Thursday, January 6, 2011
Are you really ready? There are three things you must do to be sure your company or organization is prepared to engage with your audience in the social sphere.
First and foremost, do you have a social business strategy? Do you know what your social efforts should achieve? Creating a social strategy means applying your professional business skills to identify the goals and objectives for your social initiatives. Doing so determines how and where you should spend your social business budget - both time and money.
Feel free to use our social media strategy map as a tool to help get you started, and talk with us if you want to make a deeper dive using our social business opportunity assessment to get a more detailed look at the opportunities and the risks. But, please, don't head off into the social wilderness without knowing where you're going. Develop a strategy before starting any social business initiative.
Second, create a social media policy for your company or organization. A social policy takes into account your organization's strategic goals, risk tolerance and staff skills. Social media policies should accurately reflect the culture of your industry and your specific organization. A clear policy helps employees understand how to implement a social program without risking your organization's brand, legal responsibilities and business relationships.
For example, the legal and business framework for a social policy at a healthcare organization is quite different from that at a mobile game app startup. The key is to be sure your internal constituents know there is a policy, understand why there needs to be one, and can follow it's guidelines when interacting with your external audiences. Here is a database of social media policies to help you get started -- if you haven't already.
Third, be sure to develop a social media program that actually helps you reach your goals. Too many organizations behave in a manner that reminds us of the old joke about looking for a lost coin on the other side of street "because the light is better." Understanding your audience, meeting and responding to their needs, creating programs that build and sustain engagement, measuring results against goals established in the strategic plan -- all of these are factors that help determine the methods and the tools used to execute your social program.
Because we work primarily with B2B clients, LinkedIn is a frequent starting point, though some make effective use of Twitter and Facebook as well. Here are a few practical tips for creating effective programs using LinkedIn, culled from our social media staff competency training workshops.
Be sure your profile speaks to your customers or prospects.
Business use of this social tool has evolved from a resume channel -- what you have done -- to a "what you can offer" resource for professionals. Update your profile to reflect what you want a customer or prospect to know about you and your relationship as a representative of your company.
Leverage search capabilities to find customers and prospects.
Use the advanced search functions to conduct extensive searches for your target audience based on title, geography, industry and many other factors. Find and connect with the people you want to know.
Connect to peers, experts and customers.
Connecting expands your reach and credibility in your field -- so long as you can establish and maintain your value to those connections. Have your information included in their peer-update stream on the site. This keeps you and the organization you represent visible to others.
Use the update feature to communicate ideas and activities to your connections.
There is an open box below your personal information. You can use this area to send short updates or information broadcasts to your connections.
Use the groups function to participate in topical groups.
Social media provides new ways to begin a marketing or sales dialogue, beginning with thought leadership. Contributing your insights in a group context raises your visibility and credibility among prospective and current buyers.
Do not use any social tool as a spam channel.
Tempting as it may be build a large list of connections and begin sending them sales-oriented messages or posts in group discussions -- don't! It will rapidly erode your professional credibility and tarnish your company's brand. Instead, focus on being a thought leader and providing helpful information about your product, service and industry.