The Business Lesson in Scott Brown’s Facebook Strategy

Management can learn a few lessons why they need to move quickly and
adeptly at integrating social media into their everyday communication
strategy by reviewing current events.

Just a few weeks ago, little-known Scott Brown beat heavily-favored
Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts race for the late Ted Kennedy’s
Senate seat, held by Democrats for 47 years. While the recession and
Obama politics contributed to Brown’s win, they don’t account fully for
his meteoric rise to Washington.

Social networking has catapulted word-of-mouth marketing into
another strata. Obama got it in the spring of 2008 when he had nearly
93,000 followers on Twitter to Hillary Clinton’s paltry 5,000. Even
more telling is the story that comes from how many people Obama and
Clinton were following. Obama, 96,000; Clinton, 0. At the time, John
McCain barely had a presence on social networking sites. Need I say
more about the outcome?

Coakley, like many business executives, must have felt social media
was just for kids…or just a fad…or too intrusive. On the Twitter
scoreboard, Brown again trounced Coakley — 19,000-plus to 4,000
followers. But this time the story wasn’t about Twitter: 2009 was the
year of Facebook, with over 175 million new subscribers.

On the night of the election, Brown had more than 117,000 Facebook
fans. Coakley had 18,700, one-sixth the fan base that Brown built.
Think about it … when you had a message to communicate, would you
rather reach 117,000 or 18,000?  When an update was posted on Brown’s
page, it was sure to generate thousands of fans clicking on “like” (aka
“I like this”) and thousands of comments. When Coakley posted, she
received few “likes’ and approximately 20-25% the number of comments.
Paraphrasing the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Brown wrote, others
listened.

Even more telling in what is becoming the strategy of champions is
that when others commented, Brown listened. The conversations on
Brown’s site were interactive. He, or his staff, responded to comments
posted — both negative and positive. The conversations on Coakley’s
page? Well, let’s just say they were mostly one-way communications.

It’s been said that what matters is no longer who you say you are
but what Google has to say about you. What many organizations are
learning is that managing your brand and ultimately attracting and
retaining customers isn’t telling your marketplace what you want it to
know, but listening to what it has to say.

If you’re not listening to what customers, prospects, competitors,
employees, and industry leaders are saying… you are confused. That
light at the end of the tunnel does not denote safety. It’s a freight
train barreling down the track on its way to run you over.

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