, but an indispensable one.
8. Don’t Over Bang the Drum. Emphatic sales pitches endlessly repeated on Twitter and a business blog will ultimately fall on deaf ears. Communication must cover a wide range of topics directly, indirectly, or not at all related to core products and services.
9. Have Fun. We said earlier that it’s OK to mix business with pleasure. Spicing up the web presence with lighthearted video, quizzes, and offbeat content is rapidly moving from acceptable to essential.
10. Be Topical. When most people go online, they’re thirsty for news. Making business content topical and newsworthy maximizes interest.
11. Use Narratives. Stories are compelling, as they always have been. The style of successful business communication today is based on story telling, not a sterile recitation of features and benefits.
12. Be SEO Aware. Web content must speak persuasively to search engines as well as human beings. The proper use of keywords, HTML tags, and other SEO copywriting techniques make a business dramatically more visible in search, and bring more interested people to the table.
13. Reach Out to Reel In. With thousands of social networking platforms and millions of blogs, the challenge is to determine where the customers are, and then engage them on their turf. The Build-It-And-They-Shall-Come philosophy – forever questionable in my judgment – cannot succeed on the social web.
14. Go Short to Go Long. With the need for brevity, relevance, topicality, and everything else, online business communications forces us to sharpen our skills. Initial communication must be compact and compelling in order to draw attention and establish credibility. Subsequent communication must be deep and information rich in order to maintain credibility and build long lasting relationships.
15. Increase Your Hubness. Following all these rules transforms people and organizations from communication wallflowers to communication hubs. As information flows through the organization from customers to prospects to peers to employees to evangelists, opportunities expand – opportunities for new business, new relationships, strengthened relationships, collaborationsFree Web Content, new hires