The biggest barrier to social media entry for most companies we talk to is one of “Where do I start?” The second most prevalent barrier revolves around the most often asked question we receive when discussing social media with businesses and their teams: “How much time will this take?”
For far too many, the discussion ends there. Not knowing where to start, but realizing that a social media undertaking is time-prohibitive based on the existing resources within the organization, is enough to stall the process before it even starts — even though there is an enterprise-wide recognition that “social media is something we have to be doing.”
The answers to both issues should be: “Your agency will help.” How? Here are 11 things your social media agency should be doing for you, and the 1 that you can handle yourself:
1. Listening – The most time-consuming (and most important) aspect of social media PR is the art of listening — monitoring conversations online for mentions of your brand, following what your competitors are doing, learning what your customers are talking about, and staying on top of emerging trends relevant to your industry and clientele. This has never been your job in the traditional marketing paradigm, and it shouldn’t be now.
2. Reporting – All of this information, in its considerable magnitude, should be packaged and qualified for you, in easily digestible packets of information. A listening dashboard of some kind should be constructed and maintained, providing 24/7 access to all social media participants and decision makers within your organization.
3. Strategy development – Before you do anything, you should know what you’re going to do, and why. Consider the who, where, why, what and how:
- Who is your audience? Demographically and psycho-graphically? What are there interests and areas of need, both professionally and personally?
- Where do they live, work and play? Are they on social networks and frequenting content communities? Which ones? If you don’t research this and define it, you have no basis for tactical deployment.
- Why are you doing this? What is your strategy? What are you looking to achieve? What would you like to change with your various audiences? Customer service? Recruiting? Marketing? Sales? Networking? Be sure to define the scope of the program’s objectives so you can ultimately measure whether you’re achieving them.
- What is your message? This is not “What will we broadcast,” as social media should not be broadcasting in most cases…but you should define what it is that you want your audience to take away from an online engagement with you and your brand.
- How will you do it? If you’ve done all of the above thoroughly, honestly and committedly, the tools, technology, tactics and action steps should reveal themselves. You will know what you want to say, to whom, where to find them, and what you hope to achieve.
Your agency will guide you through this process, then develop the parameters of the program for you based on your collective findings.
4. Research – After this step, the real work begins. Considerable research is required to identify audiences and avenues. Who are the bloggers you need to be introduced to? (This is the modern-day counterpart to researching the media list in traditional media relations.) Who are the influencers online that you should be following and connected to? Where are your audiences and who are they? They need to be followed on Twitter or brought into the Facebook family, for example. What are the other forums, content communities, social networks and other media that you will leverage in your social media efforts? (Pro tip: It’s generally more than simply Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.) And so on. (Really, and SO on. There’s a lot of work to be done here. If your agency isn’t spending a ton of time here, something is wrong.)
5. Training – Once you have identified who within the organization will be your social media sheriff, that person(s) will likely need training. From the basics of mastering the art of the retweet to advanced training on third-party applications such as Cotweet or Radian6, your agency will be able to provide you guidance and best practices so that you can work effectively and efficiently on all relevant social media platforms.
6. Social media policy development – Your marketing agency should work with you, your legal team, and your HR personnel to craft your social media policy. You have one for e-mail, why not for social media, where people are actually…you know…communicating these days? Don’t leave it up to legal and HR. In such cases, the end result is typically a Draconian dossier of don’ts. Aside from telling people what they can’t do, you need to guide them on what they should be doing and saying…how to represent the brand, who will be the voice of the company, what are the rules of engagement, etc.
7. Execution – Your social media counsel can provide a roadmap for you to follow. This may take many forms, including a blog “editorial calendar,” a Twitter presence management schedule, ideas for interaction on social networks, researching blogs and making recommendations for commenting/interaction, etc. They can give you the schedule, advice and guidance, but your agency must… [proceed to number 8, below]
8. Let you be you – Transparency and authenticity are paramount in social media. In most cases, your agency should not be blogging or tweeting for you. They don’t know the subject matter as well as you, and you run a risk if you’re asking an agency to respond to contsituents on your behalf. No one wants to talk to your agency — they want to talk to you.
9. Campaign development – Aside from day-to-day social media presence management and generalized visibility enhancement, your social media strategy — like your PR and other marketing strategies — should, from time to time, feature specific campaigns with particular and clearly defined objectives and goals. Your agency will help you identify the opportunities and construct the parameters of creative, results-generating campaigns for you.
10. Content development – To be effective in the social media realm, you must provide people what they crave. Content is king. People want value. They get value from interesting or valuable content and information. This may be a video. It may be a white paper. It may be a presentation, or a photo gallery, or information. What you share is how people will come to define you. You will need help creating much of this content, especially videos and presentations and the like. Your agency has been doing this sort of thing for years. Let them help to create the content while you focus on your day job. Once its complete and compelling, your agency will also help you determine how and where you should share it.
11. Measurement – Most everything online is measurable — that’s the advantage social media has over traditional advertising, marketing and PR (for which, generally, the only true metric of success or failure fell to the bottom line). In social media, you can measure attention, traffic, participation, engagement, influence…even sentiment. This measurement analysis should be presented to you in timely intervals, so you can assess your success based on the metrics you defined way up there in Step 3 in this blog post.
12. The reboot – If you did your homework in Step 3, and you are carefully measuring as outlined just above, you will have actionable intelligence that allows you to quickly and confidently determine your program’s success or failure. If it’s working, keep forging ahead. If you’re not getting the results you had hoped for, perhaps there are some tweaks that can be made. Or perhaps the whole thing needs to be re-evaluated and reconstructed. Your agency can be that third-party observer and counselor, and should be relied on to bear the brunt of the daunting task of rebooting the campaign, or simply refining it.
If you’re like most people — intrigued by the prospects of social media’s potential but bound by constraints of time and aptitude — don’t give up. It shouldn’t all fall on you. By my lights, you only have one small part in the play, but it is a speaking role. That shouldn’t be too much to keep you off the playbill.