Getting your business started in social media isn't hard. But considering the amount of businesses that stink at it, maybe it should be harder. Or maybe businesses deciding to take the plunge into social media need to have a leader with a plan. What a concept.
- Monitor your brand. Google Alerts is a good place to start. Go wider with socialmention. Get serious and use Radian6 when you need to.
- Find employees who care. I'll be shocked if you don't have someone on staff who gets this stuff. This is their new job. Tomorrow.
- Let all departments play. This isn't one person's dominion. Social Media touches every aspect of your organization. Embrace that.
- Education matters. You're new to this. We aren't. Why make the same mistakes all over again?
- Demand results. If your team can't show you how this impacts your business, you may have the wrong team. Although you need to give them the tools and time to succeed.
My friend Jay Baer suggests that your company make a commitment to do more than just do social media. He says -- and I agree -- that a truly successful company has to figure out how to be social. In the first, you're just going through the motions. Trying out one more new thing. And probably shuffling it off fast as you look for something else to try in passing. But the latter, actually becoming a social company, is something entirely different. It will change your organization -- for the better. But it won't do it by itself. It takes you, the leader of the company, to make the commitment. To see it through.
Skeptical? You should be. So don't go off half-cocked. Here are five simpler ways to getting your business involved in Social Media. Do them right, and you'll see the changes I'm talking about.
Up Periscope. You know all those conversations and all that engagement various pundits have been talking about for the past three years? Yes, that advice and information you've been ignoring. Guess what? It's happening. And the people having those conversations and engaging with one another don't really care if you are listening or not. They're having conversations about your brand. They're engaging with other people -- some of whom may be your employees. You're blissfully unaware. And they don't care.
Or maybe that isn't happening. Maybe your product or service is so utterly unremarkable that no one is talking about it. No one is engaging. No one cares? Sure it's possible. It may even be likely. But you'll never know if you don't stick the periscope above the water line and take a look.
Better said, you should start listening. The social web is inherently discoverable. Sharable. Social, if you will. Because of that, anyone can jump in and join the conversation. Or just listen. And that's where I want you to start -- by listening. Not engaging. Just listening. Listen first. Evaluate the landscape. Take the collective temperature. Then, and only then, can you take the next step.
Listening to the social sphere starts out free. You can learn a lot by setting up Google Alerts on your own brand. You'll get emails sent to you every day when matches are found. When you're ready to broaden your search, give socialmention a try. Steve Farnsworth has a list of dozens of other similar free services. At some point, you'll want to graduate from free tools and do it like the pros. That would be me. I like Radian6, but selecting the right tool depends on the unique needs of each company.
Let Your People Go. No, don't fire them. Well, maybe some. But I'm talking about the people who work for you who are already involved with social media. And if you don't think there are any: you're wrong. Someone in your organization has created a facebook group. Someone is tweeting about what they had for lunch. And someone has just checked in on Gowalla. It's happening. I promise. Right now, they're doing it under cover of darkness, because they think you'll flip out when you discover that they don't spend 100% of the 40+ hours you ask them to put in on strictly business-related work.
But you can change that. You can find that person -- those people -- and understand that they are better at this stuff than you are. You have the power to give them the power to make their current clandestine operations a part of their jobs. Maybe their only job. Because you can't hire out for this stuff. We'll get to training and education in a minute, but you have to have the people responsible for being social for your company an integral part of your company. And why wouldn't you promote someone who's already intimately familiar with your company and is an active social media denizen? Yes, they currently perform valuable jobs for your company. No, they can't do that job and become the social springboard for your company. But you can always find someone else to do their current job. Do that. Now. Before your competitor comes along and offers them a job.
Break Down Walls Between Departments. You don't get to have a Social Media Department. Sorry. This doesn't work like anything else you've tried before. Social media touches every aspect of your business. Marketing, PR, Customer Services, Tech Support, Operations, Biz Dev, HR... even Accounts Payable! The last thing you want to do is develop a formal inter-departmental policy for sharing of information up and down the chain. That way lies madness! And huge inefficiencies that simply won't be fast enough to allow you to respond at-speed in the social media world.
Ultimately, you need social media team members in all of those departments! No, you're not going to make a new position within each one. You're going to let communication inside your company develop as naturally as communication develops outside of it. You're going to keep your lawyers and training staff at bay and busy drafting communications guidelines that clearly provides guidelines -- not rigid rules -- for how they should represent your company. And then you're going to tell the lawyers and training staff to relax and cut it down to a one-pager. This isn't about process. This is about providing a framework to allow your social employees can get their job done at the speed of social. And keep you out of hot water.
Look Outside for Thought Leaders. The social world is changing fast. And no, it's not going away. Just like the internet didn't. And once you start letting your existing staff become internal social media experts, they are quite naturally going to start refining their social media skills as they currently relate to your organization. They are going to become the best experts in your industry... if you let them. Unfortunately, the world of social media is going to keep evolving outside of your industry. They won't have the bandwidth to keep up with everything new and learn how other industries are leveraging tools, techniques and tactics to increase efficiencies. Many of the strategic advances taking place elsewhere won't trickle down, and your company could be missing out on better opportunities.
Combating this from the inside is hard. If not impossible. Your best bet? Go outside for strategy and realignment sessions. No, I don't think you should outsource your social media efforts. Yes, I do think that your company needs a frequent "sanity check" from independent and active social media practitioners. Things change fast in this world. That doesn't mean you should adopt every trend. Far from it. But you need someone you can rely upon to bring innovative ideas to your business. And unless you want to free up an employee to spend half their time pontificating, blogging and attending every possible social media conference, you're better off looking to the outside for this. I know a guy...
Set Expectations and Demand Results. You're a business owner. You understand the business success metrics. You understand your goals. A big part of your up-front job is effectively communicating these to your social media staff so they can define hard measureables that you both agree upon. It's no good having you define those measureables. You don't know what can be measured! And it's no good having them come back to you with charts that show how many times a coupon was re-tweeted. But together -- probably with the help of the person above -- you can figure out what you should expect out of those conversations and engagements.
Yes, social media can and should have a positive ROI. With real numbers you can take to your CFO and have him embrace. Easy? Nope. Critical? Absolutely.
So... that was a long post. As much as I'd love to hear your feedback on the contents, I'm also curious what you think about the format? I rather like the idea of putting the takeaways at the top of the article. That way you can decide if you care enough to keep reading. But maybe I'm giving away the ending. Though... it's not like this is fiction, right?
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