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Monitor, Engage & Be Transparent – The Keys to Social Media Success

As the digital domain increasingly informs today's news and popular opinion, social media engagement is quickly becoming an essential element of any effective communications strategy.

With 82 percent of the world’s 112 million active bloggers discussing corporate brands at least occasionally (according to Technorati’s 2008 State of the Blogosphere report), companies that fail to recognize social media’s power to create and shape opinions about their brands do so at their own peril.

There are numerous case studies that detail the successes and failures (such as the way that Southwest Airlines has thrived by using blogs and Twitter to connect with consumers, or the way that Westland/Hallmark’s failure to engage an aggressive attack campaign levied by the Humane Society helped lead to the meat-packing company’s demise). But if companies remember these three essential rules of engagement, they can significantly diminish the chances that they could become the next cautionary tale.

First, remember that the immediacy of today’s digital media makes it possible to monitor your company’s online reputation in real-time and gain invaluable insight into problems that could evolve into full-blown crises before long. Treating the blogosphere as the corporate early warning system enables a company to nip potential issues in the bud.

Second, remember that an issue brought up on one blog can quickly propagate throughout the blogosphere and beyond – as Motrin learned the hard way late last year. When one negative post emerges, engaging the online conversation with messages of concern, commitment, and action is absolutely essential to keeping that single post from developing into 10,000.

And third, remember that social media users appreciate transparency above all else. If your online audience senses even the slightest hint of dishonesty, double-speak, or obfuscation, it will respond with its own special brand of justice – and the results won’t be pretty.

Utilization of social media can be a daunting task – but when approached with the appropriate mindset, it can be an integral customer service and crisis management tool.

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