There’s a Conversation Going On Out There; 5 Ways to Stay In It

photo of krishna de

There’s a conversation going on out there, but we’re not in it.

The complaint was made by an arm of the Irish government press office. And regardless of what you may think of their plight, the central point is worth remembering: The social web is a big place and stuff is being said.

Oscar Wilde, meanwhile, remarked:

There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Politicians desperate for votes and companies jealous of their image would disagree. A brand is something that needs to be protected carefully. Yet people around the world jump on to Facebook, for example, and blab away about customer-service experiences they had.

Navigating these waters takes a skilled hand, Ireland’s adopted social-media guru, Krishna De (@krishnade), told Thursday’s Public Sector IT Conference organized by the Irish Computer Society (@IrishCompSoc).

De had five tips for organizations to navigate these waters.

Understand your audience. Find our where your customers (in the broadest sense of the word) are congregating. The Irish are proportionately very active on social websites, De said. Bebo was hugely successful in Ireland in its time, and it is no accident that Michael Birch chose the country for his alpha test of Jolitics.com. Meanwhile, new parents go to RollerCoaster.ie, professionals gravitate towards LinkedIn, bands towards MySpace, and so on.

De suggested asking some questions: What is your audience interested in? When are they online? How are they interacting? What are they talking about? Tools like Google Alert or Twilert are great free resources that will start you off, De said.

Once you have narrowed down sources of chatter, De suggested undertaking an “influencer audit.” At the same conference, Larry Taylor of BT outlined how he approached the situation. He also referred to the “world of mouth” video below.

Establish your starting point. De and other speakers at the conference referred to the difference in attitudes towards technology between Gen Y and the older generation currently in management. She said that firewall restrictions in certain offices have forced employees to take in laptops with wireless dongles. A previous speaker, FutureGov (@futuregov) founder, Dominic Campbell (@dominiccampbell), said that kind of corporate rule sees organizations get “half an employee.”

De’s other tips were to evaluate your competition and define your goals. Even non-profit outfits have competition, she said. Does information you provide come from other sources? When her twins had an illness, she went online to find solutions. The best advice, she found, came from American sites.

Integrate your communications. People like to talk. And word of mouth is still the most powerful referral. The social web has merely magnified that power. De suggested that if you don’t engage directly in the chat, you should at least allow others to do it on your behalf. Videos, for example, should be horsed up on to YouTube so others can share them, she said.

Monitor, measure, modify. What it says on the tin. De siad to keep an eye on what is happening and adjust your message accordingly.

Krishna De’s picture provided by her good self on Flickr.com.