Your content is being shared, liked, followed, or otherwise subscribed to. There's a lively discussion happening, where people who want to connect with your brand are offering thoughtful, helpful, constructive suggestions:
"Why is this package so hard to open?"
"Why is the lighting so artificial-feeling?"
"The online application tool for your company keeps timing out after I upload my resume like you asked. I tried it on multiple browsers. I think with my clinical and research background, I'd be a great fit for your pharmaceutical company."
"It would be great if there were things that could be done, even small things, to help me not dwell on my condition while I'm in your care."
The suggestions are all relatively easy to address. If only someone who could effect the change would act ...
At Genuine Interactive, I often ask clients one simple question early on in the process of working with them to develop their social media strategies: Are your social media managers empowered to communicate the audience's response to those at the top of your organization?
If you're "just running" the outward-facing part of the social media equation, it's difficult to truly leverage the insights of your audience. You need help from other team members who can actually effect the change your audience is asking for. You need them to be receptive to new ideas, and to implement changes where they need to occur.
But if that's not possible, you at least need them to be available for some direct communication with this newfound audience.
It's impossible to predict exactly what the audience might chime in with. However, it is certain that when your organization takes even minimal efforts to address the concerns of its audience, the payoff is better than many over-thought, expensive marketing plans.
Chances are, you could put together a short list of internal staff in advance who would be the ideal people to respond to various issues or act on great ideas from the community.
This internal group should be some part of the planning process for your social media strategy, so they can be aware of the environment your organization is about to be exposed to, and so they can work through any pre-conceived notions of how to speak with this audience. For pharmaceutical companies, for example, this of course should include the regulatory group.
While the free-form nature of much social media might appear antithetical to regulations, including multiple members of the regulatory team at the outset can actually be an opportunity. By acting as a partner with them and discussing different opportunities and scenarios early on, you can present more paths to success than if you were to leave them out of the process and simply receive a terse "no" to your plan at the 11th hour.
Another reason this heads up is so important for the whole team: timing.
The more prepared your extended team is to respond to conversations with the audience, the more quickly they will do so. Certainly, there are times where legal or business reasons preclude as forthcoming a response as you (and the audience) might like, especially in the medical community. But that doesn't mean that there can't be some kind of response that at least acknowledges and thanks the audience for expressing its thoughts.
Sometimes, even the simple act of responding with a few helpful URLs can do a lot to gain appreciation. With many organizations' Web sites numbering in the thousands of pages, having internal team members who can act as a "human search engine" can go a long way toward enriching the audience's experience and its commitment to your brand.
As Lane Becker, co-founder of the "people-powered customer service" company Get Satisfaction put it in an interview with O'Reilly TV, "If it's part of your culture, you can build an army of evangelists."
And as the noise gets harder and harder to break through from a marketing perspective, having an army of evangelists becomes more valuable every day.