Earlier this week, I blogged about following the right people. So, let’s say you’ve gone through done searches for cloud computing, storage or something like social media, PR or gaming and spent some time creating a Twitter list and RSS feeds for those people/ outlets. From there, be sure to follow them in other places where they may be active. Even if you’re not friends personally, you can subscribe a person’s public Facebook feed. People like Jeff Jarvis are active on Google+ in addition to their blogs for instance. Robert Scoble posts a lot more on Google+ than his personal blog these days.
You’ve made it this far, now what? Read. Read a lot. Spend time looking at your Twitter feed in the list(s) you created. Spend time in the RSS feed. Get a sense for what those people tweet about. Pay attention to the sources they refer you to. Read their blog posts they point you to. Doing this will give you insight into what drives that topic. If you spend a lot of time thinking about a topic like cloud computing as part of your job, chances are good you’re reading many of the same articles from the same sources that the people you’re following do. But, I bet you’ll be made aware of some new sources of information. Follow those people too.
Now, you’re almost ready for engagement. I’ve already discussed Twitter lists and RSS feeds as two main tools for engagement. You’re already good there…
The next set of tools are blog comment systems. Start with WordPress. It powers more than 72 million websites and blogs across the Internet. Create an account at WordPress.com, complete your profile just like you did on Twitter. Create a Gravatar as part of your WordPress profile. Be sure to include a link to your company’s blog in your profile. Use the same profile pic that you use in Twitter so you’ll have a common presence on the web. If you want to be an influencer in your area of expertise, people have to know who you are outside the walls of the company. You will get there through engagement.
From there, I recommend you go through a similar process and create profiles on the other leading comment systems: Disqus, LiveFyre and Intense Debate. Be sure to include a link to your company’s blog as part of your profile and use the same profile pic you use on Twitter and WordPress. Having a common external presence on the Web makes a difference. Of the three, seems like Disqus is the most commonly used comment system, but all three are used by some pretty big sites and lots of bloggers use either the WordPress comment system or one of these other services on their personal blogs. Still, what matters here is that you create profiles for all of these comment systems. After that, log in to each of them.
Why go to all this trouble?
- After you are logged in to each of these services, you will be able to comment on any blog that uses any four of these comment systems seamlessly—usually, you can just start typing a comment without any other steps.
- Each of these comment systems track your comment activity. That means you can automate notification when someone replies to one of your comments on the Web. And it also makes it much easier to go back to any comment you have published.
- All of these systems create permalinks (a unique link) for every comment. This is important. You will use permalinks when you start blogging.
- Every time you comment on any site that uses one of these comment systems, you are leaving digital breadcrumbs to your social profile and back to your company’s blog or website. Good for you and helps build a bit of SEO.
Now you are ready for engagement. I’d recommend starting with your Twitter lists. Start simply. Retweet the good tweets you see. Reply to the ones you can offer some perspective or point of view on. Go to the blog posts they are amplifying and spend a few minutes reading the comment threads on posts you have a point of view on. Share your point of view in the comment threads. Now go to your RSS feeds in Feedly or whatever other reader you use. Find other blogs to comment on from there, and do your thing.
If all this seems like a lot of work, it is. The good news is doing it right will give you and your company an advantage over your competition. I’m confident that it works too because I saw it work at Dell. First with the break/fix support outreach we started in April 2006, then shortly after when Richard Binhammer and John Pope started doing reputation outreach. Those efforts were a big reason why we were able to impact people’s perception of Dell, moving it from almost 50% negative when we started down to the low 20% range a few short months later.
In my view, there’s a right way to engage. Here’s the Rules of Engagement that have served me well over the years.
- Add value to any online conversation you join
- Stick to the topics you know
- Be authentic, be human
- Let your passion and personality show through
- Don’t be afraid to disagree… as long as you can back it up
- Always keep it professional