In the Land of Social Media, what goes up must go higher. And by higher, I mean how effectively we use it, not how many are using it.
There are about 1 billion users on Facebook, and there are 7 billion people in the world. The challenge isn't about how to get more people connected-it's about how to engage with the ones who are there. Certainly businesses, both small and large, have realized that social is here to stay, and they need to have a working, evolving plan in order for social media to be an effective part of their overall strategy. Companies everywhere are creating new budget line items to figure out how to maximize this new communications channel.
Is social media used for engagement? Sales? Customer service? Brand awareness? Recruiting? Product development? Trendcasting? Research and development? Client retention?
Yes. In short, the answer is, it touches all of those areas, and this is perhaps the first time that something is so integrated into every aspect of every company.
At this point, it's obvious that every company needs a social media policy. I would take that a step further and say that every company needs to have a governance model. While your social media policy may define the relationship between social media and your employees (as brand ambassadors of your company), your governance model is more overarching. It's an ever-evolving conglomeration of policies, guidelines and processes (including workflow) that truly define and dictate how each area or department in a company relates to social media.
The governance model is becoming more prevalent because it allows everyone in the company to own a piece of the social media pie-it "governs," so to speak, what people may say, how to say it and where to say it. Here are ways you can manage your governance model as you start building a truly integrated approach to social media.
1) Set the objectives. How do you want to leverage social media? That's the first question to ask. Ideally, your company will have identified areas where social media can help your business achieve its existing goals. From there, the affected teams can be aligned and plans put in to place as to how they will use social media to communicate and interact with customers, vendors or employees.
2) Identify the influencers, internally and externally. Who's going to take the lead for your social media strategy? Will you have a designated strategist or a team of people responsible for posting content and monitoring social channels? It's important that you know who's who in your social media circles-and who you're trying to reach-so that roles are well defined, expectations are clear, and your messaging accurately targets the audience you want to engage.
3) Develop a workflow. Here's where you get down to the nitty gritty. Who posts content and when, how are responses handled, who creates the content, who determines your social media calendar and who has final approval over the content-all of these questions should be answered in your governance model. This ensures that your company's social media strategy will be more than just a haphazard string of posts, Tweets and status updates with no accountability or specific purpose.
4) Create your listening and engagement strategy. Once you start engaging, you need to be prepared to listen. If you're engaging effectively, social media becomes a two-way conversation between you and your customers-and it's a beautiful thing. You'll be able to gain key insights and have wonderful opportunities to create passionate brand evangelists. But your listening and response strategy needs to be carefully planned out and implemented, or you'll lose out on insights and opportunities and just become a one-man band singing your own praises. Who wants to listen to that?
5) Develop a measurement strategy. How will you know if your social media efforts are working? By key metrics. A measurement strategy must be a part of your governance model. You can't rely on gut feeling alone when it comes to determining the success of your social strategy, the numbers need to back it up. Better yet, you need to tie your social metrics to your business objectives (go back to #1). If those don't align, then you're just spinning your social wheels.
Key Takeaway: Social media is only going to get bigger, and it's not just for marketers-it crosses over into all areas of your business. Better to get your ducks in a row now, because big data proves that social is growing at a rapid pace. Establish your governance model now so that your guidelines, policies and procedures can evolve and grow along with it.