Earlier this spring, we had some violent weather that included a series of powerful microburst downdrafts (mini tornadoes). The north shore of Boston was dotted with acre-sized swaths of forest that had been leveled as if by an angry giant swinging massive arms.
I noticed that most of the fallen trees were fir trees. In some areas, there were dozens of these sixty and ninety-foot tall trees strewn on the ground only feet from oaks, maples, and beeches that had miraculously withstood the ferocious winds. I commented on this to my beau, who happens to be a landscaper with an arborist degree, and he explained that fir trees and pines are more susceptible to wind damage because they have a very shallow root system.
What does this have to do with business?
Your business is like a tree, the various departments (product development, sales, marketing, operations, customer service, etc.) are like branches – all part of the larger, living organism. Ultimately, each of those branches connects to the same root system, the foundation of your company. Though a department may rely more heavily on one specific part of that foundation, a failure in any area puts the entire organism is at risk.
Tips for a strong social root system
Part of my professional responsibility is to provide clients with guidance on building a strong social presence and community. There are two directions you should consider, just like a tree’s roots: broad and deep.
Broad: Far-reaching roots are part of what keeps a tree standing when wild winds are trying to tear it down. When you’re talking about social “roots,” you want to:
- Establish a “hub.” The social home for your company can vary, but it is typically a branded blog.
- Find your audience. Identify relevant blogs, Facebook groups, forums, news outlets, twitter, LinkedIn groups, professional associations, etc.
- Create “outposts.” Establish a presence where your audience is already hanging out by joining relevant groups and communities.
- Listen. Set up “listening stations” that keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in your marketplace, for example:
- Add relevant feeds to a reader (like Google reader) so you have a central location for scanning the various posts and conversations.
- Activate Google keyword alerts to capture links to content that falls outside your reader’s territory.
- Set your feed settings in communities to deliver daily or weekly digests of activity to your inbox.
- Be consistent. Your presence is more credible and recognizable when you use the same branding elements (logo, name, URL, profile description, etc) across the Web.
Deep: Showing up may be half the battle, but it’s not the whole battle. Once you’ve identified your “territory” and set up camp at strategic points, your need to stretch your roots deep down by participating fully. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Pay attention. Keep up with those listening posts you set up and create a “hit list” of conversations to join.
- Schedule time to participate. If you don’t make this a priority, it won’t happen. If your time is limited, pick your “hot spots” strategically and start small. The important thing is consistency – even if you only spend 15 or 20 minutes a day, get out there.
- Add value. Say more than just “great post.” Voice alternate opinions, engage in fair debate, provide readers with additional resources, pose follow-up questions that take the dialog to the next level.
- Be responsive. If someone reaches out to you – whether on your own blog, through a 3rd party like twitter or LinkedIn, or in the comments on someone else’s blog or forum – respond. It’s not always enough to just drop in and deliver a diatribe from your soapbox.
- Share and share some more. One of the easiest ways to be active on the social Web is simply passing along good content. Promoting the ideas of others can open a surprising number of doors.
- Establish new connections. As your conversations evolve across the Web, you will find opportunities to create new connections. Don’t let them pass you by. Take the time to find out more about the people who comment on your blog – look at their blogs, find them on twitter or facebook or LinkedIn. Friend, follow, and connect. People notice when you take an interest and these small gestures can go a long way towards deepening your root system.
- Take it “offline.” When you see the opportunity, think about taking individual relationships to the next level. Maybe you want to collaborate on an eBook, sponsorship, Webinar, or some other project. Maybe you want to exchange guest posts in order to reach each other’s audiences. Maybe you want to co-pitch a piece of business. Great things can happen when we nurture our social relationships in “real world” settings.
Bonus Tip: Build a balanced root system.
In each area of your business, there are different elements that will help you create a strong root system that will not only keep your company standing upright, but will provide the sustenance needed to continue growing your business. For example, the root system for customer service might include comprehensive training for the reps, state-of-the-art technology solutions, and a beautifully architected customer experience. The root system for your product development branch might include a strong team of designers, an efficient collaboration tool, and a strong project management leader.
As a whole, these elements need to work together in balance in order to achieve success. If you’re product development team is doing a kick ass job, but your customer service is abysmal, you will fail. Conversely, if your customer service rocks but your product makes people cry – fail.
So, how’s your root system doing? Is it broad? Is it deep? Is it balanced? How could it be stronger?
Image Credit: zeafonso
This post is part of my “Marketing According to Mother Nature” series. From the birds and the bees to sharks and wildebeests, the natural world is full of metaphors that provide surprisingly relevant marketing insights. Take a walk on the wild side – you never know what might inspire you.