Tag Archives: social media strategy

Like a fart in church

The canonical view in corporate marketing is that you start high level at strategy and then work your way down onto tactics and execution. There are domains where this approach can rapidly desintigrate. Like social media.

For years I preached the message so eloquently spelled out by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: work out a plan where technology doesn’t figure until right at the end, eg  the ‘POST’ approach:

P-eople
O-bjectives
S-trategy
T-echnology

I’ve sat through countless social media planning sessions where choirs of field and web marketing pros rabidly discuss social aspects to marketing campaigns or even social media programs they are looking to adopt. I’ve seen detailed strategy documents, audience demographic analysis, competitive analysis and detailed rollout schedules.

All wonderful works of fiction. An amazing number of these never turn into anything more meaningful than blogs that live no longer than fairground goldfish or Twitter accounts that stealthily limp along with monthly tweets.

Last week I sat down to talk social media strategy with a local team with trepidation: I could see myself going down a path I’d been down before.

But something out of the ordinary happened.

Within minutes we wandered into heretical geekdom and started scribbling down the relative merits of various social media platforms. We went through some of the capabilities of the blogging platform at our disposal. Other possibilities for blogging include Posterous and Tumblr which are great for mobile access. When it came to Twitter, I explained the success we’ve seen with the curation/syndication model. We talked video: we have a member of the team that is a big Justin.tv fan so we may as well leverage what he’s building there.

After about an hour we had mapped out a landscape of our social media properties, come up with a plan to link them together and were ready to talk about what kind of content we ideally should chase. Everything in me was telling me that we were putting the tactical cart way before the strategic horse. But somehow I felt we’d come closer to a workable plan in this hour than I’d ever have expected (although obviously the proof is in the proverbial pudding and I’ll report back on how this works out).

There’s an aspect of social media that doesn’t necessarily apply to other areas of marketing. That’s the principle that if you don’t have passion in your area of interest, really don’t bother. Not least because of the level of engagement required. Even though I’m in one of the most privileged places to practice social media, for most employees social media effectively needs to be a part time hobby until you can build a following and break out on your own. The gold dust lies in finding those that are already hooked and milk them for all they’re worth.

So even if you are confident that you have an audience you can engage with in the blogosphere, and a clear objective and content strategy, don’t set up a new blog until you have an individual or team with a proven track record, or who at least are chomping at the bit and can stump up some posts upfront to show they are committed.

Ditch the strategy and follow the lead of your foot soldiers instead.

There – I’ve said it. And like flatulence in a place of worship, you may find that you irk the establishment, create titters in the crowd and feel an initial embarrassment. But you’re being human. And in the social media space, that’s generally what you need to win.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM and a profane Catholic who tweets from his little corner of the B2B tech universe @cagedether.

(image courtesy of Slimbolala)

The role of the social media strategist

As always, some thought-provoking research is coming out of the Altimeter group around the maturing (and increasingly frustrating) role of the social media strategist. At the crux of Jeremiah Owyang’s report is the notion that the growing challenges of the social media strategist role could push him/her into a reactive corner, just responding to the increasingly demanding needs of the business (being little more than a ‘social media helpdesk’). Less strategy, more blind execution.

Here at IBM there are a number of strategists dotted around the organization (although with a strong cluster around the marketing function), and I’m sure most would agree with Jeremiah’s research. Indeed, brand social media strategist Steve Lazarus was one of those interviewed. So, what is it exactly that keeps us so busy? (I say ‘us’ as I hold a tangential role currently). I’d broadly categorize the functions performed as follows, with the caveat that the functions can vary depending on the position in the organization and personal aptitudes:

Role of the social media strategist

Training/education

Due to limitations in resource and product knowledge, it’s unrealistic to expect social media strategists to engage in all conversations across all channels. Adopting the ‘teach a man to fish’ maxim, it can make sense for the strategists to engage product experts across the organization and teach them how to become proficient in social media communications. This could take the form of education on the use of tools, the sharing of best practice and what’s worked in the past, discussing how to react to potential scenarios, the list goes on. In fact this post on Bloomberg BusinessWeek does a good job of listing ways of engaging employees. As a trainer and educator, the strategist moves into the role of a facilitator rather than a practitioner.

Analytics – monitoring, ROI and energizing practitioners

There are various components to analytics, each with its own specificities.

