Jul 27

Social Media Strategy–Who’s in Charge?

I spoke with Tom Parish yesterday about social media strategy and large companies. Be authentic. Check. Be transparent. Check. Be…organized?

Wha? The social media strategy guy at the conference didn’t preach that on stage when he was waving his book around.

Tom pointed out that in the 90s, every division of a big company wanted control over their presence on the website. There can be a lot of pride of ownership issues, with each division thinking their message and agenda is the most important. You can’t really blame each division for wanting to use the site to become more effective at their jobs, but giving each division control over the layout, voice and functionality of their website would not make for a very cohesive experience to the customer. It would also make it difficult to decide what sections to prioritize.

Social media right now has a bit of the element of the Wild Wild West. Some people go full throttle in with no strategy and get nothing but fool’s gold. Some companies are too scared to venture in such uncharted territory, refusing to let people actually talk back. What seems very common is that the top often doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the underlings are doing with it until an innocent blogger wanders into hostile territory and gets shot up by some Native Americans who didn’t exactly welcome their preaching the virtues of their company with spam.

Like a website, a social media presence can communicate a lot of things. It can reduce tech support costs (see Deirdre Walsh’s thoughts on connecting the National Instruments users to help each other). It can help you get new recruits from the people who know your products best–the users. It’s not just a leadgen tool. This is why I stress that it is not merely a function of marketing, and if you view it as such, you aren’t wrong–you just aren’t using it to its max potential.

What do you see as the best strategies for keeping a company’s social media presence in check?

  • http://cecycorrea.com @cecycorrea

    I think engagement and a true desire for honest feedback is the best a company can do. If a company is not ready to hear honest feedback from its users, they’re better off not using Social Media at all. In my experience handling @askeasupport in the past, users appreciate honest responses over no communication at all; even if the message is a simple ‘we’re working on it.’ I received tons of positive feedback from users just happy they got a reply. Constant communication is king.

  • http://chenergyconsulting.com @misohungry

    My thoughts on this are simple. Quit treating social media like marketing. While you can market using social media tools, think of social media as making friends. It is bothersome when make a huge deal about hitting numbers. Friends and followers aren’t numbers. They are people. The better you treat them, the better your social media presence.

    Also, find the friendliest person on staff to run your Twitter account. There’s nothing worse than to have a rude, cold, jerk as your Twitter voice, even if he or she is the marketing director.

  • kimloop

    This is interesting food for thought. At the state office of the national nonprofit where I work, we’ve been mulling over whether or not to separate out different types of content. For example, we could tweet about advocacy (legislative) issues we’re working on from a different account than the one from which we publish our general interest and volunteerism sort of content. If so, do we give the advocacy staff a separate account collectively or do we use one advocacy staffer as the face for all of our advocacy work? I think it’s interesting how Livestrong operates — with one account for Lance, one account for the CEO and one general account. I’m still mulling this over…

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattpkelly Matt Kelly

    I think the answer to “Who should be in charge” should be as simple as this. “Who really digs this stuff and can be real?” Someone has to be passionate about it to be effective with it. Maybe it’s a PR gal, maybe it’s a marketing guy, maybe it’s a Sales person.

    • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

      Matt, it is very true that the person in charge has to be passionate and that’s the best place to start. They also have to be really good at balancing interests from different departments. For example, a sales guy might be too focused on acquisition, while a customer service rep may be too concerned about putting out fires to really promote a company’s brand. Balance can be hard to strike, but it sure is important.

      Thank you for offering your thoughts on my blog. I see you are in Austin, so perhaps we will run into each other one day.