A guide to developing a social media process

1 Aug 2011

Keeping it social: A 10-step guide to developing a social media process that can be applied to any organisation.

Over the past couple of years, social media has emerged as a marketing game changer that puts customers back at the centre of the organisation and provides marketers with a new set of tools to listen to and converse with these consumers and to encourage them to engage with their brands.

In their recently published book, Marketing Communications – Integrating Offline and Online With Social Media Today (Kogan Page,
2011), PR Smith and Ze Zook point out that social media is not just a marketing tool, it’s a new way of running a business that requires a new company culture.

The following is a 10-step guide to help marketers get to grips with developing a social media process is reproduced from the book.

Step 1: Start monitoring and listening
A social media audit establishes an organisation’s reputation (and your competitors’ reputations). Develop a comprehensive monitoring strategy to discover the issues: what can have an impact on your brand?; the influencers in your marketplace; the platforms or places where your customers (and influencers) congregate (the influential networks, including blogs, discussion groups and other social networks); and, the opinions customers have about your product, your company and the competition. If your brand or industry discussions are focused on one or two platforms, this makes it easier to concentrate your efforts.

Step 2: Set priorities and goals, and don’t try to cover all social media outlets
It is not possible to engage in all conversations everywhere. Pick the more important ones initially. Not all online conversations have the same impact. Identify the more important ones. Learn when and when not to engage. Have clearly defined objectives and know exactly what you are trying to achieve with social media (ie, reposition the company, develop relationships, establish the brand as credible, grow awareness, etc).

Step 3: Agree key messages
Have crystal-clear messages. Be ready to engage with the target audience in a meaningful way (give them what’s relevant and important to them). What topics and key phrases does the organisation want to be associated with? Prepare canned messages for a range of issues or situations so they can be tailored easily. Show the team how to create links, back links and retweets. Share guidelines for what is and isn’t appropriate.

Step 4: Develop good content – help and share
Your content has to be valuable; otherwise you’re just shouting or ‘making noise’. You have to be prepared to help and share good content. Do not sell primarily. Sales may follow good content. Social media is not a direct marketing tool. Share articles, presentations and videos that are relevant – these can be yours or someone else’s (as long you credit them and link to them). Only add comments to other discussions if you are being helpful and relevant.

Step 5: Recruit and train the team of spokespeople
Whether it’s a blog, a Twitter account or a YouTube channel, you need to identify who is in the team, ie, who has permission to write a blog post or a tweet or upload a video. Who handles responses? Is it certain people for certain issues? Is it one spokesperson or several? Equally, who monitors what? Who reports to whom? Once you have your team trained, brief the rest of the organisation. Share the strategy with the whole organisation.

Step 6: Commit time and resources
You need a consistent stream of useful content. Don’t just dabble. This requires clear briefings, training and motivation, which in turn requires resources. Monitoring requires resources also, whether you use an outside agency or do it in-house. Once you start proving the value of social media, you should find it easier to allocate resources to it.

Step 7: Constantly promote social media
Just as all organisations now promote their websites in everything they do, so, too, should social media be promoted. Announce your Twitter handle (name), Facebook page or LinkedIn profile at every opportunity. Add it to all the company’s email signatures and collateral. Announce it at conferences and news releases. Add the details to slides, news releases and the letterhead. List it on your website. Post all presentations on your social media sites. In fact, all offline communications should be integrated with social media, ie, Twitter, blogs and Facebook announcements about an upcoming conference. Videos and photos of the event and speeches can be uploaded to YouTube and Flickr respectively.

Step 8: Integrate online and offline events
The online social media team or consultancy needs to work more closely with the offline team, as it needs to know what marketing events are happening in advance. As the website is a conduit, it can get more bang for its buck if it is integrated, ie, brief video production companies and photographers as to what formats and style are needed for web use. A shared schedule of events or an outline plan to allow the integration and leverage of various marketing assets onto social media platforms (like ads, promotions, videos, etc) is essential.

Step 9: Plan for success
Although it may take some time to build up your networks and followers, be prepared for a sudden influx of comments, visitors and enquiries. This is a nice problem to have. However, if the organisation cannot handle the incoming web traffic with its comments and enquiries, it could end up generating a lot of negative PR. Develop credibility before raising visibility.

Step 10: Measure, measure, measure
Don’t play Russian roulette by (up)loading your message, pushing or spinning it out and then closing your eyes and hoping for the best. Watch the analytics. See if traffic has spikes as a result of any particular posting. What posts generate a buzz? One new discussion on an e-marketing group in LinkedIn generated more than 2,000 responses. It was called ‘Social media is crap’, and had a detailed post of why the person felt it didn’t work. Watch what generates visitors, conversions and good comments (as opposed to negative comments).

This article originally appeared in Marketing Age, Volume 5, Issue 2, 2011