- 25 years in advertising, direct mail, public relations and digital media, enabling successful launch of integrated social media and content programs
- SVP/Partner at FleishmanHillard, a global marketing communications firm with 80+ offices. Created the firm's integrated marketing strategy and services practice for Visa, Bayer, Kaiser Permanente, Electronic Arts, AT&T, AT&T Interactive (now YP), Hyatt
- Earlier clients include: AT&T, Jelly Belly Candy Company, Autodesk, Cisco, Sun, Ross Stores, Salesforce.com, John Muir Health, Hewlett Packard, Restoration Hardware, PeopleSoft, 21st Century Insurance
- All 7 Best Practices
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- There is uncertainty within organizations over who controls social media.
Social media can be used by a variety of functions in an organization. Because of the myriad applications of social media, corporations are often unsure how to organize around it. Because of the nascence of these channels, there are many models currently in place.
Common to most of these models is an interdisciplinary governance body that creates policies and guidelines. Expertise in digital platforms, social media and content marketing are evolving in terms of team structure and the team’s place in the organization. According to Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group (http://is.gd/VlTxEO), the most common structures are as follows, in order of prevalence:
- Hub-and-spoke:A cross-functional team consults with business units and other functions.
- Centralized: One department manages all social activities.
- Multiple hub-and-spoke:Many products, geographies or business units organize semi-autonomously.
- Decentralized:Efforts bubble up.
- Holistic: Everyone is in social media.
There are two groups in the most advanced companies who are logical managers for both the hub-and-spoke and centralized models: marketing/advertising and communications/PR. Marketers are superb at audience insight and reductionist messaging; communicators are excellent at dialogue, response management and areas of risk.
- Companies are uncertain about the administration of social media and the protocols for escalation.
There is no question that social media is a high-risk proposition for corporations. Anyone can say anything, and customers are prone to take to their networks to complain rather than to compliment (though there are notable exceptions such as Zappo’s).
On one level, companies may consider this a risk. On another, they may consider it an opportunity for customer feedback that will improve their offerings.
Most companies find that comments by detractors are often normalized by comments from proponents, leaving only the most egregious comments to be addressed in an escalation process.
If ground rules are established appropriately, escalation may not be required because there is already an agreement with the community that certain types of posts will be removed.
- Regulators are falling behind in their the clarity of the rulings for social media.
The FDA issued its final guidelines for mobile apps in 2013, and is still struggling with social media guidelines. FINRA issued guidance in 2011 with no follow-up. All regulated industries struggle with the fact that social media, with its implicit loss of control of communication, poses risks for the institutions.
All of this ignores the fact that social media involves establishing a relationship with customers and prospects surrounding issues and content of mutual interest. Experts in the use of social media for amplifying a brand promise, value proposition or internal culture can create playbooks and guides. There are even tools that can limit the content allowed in a post from employees.
Ultimately, it is a partnership between governance, risk and compliance professionals inside the company and social media and content curators inside and outside that can successfully execute a variety of programs and campaigns on an ongoing basis.
- Social media is always on and potentially expensive to maintain.
Once a company decides to launch a social media channel, it must commit to its upkeep and maintenance. Many managers perceive this as expensive. In fact, most elements of maintaining a social media presence cost less than traditional advertising methods and have a higher impact.
Social media audiences have demonstrated that they do not require high production value; rather, they value authenticity. Because of this, content can be inexpensive to create and maintain.
In addition, formal social media and content strategies allow a less costly labor pool to administer and nurture a community. The generation currently entering the workforce has mastered the use of social media and generally finds great satisfaction in a career role that involves using it.
Finally, we have a talent pool of digital natives who are embracing the role of “Community Manager.” The best of these take on a central role in learning every aspect of the company and the brand voice, then performing these functions:
- Creatively and proactively assist those who engage with us.
- Serve as the initial point of contact for inbound requests from online company properties and the web at large.
- Identify and analyze issues, patterns and trends in customer requests and product performance.
- Transfer the information to the appropriate departments so that they can respond accordingly.
- Monitor online conversations and participate in them to build brand visibility and thought leadership.
- Coordinate authoring and creation of blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos and screencasts – whatever media is used – to convey our message.
- Identify and engage advocates with discussion starters, polls, and contests.
- Proactively escalate issues, observations, opportunities and insights to the executive team.
- Communicate issues, opportunities and insights to the company at large.
- Stay up to date on new social media tools, best practices and how other organizations and companies are using them, so the company can continue to be an early adopter of these technologies.
- Participate in professional networking by interacting with peers and influencers and attending events.
- With so many channels and participants, brand personality and company positioning is often diluted.
Social media is sometimes referred to as the wisdom of the crowds. There is often concern, however, that the community may not be aligned with brand-appropriate language or may not understand the offerings or policies of the company.
For these reasons, it is imperative that a deliberate process be completed prior to launching channels. This process should include formal messaging definition, a keyword analysis and SEO optimization based on both of these exercises for your owned web properties. With more than 80 percent of traffic to a site originating from search, the more consistent you can be as a brand, the more helpful will be the search engines.
Finally, the company should be very clear about the purposes and goals of its engagement with social media. Just as any great marketing program starts with a brief, so, too, do great social channels begin with an understanding of the audience, engagement rationale and goals, and a solid measurement plan. Also crucial in this process is the definition of tone of voice so that the firm can harness employees and fans based on a consistent personality.