Strategists can monitor the social space for conversations around the brand. If there are any conversations requiring immediate attention (eg. a crisis looming), they can pull together the experts/execs that can respond. Monitoring also helps define the social landscape and strategy that makes most sense.

Analytics can also be employed to prove the ROI of social media efforts. This could be looking at increased share of voice on a given topic measuring traffic delivered to a campaign web page from Facebook and Twitter, or calculating the value of the traffic delivered to a blog ranking prominently for target terms on Google (obviating the need for paid advertising).

A further role of the strategist can be to feed analytics back into the organization to help energize practitioners. As an example, showing bloggers how much traffic their posts are attracting can help generate posts more frequently!

Process optimization and workflow

Social media touches many parts of the organization. You may have customer feedback that could help product development and should be forwarded to product management. Maybe there are support issues/discussions happening on external forums which require the input of the support team. Organizational processes should be put in place to deal with these kinds of scenarios. For instance interlocks need to be built between functions like marketing and support which traditionally have existed at opposite ends of the organization.

In addition, workflow tools need to be put in place to track individual conversations and issues to ensure these are dealt with effectively. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet recording each issue together with the response (when deemed necessary), but as these issues grow in number and complexity, more powerful tools will be required.

Web marketing integration

As Jeremiah points out in another part of his analysis, 2011 will see an increase in the integration of social elements into websites[

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/07/analysis-2011-corporate-social-strategy-will-focus-on-corporate-website-integration/

]. In its simplest form this could be the addition of Facebook Like or Tweet This buttons on web pages. Whilst some web marketers may be savvy to this, in many cases social media strategists can offer valuable insights on what conversations should be highlighted and the format used to display social elements (eg. a sidebar showing the latest 5 entries from a blog may be more effective than a mere button).

As the mobile space continues to become more important, consistency and tie-ups across mobile, web and social presences will also need to be managed effectively. For instance, adding QR codes on event web pages could help attendees transfer information from the PC to their smartphone.

Corporate sponsorship

With employees engaging more and more in social media on behalf of their company, someone needs to make sure the management/executive team are cool with this and hopefully promote this interactivity. A strategist may propose and promote an incentive program for employees. They may also gently advise the executive on where their involvement would make most sense. As one social media strategist here at IBM explained it, a major part of his role involved keeping the corporate forces out of employee social interactions (unless of course there are policy violations requiring intervention).

Social media campaign marketer

A strategist can help bolster campaigns undertaken by the marketing team. This could take the form of creating a social media kit around around a campaign that is then emailed to experts and evangelists across the organization. Or maybe a YouTube strategy developed in conjunction with an agency would make sense. The role in this instance is one of energizing employees and major stakeholders to supplement the work of the marketing team.

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These, to my mind, are the core functions of the social media strategist. In addition, a strategist will also have to juggle a number of managerial/administrative demands, as any manager in the organization has to perform: eg. collaborating with internal/external teams, reporting on performance, people management.

It’s worth pointing out that the role of the strategist can be significantly different to that of the social media evangelist. An evangelist tends to be much more hands-on: many in this role excel at using the different social media channels to get the message out. Whilst they may have considerable following on their Twitter account or blog, they may be less proficient at energizing others in the organization to get involved, or analyzing conversations and defining processes to deal with these.

As Jeremiah points out in his report, the role of the strategist is due to change in the near future. We may see something in the social space akin to what has happened to web marketing over the last ten years: a splintering of roles and responsibilities. Some may focus on developing processes and implementing tools to help the organization effectively deal with its social ecosystem. Others may extract value by focussing solely on integration between web and social.  Others could focus more exclusively on training.

On a positive note, this role is definitely not going away. There is a supply imbalance for the social media strategist skillset with more companies chasing the rare individuals who have the requisite skills and experience. Against this, the fact that social strategists are a rare commodity means that they are stretched in their roles and risk falling into becoming what Jeremiah calls the ‘Social Media Helpdesk’.

I can see two main ways the social media strategist can avoid this. One is to facilitate rather than execute. For example, spend time ‘persuading’ knowledgeable experts to blog, rather than blogging yourself. The other is to pick a specialty and follow this. eg. become a trainer and focus on this area. Teach the web marketing department how to integrate social aspects, rather than get buried in the weeds yourself.

Do you agree?

(The original post from Jeremiah)