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Company Based Social Media Programs

Many legally conservative or highly regulated companies are not only reluctant to enter into the realm of social media they are also extremely suspicious of employee use as well. Without seeing the advantages of participating in a global knowledge network, management sees it as a time waster that is to be blocked or severely restricted. This creates a conflict between those who join the company already involved individually with social media and see it as important as telephones, ballpoint pens and copy machines. The evolution into being social media savvy for most companies starts with a strong proponent in sales and marketing. Soon it grows to a proportion that cannot be ignored as it begins to impact other aspects of the business. Recognizing that it is also a fantastic tool for HR and R&D, others jump onto the bandwagon, but success in these endeavors is not a simple application of individual social media by an evangelist to the corporate setting. Many so-called social media experts do not bring savvy business acumen to the game. Like all business decisions, social media presents real opportunities only if risks are confronted and a disciplined approach is planned.

The myths about social media expertise is brought into the workplace by those who listen to the latest sound bites and are usually found not guilty of original thinking. That recent college graduate hire may or may not have what it takes to lead a corporate social media project, but not if the only reason for the choice is their age and that they can spell Twitter and get all the letters in the right order. Maturity is measured in more ways than chronological age and a social media evangelist who has reached a level of business understanding that incorporates economic and other aspects of the project is probably a better choice. There is no “just do it” without proof of concept and a positive ROI.

  1. Formulate Program Objectives – No social media program should be attempted without clearly defined corporate goals in mind. Jumping onto a popular social platform because everybody else seems to be doing it is not the main motivation to do it. Looking before leaping into the firestorm of public exposure can prevent a devastating embarrassment and the need for damage control. If there is not a willingness to engage in honest dialog with users, customers or hiring prospects then the efforts will be seen as marginal… perhaps no program is better than one that doesn’t connect.
  2. Evaluate Technical and Intellectual Bandwidth – Readiness to begin a program to meet the design goals will be seen in the maturity of the organization. The IT support for the program must be in place before starting, but a majority of IT people are not social media savvy. They must understand the hardware, software and external resources needed for success. Management buy-in to the concept must include a commitment to the financial resources needed to put the program in place and maintain it.
  3. Encourage Inclusive Involvement – The steering committee that starts the program in motion must include a cross section of the company and mirror the organization chart. Starting with an executive sponsor, there must be elements of Finance, Marketing, HR, Staffing, IT and other functional bodies that may have input. Focus on the authors and monitors of content needs to be etched into the plan from the start and modified as needed. Involvement of other employees and a set policy for social media use needs to be written and implemented.
  4. Choice of Participants and Platforms – Social media platforms have different purposes and usage by their memberships. Even those that are claiming universality or have attempted to clone other platforms’ functionality will have a different reach. No social media platform is unsuitable for business use, but tailoring the content for a specific purpose is necessary to reach the target audience. Decentralized authorship is best with no single function holding veto power over content by others. Overall guidelines are a template for use and monitoring to protect corporate culture is ongoing.
  5. Monitoring and Dialog – Many companies that jump on the “me too” social media bandwagon forget one important thing: IT IS SOCIAL! Failure to engage with those who are participating turns it into a turn off. If it is perceived as just another platform for press releases or posting jobs, it will probably not survive in a medium that can be brutally honest and critical. If resources necessary for monitoring and engaging with users is not planned, kill the program before it kills your brand.
  6. Measure Results and Follow-up – There is no magic formula to measure engagement, but usage statistics are relatively easy to determine. If friends/followers/users peak and then decline, there is an indication that something needs to be changed. If those objectives that were determined before the program began are not being met, make changes and re-measure. Rinse, lather and repeat.

Using social media to connect outside of the brick and mortar walls is not mandatory for success, but those who use it effectively will begin to eke out a distinct competitive advantage. Keeping current on social media is like herding cats because the logic scatters in all directions. Failure to stay up-to-date shows how out of touch the company brand is becoming. Broadcasting that kind of culture is not a good thing!

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Dilbert Comic Strip, 10-30-10 ©2010 Scott Adams



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