Doing Social Media “Right”

When we launched the Geek Girls Guide, we didn’t realize that we’d be talking so much about social media. But, at this point, it’s the topic that everyone wants to discuss. Recently, someone referred to Nancy and I as “social media experts.” That label makes me shudder.

Here’s the thing: the web has always been social. AOL, chatrooms, the BBSes of yore, all of these were ways for people to use technology to connect with other people. So none of this is really “new” — it’s just that the tools and technology are more accessible than they’ve ever been.

Back in the day, it was just us geeks talking to each other. Now our moms and grandmas are here, too! And because of that — because more people than ever are using these tools — this is all new. No one has really figured out how to do social media “right” as a company or business. What’s the right mix? What kind of investment is needed? How can companies engage effectively? Who is in “charge” of social media within a given company? How can it be measured? We’re all learning. So as far as I’m concerned, there are no social media “experts.”

The companies that are in the best position to take advantage of experimenting with social media tactics are small companies. They’re nimble, not constrained by the beauracracy of large organizations, and are — generally — less afraid to try new things (because, of course, the risk of public failure is lower than with a huge company).

With that in mind, I came across this blog recently (via Geek Girls’ pal Sharyn Morrow) and thought it was a beautifully simple example of how a company can do social media “right.” It’s not totally perfect, but they are doing many things well. And I commend them for jumping in.

The blog (ATTN: Anna’s True Thai News) is for one of my all-time favorite Minneapolis restaurants, True Thai (Seriously, if you ever go there get the kabocha squash curry. Trust me.) and here’s what I think they’re doing well:

1. Tying it all together.
They link to their blog and Twitter accounts on their homepage. Nicely done. (Even better if you can integrate your blog seamlessly into your site, but if you’re doing-it-yourself at least linking from your homepage is a great step.)

The Twitter profile links to the blog, and I think they should link to the main web site (because it’s hard to find the main web site from the blog) but overall they’ve done a good job or making sure that all of their social media tactics are tied together (blog, Twitter, Flickr).

2. Having some personality.
The link to Anna’s blog from the True Thai homepage says, “The queen of all curries commands you to read her blog.” It’s charming and fun. What’s not to like?

3. Updating regularly, but not obsessively.
The blog has a a new post every few days. Even better is that the posts actually say something of value.

Their tweets are more sparse, but also packed with value (like an alert that the closest highway was closed and customers would need to take an alternate route).

4. Talking like a human.
Reading the blog and looking at the photos on Flickr give you a sense of Anna’s personality, which makes you feel more connected to the restaurant.

5. Inviting dialogue.
What gave me the idea to write about True Thai’s blog was this post on the difficulty of serving vegan/vegetarian food. Anna is up front about her challenge as a restaurant owner, and is opening a dialogue with people. This is the whole point of social media: to facilitiate and participate in conversations with the audiences that are important to you.

And how about this – an APOLOGY for an evening on which the restaurant was understaffed! How many times have you had crap service at a restaurant? Can you even imagine the restaurant owner apologizing for it publicly and explaining to you why that happened? I wasn’t there that evening, but this apology post — just like the personal “voice” in the posts I mentioned earlier — makes me feel even more connected to this place. I have to imagine it has the same effect on other customers as well.

In general, they are being a good social media citizen. They’re participating in the community, not just braying marketing messages. They’re open, honest and imperfect. The social networks are just that — social. To fit in to the social networks, be social. Be human.

And hey, if you need more encouragement to just jump in — AdRants published a great post on Twitter last week that includes one of my favorite social networking analogies: the cocktail party.

08/11/2009: Heavy Table has a great interview with Anna from True Thai about the restaurant and her blog.