Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing a social media business strategy – 3

Posted in social networking and business, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on June 11, 2011

Approximately a month ago I wrote a first installment in what I intended as a short series with Developing a Social Media Business Strategy – 1, and my goal in that was to outline some of the Who, What and Where of widening the business social media conversation from the perspective of participating content contributors. I followed that with a Part 2, continuing discussion of these same social media contributor issues and said at that time, that I would follow up on that start with another posting as well. And then I turned, within this general subject area to a related and even parallel series Expanding the Conversation – giving everyone in your business a voice (see Web 2.0 Marketing, postings 55, 56, 58-61)

I have continued thinking about this and have decided to add that third installment, but this time focusing on a more strictly business process side to this set of issues, and on the business strategy side of social media business strategy. And I begin this posting with some general observations.

• If you succeed in bringing people from a wide range of your organization into the social media conversation, you create a situation where management in every group, section, team and department feels they need to have a direct stake in ownership and control of your business’ social media marketing. After all, if the social media message shared as coming from the business, comes from people who report to these managers and on areas of topic and interest related to their specific professional mission and practices, what is said online directly involves them.
• Even if only certain areas of your business are involved in this, management there will all claim this type of ownership and control.
• But if everyone claims ownership and the right to make binding decisions for something like a business social media presence, in effect no one really owns it.

Is this a problem? For some type of content decision, the answer may be yes, but if a well drafted social media guideline is in place, this may not be all that bad a situation, at the level of specific day to day content inclusion or exclusion decisions. But it still makes sense to provide an organizational structure to help resolve conflicts and disagreements and to referee where help is needed in making posting decisions.

Who should play the deciding role where decisions escalate up the table of organization? That is not necessarily someone from the Marketing department, as this is not entirely about branding or message consistency. What department, service or functional areas deal with the most compelling disclosure restrictions? For businesses in the financial sector, this may very well be Legal, where wide ranges of information are formally and explicitly controlled according to legally mandated externally derived guidelines, rules and law. But other parts of the organization may need to approve and vet too, including Sales, Research and Development and others.

• If internal silo walls keep people from talking with each other who need to work together to make effective decisions as to what is shared online and how, effectively implementing a social media guideline is going to have to involve opening up new lines of communications.
• Internal to the organization silo walls and effective interactive online communications with the marketplace and outside communities do not mix very well.

As for the role of Marketing and Communications per se in this – yes, include a style guide for basic branding issues in the guidelines, but it can be more important that your employees who enter into social media speak with genuine voices, than it is that they always get every detail of your standard marketing and communications style guide exactly right. Stilted and edited do not come across as genuine and it is the possibility of creating genuine dialogs that this brings you the most value from this endeavor.

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