Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Expanding the conversation – giving everyone in your business a voice – 4

Posted in strategy and planning, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on May 20, 2011

This is my fourth installment in a hands-on, detail oriented series on instituting social media in your organization as part of your basic marketing and communications (see Web 2.0 Marketing, postings 55, 56 and 58.) Part 2 introduced an approach for organizing and managing this through set policy and practices with the Social Media Guideline as a best practices guide book, and Part 3 continued from there with a brief discussion of some of the issues involved in customizing this approach to your specific business and your needs. This posting turns to look at implementation, and with a focus on who is going to actively participate in social media outreach, and how this would fit into their ongoing jobs.

I noted in earlier installments that social media participation should be planned for and built out with scalability and increased involvement in mind, and even for widespread and general participation. This, I add, holds even if you begin small with social media participation initially limited as a supported part of your marketing and communications, with one specific group of employees not in Marketing and Communications doing this posting. If their social media participation works and you proceed with a wider roll-out, you will need ease of scalability and flexibility to make this work for you as a source of new value, business-wide.

But simply invoking scalability leaves a lot unsaid, and that is where this posting connects to this series. Here, I turn to the issue of identifying who to involve in this and where to begin. And I would suggest beginning with a dual focus:

• What is your business doing or preparing to do that would stand out in the marketplace as new and noteworthy for your customers and potential customers? Here, your goal is to get people involved in social media campaigns who are directly involved in this type of activity, and who could write and speak with a voice and a level of enthusiasm of an active participant.
• Who do you have on-staff who writes easily and well, and who enjoys doing that? Here, my blog should not be your role model in most cases as I tend to write long and with lots of detail in each posting. Look for people who can write clearly and articulately, but concisely too, and remember that since social media is ongoing, the next details can always be added in a next posting.

Who communicates effectively with email and when drafting Word documents or white papers? Who comes up with pithy turns of phrase and effective, concise ways to summarize ideas under discussion? Here, remember that most blog postings are a lot shorter on average than my postings are, and the idea here is to catch and hold attention and start conversations. And many social media channels are very size-limited for maximum posting length anyway. As of this writing, for example, Facebook wall postings are limited to 420 characters plus spaces, and Twitter tweets are limited to 140 characters, including any URL’s added in for both. So brevity with clarity can be essential.

• Look for people who can think on their feet and who are not stilted in how they express themselves. Good social media is communication with a personality and a personal voice. This is the core essential to look for regardless of posting length issues. If it is interesting and sounds authentic, people will read more. If it sounds stilted and awkward, and is filled with jargon, they will click away and even if it is brief.
• Your best candidates will probably also have something of a sense of humor and a knack for seeing things from an unexpected direction – they are interesting and come up with interesting ideas and perspectives.
• And they are probably using social media already as personal endeavors. Some may tweet or blog. Most anyone of the group you would want involved here already have an active Facebook or LinkedIn page presence, or both. They may have one or more YouTube or similarly posted videos up and they may very well post to review sites (e.g. sites like Yelp) or share through sites like Digg, StumbleUpon or FourSquare. And they are articulate and interesting there.

Invite the people you have identified as good candidates for this, to help launch this effort. Let your staff know about your plans here, and invite your employees to self-select by approaching you on this too. And support them in their participation.

• That means adding social media to their list of assigned tasks and responsibilities, and with time made available for doing this – not simply by adding it to an already full schedule.
• If necessary, take something else off of their hands-on responsibilities list or reduce one or more of their usual responsibilities in priority and allow for schedule slippage for it.
• If this initiative works out, make social media participation a formal part of their job description and of their work schedule.

And this brings me to the central issue that would come up in any discussion as to whether to institute social media for a business – developing this as a cost-effective source of value and measuring return on investment. That is what I will be turning to for part five of this series.

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