Working in social media for me is an ongoing learning curve. I spend a lot of time researching international case studies, good and bad, participating in all sorts of social networks, reading and learning.

It frightens me that people are already setting themselves up as Social Media Experts when we are only just learning the affect that social media will have on the marketing industry, let alone the affect it will have on consumer relationships with brands.

My guts tell me we are only scratching the tip of an iceberg. Bigger than anything that the Titanic ran into. It will undoubtedly turn the marketing industry upside down and inside out.

I have enjoyed some recent success in social media on behalf of the clients who are getting involved in this space and Scott here at suggested I write up some case studies with clients such as Amnesty International (their Chinese Internet Censorship Campaign) to share.

No problem, they will be coming up, as long as the clients are OK with this!

So while I am checking it out with them, I hoped it would be valuable to take you through the very first steps I take before embarking on any social media campaign. I will also share some insights from the real social media experts, the blog community and what they think of us marketers!

My view is BEFORE any one, any company, or any thing gets involved in this social space they need to research. They need to understand to whom they are connecting, what’s on their minds and in what context, as well as where they are hanging out. You have to be humble enough to ask for some advice in your approach.

And most importantly LISTENING is social marketing, not SHOUTING your message out!


What is becoming very obvious to me in the dash to deliver social media to clients, is that marketers are forgetting some fundamental things about basic communication practices. As a result there is a massive disconnect between the blog communities and would-be social media experts promoting their clients wares.

Listening, engaging and asking for advice from the blog community are really wise steps to take before you go trying to deliver Social Media. It is perhaps one of the most fundamental failings of the recent NAB debacle, as reported by Julian Cole right here on

So first up, LISTEN

here are a couple of opinions that may interest you from two top bloggers in Australia.

Ben Barren:

Ben is candid, experienced and is one of those guys that reminds you of when you first learn to surf. He’s one of the dudes that is great at surfing, but picks you up and gives a word of advice while you are getting dumped at the end of a wave!

I asked him for his candid view on where this whole social media thing is heading and how bloggers feel getting commercial press releases, etc chucked in their inbox!

He made some great points. Blogging is actually hard work and there is blog burn out. He quoted Marieke Hardy, who won an award for number one Aussie blogger who just isn’t blogging anymore. If there was an investment, Ben argues, in commercial entities supporting user generated content, where audience fit works for both, it would be a win-win.

We all recognise the blog channel is highly influential, but no one here is co-ordinating the channel like they are in the US with a service such as Ben told me.

Ben says he and many of his fellow bloggers get fed up with getting press releases and a me-too product message. Its contrived, but he recognises there is no real bridge to match the messenger and the blogger.

Lastly he points to a total lack of education in the market. Ben is a seasoned professional in the digital space, but he pointed out to me some old fashioned rules around targeting and engagement are being forgotten in the race to do social media.

Neerav Bhatt:

Neerav has always given me such great advice and insights and he is not short of coming forward, as with all great influencers. He gave me some valuable advice for this piece, and for marketers looking to get into social media:

Don’t give me a product to review and let me keep it, thinking I will be favourable. I will say what I think and if you want to offer the product to me, let me give it to me readers in a competition promotion or the like – but I will say what I think. Just don’t try and overtly buy my favour, it is wrong.

Neerav, like many bloggers and social media participants, seek authenticity, upfront communications. I wonder from his comments if marketers are trying to be a bit too schmoozy, lovey lovey PR, instead of just saying up front what they are seeking from a blogger such as Neerav and Ben and being honest.

I appreciate how influential blogs are, how bloggers share information and how easy it is to get blacklisted by these guys if you piss them off. A key lesson is to be honest and upfront. Neerav’s last comment to me was, Please don’t spam us, treat us with the same respect as any other media channel. So don’t try and seed things, hiding those that you represent.

In my conversations with Neerav and other bloggers, I definitely sense they feel they are not being shown enough respect for the peer-to-peer influence and deep understandings of social media they have. I think this is down to a great divide between traditional marketing and new marketing. This is compounded by a control issue that media and PR agencies along with their clients are going to have to resolve. They are going to have to learn how to let go a little.

Clients often ask me, Which social networks are talking about me? The answer is invariably all of them. You need to participate, even if you are responding to unfavourable comment. Respond to it, before your brand equity gets destroyed in a slow and deadly fashion, while your head is in the sand not listening.

In my own experience, being yourself and being humble enough to listen, even if you don’t like what you hear, is critical to succeeding. Dont be afraid to ask for advice from those at the heartland of the blogosphere, the bloggers.

Im truly grateful for their advice, their kind recommendation of me; Im grateful for not getting dumped at the end of a wave with a mouth full of sand.

What do you think?

  • Are you a company who has unsuccessfully approached a blogger for collaboration? What went wrong and what advice do you have for other companies looking to get involved in the blogosphere?
  • Are you a blogger who has experienced a really successful commercial approach from a company? What did the company do right and why was the relationship successful?
  • What value is a blogger outreach strategy for marketers?