I recently attended a MarketingProfs B2B conference in Boston where the majority of queries I received from business executives was “how do I start a social media program for my business”?
Each corporate exec I spoke with had expressed the desire to wrestle back control of the “public engagement” that their business’ departments had begun with clients or stakeholders. It’s almost as if this new communication channel snuck up on them? It confirmed my suspicions that while they all had business plans, HR plans and marketing plans, few – if any – had any form of social engagement plan.
To each I outlined my corporate engagement roadmap, which has proven effective at launching my clients into the social-sphere with greater control and results. So using that roadmap as a model, I’m summarizing the building blocks that should be laid as a foundation for an effective foray into social communications.
1. Corporate Culture
Before you consider any form of social engagement, you must take a good hard look at your corporate culture because opening your business up to public discussion can be quite a shift for most organizations. The business must be willing to encourage open dialogue from the ranks, include customers in product development cycles and be genuinely ready to discuss successes and failures in the public forum.
2. Social Research
Your audiences’ online behaviours and expectations can vary from what you’ve experienced offline. The appropriate research will identify where your audience is engaged online, what their motivations are in each of the networks they frequent and the tone of those conversations is a must. In almost 100% of the cases where I’ve conducted this research for corporations, the results were contrary to the business’ original customer engagement assumptions. It’s a critical investment that will reap rewards within the first year.
3. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
As with any other business initiative, goals must be established and target metrics must be set. Setting KPIs should be the foundation from which creative, copy and engagement strategies are created to ensure that all executions are more likely to drive a result that supports the corporation’s goals and profit needs.
4. Social Engagement Plan
With the required research, goals- and metrics-setting completed, a 6- or 12-month engagement plan must be created that maps out the business’ social ecosystem, complete with contingencies and responsibility matrices across all silos.
With multiple business units engaging consumers through blogs, social networks, wikis or other, it’s imperative that the organization establish the “voice of the brand” that every employee and department understands and uses as a guideline to their online engagements. Some define this as a content-strategy, which it is but only partially as online communication goes well beyond just content development & syndication.
6. Cross-Silo Management Team
Each department in the organization will have its own mandate for engaging consumers, vendors, media, staff or external stakeholders. In order to maintain a single-voice and brand experience within the public space, a cross-silo team is required to provide direction, resources and monitoring. For more, read Tear Down Corporate Silos.
7. Departmental Social Engagement Plans
Each business department: Exec, Sales, Marketing, PR, HR, Customer Service should have their own engagement plans created; each with individual KPI maps that chart how they can and should interact with their audience online and how it plays within the overall business’ metrics and goals.
8. Community Manager
A relatively new job responsibility within an organization, hiring a community manager is a wise investment for corporations. For most, a community manager becomes the liaison between internal & external communities as well as direct line to the business’ executives for the public.
9. Corporate Engagement Policy
I’m not a fan of corporate social policies that effectively create an internal police force to dictate what people can and can’t say; however given the legal and public relation ramifications of public engagement, especially healthcare or financial industries, guidelines are required. I prefer to create engagement policies that educate, encourage and enable staff to engage the public in order to support the business’ goals, within the established framework.
10. Influencer Program
The power of social media is in the influence that crowds have on the perception, reputation and referrals of your brand. A key component of social media planning is the identification of key influencers and, equally important, the creation of tools and resources that will make it easy for them to speak on your business’ behalf.
11. Employee Training & Buy-In
Essential to any business’ social engagement strategy is employee buy in. I’ve seen employee advisory communities work very well for the generation of corporate guidelines, the identification of influencers and overall engagement strategy planning. Don’t dictate what your policies are. Rather, create management-employees committees to help draft them and give them a sense of ownership over them.
12. Online Monitoring
While monitoring is an activity that occurs after a plan has been executed, the establishment of a monitoring process, technology and responsibility is necessary as a pre-requisite to any social engagement plan. My personal recommendation is Alterian’s SM2 application.
Clearly there is a great deal more involved in each of these summary points that a blog post cannot detail; however, it is my hope that it provides a good framework to help other organizations asking: “how do I start a social engagement strategy for my business”. Share your experiences.
[note: this article was originally written as a guest post for www.12most.com]
By Sam Fiorella
The Social Roadmap
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
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