You've put together a crackerjack social media plan. It will inform, engage, and start conversations. It includes metrics to measure performance. But that's just one part of the engine. A fantastic fuel injector won't do you much good if you've got a bad alternator. And even if all your components are top-of-the-line, they won't work if the engine isn't bolted together properly. How does your social media plan coexist and interact with the rest of your online existence?
A paradigm shift is occurring in regards to how an entity exists online. Before, we compartmentalized: we thought about a website, social media accounts, and blogs as being an entity's marketing strategy. Now, we're holistic: looking at "web presence," which is defined as an entity's complete footprint on the World Wide Web. Companies (like my own) who do web presence develoment help their clients "cast a long shadow" online.
So what is web presence, and why do we need to regard it as the new paradigm in online communication?
Web presence is your website, your blog, your social media accounts, every mention you get in social media (every tweet, every status update, etc), every blog post mentioning you (and every comment), every mention on review and/or info sites such as tripadvisor.com or e-pinions.com, every forum post about you, your Wikipedia article, plus news, ads, etc. In short, your web presence is comprised of every mention about you online, everywhere. Even the negative ones.
Why is it a paradigm shift? Because previously we haven't conceptualized all the various elements as being part of a larger whole. In the past, you brought in a specialist to help you capture your "brand story" and pick your corporate colors. Then you hired a web designer to put up a website according to that branding. These days you're also having him or her put up an attractive facebook fan page as well. Then you had other people execute your social media plan. You tweeted. You posted updates to your facebook page. You started conversations. You listened. You measured. Your customer service people engaged with customers and solved problems. Your sales people engaged with leads and prospects and made sales. If this is all that was happening, lost sales and opportunities to retain customers. But you say "Sales are up 16 percent!" They could be up 25 percent, but looking at the parts individually (sales, customer service, website, social media) will cost you additional sales and create customer turnover.
How is that possible, you ask? Because the web designer, the customer service rep, the sales professional, and the social media engineer all see themselves as executing missions that are narrow in scope and particular to their respective skillsets. But they are all part of the company's web presence. To be perfectly optimized, a website must take web presence into account. How can you optimize for sales, customer service, social media, blog mentions, forum mentions, reviews, Wikipedia, and every mention you get?
Imagine a website that has a "spotlight sidebar," which features mentions the site, company, or product has received in tweets, status updates, blog posts, and comments. It thanks the mentioners for their support and is updated daily. The site may get a trackback in return, but more importantly, it sends "love" which in turn engenders positive regard. People are kind to those they regard as kind. Does your Wikipedia article look good? If not, fix it up. WHen it does, under "About" or "History" a web-presence-optimized website might link to it; after all, it is a 3rd party that millions of people rely on for information. Your analytics will show that it will send you some traffic, too. Make sure that your sales staff and your customer service staff consider themselves part of the web presence. Sales can refer back to the "Spotlight" sidebar on the website, and customer service (after creating a satisfied customer) can ask that customer to mention it in social media or even to email a short letter describing their experience. It works even better if the customer service agent can offer a nominal gift as a thank you.
Another major aspect of web presence development is listening to the web, and is another place where every employee in the company can help. Just as its web becomes an extension of a spider's central nervous system, so too does a company's employees become an extension of its own sensory capabilities. Anyone hearing a positive or negative mention can report that to the social media team through a centralized reporting process (which should take 5 seconds or less: copying the url and submitting it via a form, or even "flagging" it for review on the company intranet). Negative mentions can be acted upon by customer service, and positive ones can be thanked, and some of them featured in the spotlight sidebar. The various departments need to communicate well, also. If sales notices that a particular negative mention is brought up by one or more potential customers, that should be passed to the social media team so they can act on it and mitigate the damage. Sometimes even online reputation management services may need to be called in.
Your social media plan is one part of your overall web presence. Take a step back, look at your entity's presence across the entire World Wide Web, and plan holistically, with every one of your assets/resources taking into account all the various elements, and each other.