Monday, 18 August 2014

How to win the social media debate

Sometimes, the most challenging part of setting-up social media accounts is convincing your senior colleagues that it is a good idea! Here are some tactics to help you out...

The conversation is already happening

People are already talking about your brand and or activities online – but if you're not actively monitoring social media, you just don't know it, or if it is correct. There are lots of tools, both free and paid for, to help you monitor your reputation online. See what is being said, and make sure decision makers are aware of the frequency and tone of these conversations. Demonstrate the opportunities being missed.

Inform future communications efforts

By monitoring conversations that others are having online, you can understand how effective your communications have been to date – how well your key messages have been delivered and understood; where you need to correct or reinforce information, and so on.

Stakeholder database analysis

Analysing stakeholder databases can be a very powerful tool for convincing colleagues that social media is a must-do. Make a list of your top stakeholders, then simply list their social media presence and level of activity. Once you have identified where your stakeholders are present online, see how they are already interacting with each other. Mentionmapp.com is a free tool, that quickly provides you with a visual representation of who your stakeholders are talking to, and about which topics (you need to sign in with a Twitter account).

Make your content shareable

Making your website content easy for your audiences to share can help to demonstrate how actively they are participating in social media. There are lots of free tools around, such as addthis.com which you can include on website pages, in email footers, newsletters and press releases. These tools have reporting systems that let you see how many times content has been shared, and accessed as a result of those shares.

This will demonstrate two points: 1) your current audience is actively using social media and 2) social media can be a powerful way of amplifying your messages and extending audience reach.

Adding statistics like this to your monthly reports will serve as a passive reminder that social media should be on the agenda.

Ask your audience

Asking your target audience(s) about their social media use can be a powerful tool to convince colleagues that social media is no longer a nice-to-do. This could be something simple, like an online poll, or a questionnaire created in Survey Monkey, which is free to use.

Referrals from social media channels

Free tools such as Google Analytics can tell you all sorts of useful information to help with your arguments for developing social media channels, such as: number of referrals to your website via social media channels and the number of visitors accessing your site via a smart device.

Brand identity

Social media accounts are an important part of brand identity. If you do not claim your accounts, somebody else may do it for you in order to capitalise on your brand, or even to try to sell it to you at a later date (this is known as cyber-squatting).

Search Engine rankings

Having your website appear on the first page of Google is no longer simply about keyword placement, or how much you are willing to pay for an ad-placement. Google look at over 200 factors to determine whether they should return your website content to users who search for given phrases. Social media activity now plays an important role in determining your credibility as a trusted online source – social accounts linked to your domain; frequency of new content posted; number of quality followers/subscribers, click-through-rate, and so on.

Managing the risks

Resistance to using social media can stem from the perceived or actual risk associated with doing so:
  • Creating a demand for services that there is not capacity to manage.
  • Negative comments online about the brand, organisation, or individuals.
  • Passwords being lost, shared, or accounts being hacked.
  • Employees making defamatory remarks online – accidentally or intentionally.
  • Security and governance concerns over data being held by third parties such as Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Retaining ownership of online collateral, and so on.....
These risks are all real, and it is important to address them in order to provide reassurance about how they will be managed. Your social media policy should outline known risks to the organisation, and the methods you will use to mitigate them. It is important that the written policy is well communicated and understood by individual employees before any social media activity takes place. Here are some pointers to get you started with developing a social media policy.

Pilot projects

Rather than go for a big-bang approach to social media, you may want to start with one account and make sure you manage it as well as possible. Ensuring its success will be the best way to convince colleagues of the value of future social media use.

It can be useful to identify a specific project with a clear start and end date, and trial the use of social media as a communications channel for this. This is helpful because it legitimately allows the organisation to close the account after a fixed period of time. This means that if some of the risks identified above are realised, the social media account can be taken off-line after a short period of time without further risk to reputation.

Pilot projects also allow social media managers to gain all important hands-on experience, both in terms of dealing with the platform, and the types of responses received.

Need help with social media?

If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I will do my best to help you out.

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