Pundits and industry evangelists have spread their gospel and focused their energies on social media as a new, fast and cheap marketing tool. They've emphasized click-through and followers. They've created mini-plans for mini-opportunities which can yield short-term buzz but often fail to deliver long-term value. The tactical focus of most social media programs -- with an emphasis on the "tool of the moment" -- has caused many senior leadership teams to view social media as a transitory fad, if not downright frivolous. However, well-conceived social business is far from frivolous or transitory.
When confronting a complex issue or decision in the absence of certainty, groups will often move to the lowest common point of familiarity -- usually something concrete and specific. In tech and marketing organizations, this is called "the valley of the tools." So it is with social; everywhere you turn there is a marketing manager or millennial intern reporting (loudly) that the company needs a ... (insert social tool name here.) But these advocates and tool suggestions are often rooted in a desire to play with new things and carve out a mini-speciality, and are just as often completely disconnected from company business goals and strategy.
Some of this comes from confusing the differing needs of consumer and business environments. For example, an individual Facebook enthusiast who has found the platform meaningful may use it as the concrete tool example for achieving a business goal-- the application or tool du jour. But does this tool really match the vision for what social media can - and should - do for the organization?
The disconnect is not surprising; tactical and operational staff are typically not charged with developing a vision for the organization, even in rapidly-evolving areas. This is why it is so important understand and distinguish between the two kinds of work functions: strategy and execution or operations. Senior management has the charter to shape and form a social strategy -- as it has for other key initiatives. They are the ones who architect the plan and define the objectives which, in turn, determine the tactics and tools used for execution.
So ... review this five-step social strategy checklist before you go charging off with your social hammer, lest you end up whacking your thumb, or putting nails into the coffin of a once-promising marketing program ... or your career!
1) Identify 2-3 significant strategic organizational goals a well-executed social operations program can support.
Do you have a strategic customer care objective that could benefit from social media? Are there R&D or innovation requirements in the coming year that would benefit from social input? Are you trying to reach a new audience with your products? A strategic social program could accelerate these activities.
2) Define the operational program.
Answer the key questions as you would with any implementation plan: mission, approach, costs (direct and indirect), program duration and -- most important -- the measures of success.
3) Identify the needed resources.
Who will execute the program? Do they have the skills and capacity to fulfill the duties? Who will oversee the work? Are there KPIs or MBOs associated with delivery?
4) Track progress.
Develop monthly or quarterly reports to assess whether the program is on track and circulate the reports to all who need to know. We recommend developing a RACI diagram to include departments who need to be informed about the outcomes (e.g. sales or customer service).
5) Sunset the project and capture best practices.
Review what worked and what didn't, then document the findings to leverage your results, repeat successes and change those aspects which did not perform well.