Janet has generously offered to share some great information on creating a corporate policy — so much great info, in fact, that we’ve split it into two parts. Check back here next week for Part II.
Some of the most vehement arguments I hear against social media are from PR and marketing people. They say they don’t trust it because they can’t control what people are saying about them or the spin that may be put on their message once they release it to the webverse.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter. Odds are very good that people are out there right now talking about you, your brand, your product to, at the very least, the market you operate in.
If you’re not part of the conversation, not only are you missing the opportunity to engage in the discussion, but you are completely unable to manage an emerging situation until it escalates to a point you can see it from afar. If, however, you’ve got your ear to the ground and you see some mixed messages, conflict, or bad image out there cropping up, you have the potential to contain it or even turn it around with some well-timed conversations with the people you’ve developed a relationship with.
Often times, simply creating a corporate social media strategy helps people get over the initial fear of losing control. Sometimes it even helps with existing media campaigns by focusing the messaging even more clearly and allowing the team to step back and make sure they have all the tools they need to successfully communicate and monitor the messaging they distribute in all of their media channels.
So. Let’s lay out the basics of a good corporate social media plan and how to build it.
Start with your team
How many people can actively work on this and what are their time commitments and resources? Identify the lead for each area of your strategy and make sure everybody knows who those people are.
Create clear rules for use so people start to relax. Especially if they are uncomfortable with the format, they’ll use the guidelines you give them until the get used to how it all works and they see those first results. They are also less likely to make mistakes. State clearly what standards of performance you expect. A little personal responsibility and some common sense goes a long way.
What existing messaging do you have right now? Is it in a format that everyone who will participate has access to and clearly understands? Do you have a branding policy? Are logos, color, and font standards clearly defined and available to the team at any time? Are corporate backgrounders, CXO bios, whitepapers, and other important data easily accessible?
Identify the dos and don’ts
Is there specific terminology or imagery that you want associated with your brand? How about the terms and graphics you don’t want associated? Clearly identify these and talk it over with the team. Are there certain topics that must have sign-off from a senior member to even talk about? Identify the go-to person to either direct outside questions to or run sensitive statements by before posting.
I’m not saying you should strangle your team in what they can and cannot say. This is very hard to understand for many larger corporations where the legal department approves every press release and the PR department approves every statement on the website before it goes live. Social media doesn’t work like this. If your statements appear to be canned or professionally produced, they’re bound to fall flat. Let the team know the facts when a new product comes out or when you reach a noteworthy milestone. Then trust them to put it in their own words.
How will you measure success?
ROI or ROE (Return on Engagement) are often hotly debated topics. How do you measure the value of a long-term relationship? The value of a member of an extended network creating a new opportunity for you? Evangelists blossoming in places you never expected?
That said, you need to have some expectations for what you are going to do, how much funding and energy you’re going to expend to do it, and how you will know if you’ve been successful or not.
I can’t go deeply into the ROI/ROE discussion here, but let me just say it’s like any other marketing or sales campaign. Success rarely happens overnight or without considerable advance planning. Taking the time to think about it and plan sets you up for a better chance of success. Whatever you are going to measure, take some benchmarks before you start so you can clearly see if progress has been made.
Identify your best platforms and tools
Do some listening to find the networks and platforms you need to be present on and figure out who will communicate on each one(s). I always believe it’s better to start small and expand your social media presence as you become comfortable with the networks and the process. It’s also easier for you to manage and monitor your team.
Separate personal and professional
Keep in mind that your employer is probably listening for mentions of the brand online. If you choose to talk about company business while in your personal account on a social network, make sure it stays within the corporate guidelines. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss, why would you say it in front of thousands of people? The same thing goes for when you’re participating in a network as part of your business. You wouldn’t bring up deeply personal things in a board meeting, so why would you say them online?
If you have a number of people blogging or posting for your company, figure out a way for each person to identify themselves. The team at Dell each use a variation on their own name on Twitter followed by Dell (@RichardatDell, @DellServerGeek, etc), while Coca Cola uses a simple initial for each person at the end of their post (jf).
Janet Fouts is a social media coach, author, trainer, and frequent speaker on social media and online marketing.