Organizations that are embarking on social media are going to be at different levels of maturity. That's okay. What's most important is that you recognize where on the spectrum you sit, so you can plan your efforts accordingly, and focus on how to get to the next level. Here are a few models you can consider:
Passive organizations are in observation mode. You're getting the lay of the land. Listening, paying attention, absorbing what's happening around you. The goals here are to learn what conversations are happening around your company, competition, and industry, where they're happening and how often, and start laying out your approach in line with what you learn.
Responsive companies are taking the first step in engagement online. They're still listening, but they're also making forays into responding to the active dialogue. Usually, that means basic responses to company or brand mentions, but it can also mean contributing to industry conversations on social networks that are of interest and strategic focus.
At this point, your company is ready to not just participate in existing conversations, but to start a few of your own. That can be anything from starting a blog to foster home-grown dialogue, to initiating conversations on your community or social networks like Ning, Twitter, or a Facebook page. The point here is that you're leading the conversation, not just following where it goes.
Creation is a step beyond engagement. It's more than just conversation. It's the generation of meaty, useful and valuable content for your community and potential community. Blog posts are the beginning, but here we're looking at a full content marketing strategy that includes development of independent content designed to be distributed and shared for the purpose of establishing a thought leadership position in your industry.
So - how much time does that take?
Here's my take on it, from a generalized perspective (and your mileage will and should vary). Listening will always, ALWAYS be the biggest chunk. It's how you know where you're going and where you've been.
You'll note the top two levels have an asterisk; it's how I'm telling you that if you're serious, you'll need more than one person (however well intended) to do it well. The last level I even break out into two lines of responsibility, one for content creation and one for engagement and outreach.
What about people?
If you're an individual or a small business, this is how I'm suggesting you might break out your team. I understand that it's often one person, which means you have to make choices about which pieces of this matter most to you and create the most value. Listening and measuring can sometimes coincide and overlap, and content can be repurposed and re-engineered for the web. But for this size business, auditing your online efforts to make social media an OR instead of an AND is really critical.
If you have a larger organization and are looking to develop a team approach, here's what that might look like. You'll need to think about how to create workflows in your organization to get information throughout your team and into other areas of the organization that need it in order to inform business decisions.
As an example, you might have a few folks on the front lines collecting, routing, and assigning posts for follow up. You might have one or two exclusive "behind the scenes" content creators that help seed your libraries and outposts, and select people that handle the bulk of the visible engagement and outreach activity. The measurement folks and the listening folks are often one and the same, dividing time and processes with input from the rest of the team.
Ideally, you're growing into an organization that has point people on this team from each department. You'll have customer service, sales, and community folks on the listening and engagement side. You'll have marketing, PR, and community people building content. You'll have HR, product, finance, legal and executive people on the reporting and communication pipeline so they stay plugged in even if they're not actively participating. Your workflow will be very individualized, but think it through globally, not just in the silo of your department.
So, that's a high level view of what your resource allocation might look like, and the time commitment it'll take to do it well. Is it easy or fast? Heck no. No one said it would be. This is a business model. Not a tactic. What's your take? Does this make sense?
In the next post in the series, we'll explore some of the tools you might consider for listening, engagement and measurement. And later, we'll talk through some tips and tricks on wrangling the social media time suck and making sure your efforts are focused.
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