Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Social Media Strategy Step One: Answer These 5 Questions...

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal Technology Report referenced a surprising finding from a recent Nielsen study: 

"In August 2009, 276.9 million people used email across the U.S. as well as several European countries, Australia and Brazil....up 21% from 229 million in August 2009. But the number of users on social-networking and other community sites jumped 31% to 301.5 million people."
The good news is that more and more organizations are taking notice and rolling out their own social media initiatives, or making preparations to do so. However, what many of them are failing to acknowledge is that social media isn't a one-size-fits-all channel. As your organization begins to put together a plan for social media, consider these five questions. The answers can help ensure your initiative will meet your goals strategically and cost effectively.

#1: "Whom am I talking to?" If your organization is like many others, it has multiple constituencies. Clients, customers, strategic partners, vendors, donors, the media, your board, the list goes on and on. The point is, your communication objectives are different for each of them, which means that before you start talking, determine whom you're speaking to.

#2: "What am I communicating?" If this sound like a 'stupid simple' question, don't be fooled. It's where many smart organizations get tripped up. No doubt you've put together reams of branding documents with details about your organization down to the molecular level. Save it for the brochure. Social media isn't a monologue about your brand. It's a dialog with your constituency. Sure, branding is part of it, but the most important thing to communicate to your social media community is that you're listening to what they have to say.

#3: "Who speaks?" Social media is about conversations, so you must determine who in your organization is going to be doing the talking. There's many way correct ways to go about it - for example some organizations have a team of social media communicators who are identified when they're on duty, i.e., www.twitter.com/jetblue. Some organizations have a single social media communicator, like Kate at Safeway's Community Blog. However, avoid being anonymous. No one wants to have a conversation with a logo. Social media thrives on honesty and transparency.

#4. "What do we do about online criticism?" If someone takes the time to post a complaint or criticism, consider it your lucky day. It means they think enough of your organization or product to want you to get it right or at least give you a chance to respond. It means you have the opportunity to not only save a relationship, but strengthen it and burnish your reputation. So make sure your social communicators know how to address complaints in a positive way (i.e., "We're sorry you encountered that problem. Here are the steps we're taking to ensure that it gets fixed...."), are empowered to act to remedy an issue, and know the escalation hierarchy.

#5. "What social media channels are the right ones for us?" This is one of the most important questions organization can ask themselves. The answer is - it depends. Among other things, it depends on:
  • The answers you come up with for questions 1-3
  • What your objectives are
  • How your social media executions will integrate with, augment, or replace your website
  • How much budget, time and/or staff you can commit

photo: Leo Reynolds