Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing a social media business strategy – 1

Posted in social networking and business, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on May 9, 2011

I have been writing here in this blog about open communications and the value of bringing more people from within the organization into the conversation, and both within the organization and with their marketplace and surrounding communities. I recently posted on developing a set of social media guidelines as an enabling framework for making this possible, with an outline of the types of issues that employees need clarified in order to use social media effectively and comfortably in a business setting. That still leaves a fundamental first-step issue open and my goal with this posting is to at least begin addressing that.

Which in-house stakeholders should be encouraged, and enabled to jump into social media participation first, as a core resource in a business’ social media outreach?
• And very closely related to that, what is the best way to get them involved and engaged in this?

First, the basics:

Who: The right people to do this are not necessarily the ones with the highest-level titles on their lines on the table of organization. It is more important to find people who write well and easily, who have opinions and details to share that they can write about as the voice of a hands-on expert. These key social media stakeholders will need to be able to devote specific blocks of time to this, which in and of itself may leave off their more senior supervisors and especially if they would simply be chosen according to their title.
How: This is where the Social Media Guidelines enter in. And I add that these guidelines should always be considered a work in progress, subject to ongoing revision. Hands-on experience of a type your early social media voices would develop can serve to help you identify gaps and problems in the initial guidelines as drafted. You will end up with a more effective tool for your organization if you revise it according to the validating checks of applying it in real social media participation and the conversational give and take that comes from that. So here, “How” means as an evolving and improving process.
When: I already started this above when I noted that the people responsible for actively participating on behalf of the organization need to be given time from their schedules to do so. But it is just as important to note that social media is two way and if it is to be genuine, you have to listen to both in-house voices and to input and feedback from the marketplace and community, in scheduling time. If your business is launching a new product or service, or a major upgrade in one, you might very well see that as an in-house sourced reason for devoting more time to share a fuller story. But customer and community response, which may or may not coincide with an expected jump in outside interest, may call for extra time and effort on this too. This would obviously arise if problems or concerns developed. Sometimes this can be anticipated (e.g. signing up a new third party service provider to help provide customer support in the event equipment sold needs technician service. You can expect at least some customers getting confused by this if they have been getting technician support from older/former providers and now do not know whereto turn to.) Sometimes jumps in customer feedback requiring direct response appear for unpredictable reasons and at unexpected times too. “When” in this context means flexibility and with multiple constituencies and stakeholders in mind, in-house and external.
Where: I have posted many times now on the importance of social networking and social media, and in focusing in this where the people you are trying to reach go. You can sometimes effectively add new channels and points of contact to your selection of venues, where for example you develop in-house supported blogs from employees that would be public facing. But even there, you have to market these resources to drive traffic to them, where the people you are trying to reach already are. And you will want to stay engaged where they are already going anyway. This means monitoring where your customers go, and that can, I add mean asking them. So in this, “Where” is about being flexible and responsive.

But the key to this is all about getting the right people involved, and one way to start that might be to offer in-house-only social media first, along with an interactive Web 2.0 intranet and as part of your internal information infrastructure. Look for the people who get involved in social media there and who rise to the top for the quality of their participation in that initiative. I add, of course, that you can also use a more outwardly facing social media approach as a first step and without trying it more strictly in-house to test this out. If your people show good judgment and if they follow your Social Media Guidelines, you will probably not encounter any real problems. I point out in that context, a detail I added in my draft guidelines outline where I noted that a business can start out with a single consistent process for reviewing and vetting everything to be posted through social media, and then relax that in ways that make sense for them as an organization and for their employee participants, with perhaps only certain types of postings requiring prior approval. You do have the option to be creative here to find the best way for a resource such as social media to work for you.

There is a lot more to this as a general topic area and I am sure to come back to it again and soon with a Part 2.

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