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Building a Social Strategy


One of the most questioned business marketing and technology strategies in 2011 has been social media and networking (social). The growth of social has impacted the way organizations communicate. With the emergence of Web 2.0, there are new tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information and collaborate online. The goal for organizations is to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social communities. The corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it is coming from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself.

Common questions that most companies have today regarding social - Do I invest in social? How and where do I invest? Is there a clear return on investment (ROI)? What happens without investment in social? The companies that have successfully invested in social have not simply created a Facebook page or Twitter account with basic content or posts. They have planned and invested in the technologies and strategies to effectively embrace social communities ultimately improving revenue and brand status.

Many concerns exist with social that have slowed the adoption within business. There are numerous risks – liability, reputation, security, lost employee productivity, ambiguity, lack of ROI, along with other concerns. Social introduces entirely new ways for businesses to communicate and market. Collaboration, social networking sites, micro blogging, social commerce, video, news aggregation areas are just a few examples of the many possibilities for social involvement. So with all of the methods and options available, how does a business decide how to spend their time and resources?

And, more importantly, what are the steps for a business to thrive in social? The following six step process should be adhered to in order to ensure a company has the appropriate plan for their social strategy:

  • STEP 1: Education
    The first step in the process is to perform an education phase to understand the communities, terminology, and areas of social. If a business is engaging an outside firm to assist in this area, this agency must ramp up with the brand and products of this business in the early stages of the strategy development in order to embrace the appropriate communities. This education is critical to the success of the next five steps.

  • STEP 2: Discovery
    It is important to understand the corporate initiatives underway, any existing strategies for social and any social media policies in place. Similarly, are there employee-initiated efforts in existence? If so, are those individuals creating and nurturing the desired image for the business? Do they need to be leveraged, harnessed or thwarted? Interviewing key staff among several different departments within the company will assist in determining direction and social strategy optimization.

    There are many considerations regarding your technology and social. Even though most of social is in the cloud, how do you go about connecting internal systems to generate leads and understand how the brand is being impacted? Also, mobile solutions have a major involvement in social. Discovering how to fully embrace mobile development to interact with social is a critical step in the strategy as the proliferation of mobile devices continues.

    Although many areas of your information technology may be touched by social, one major area for consideration is the unified communications (UC) platform or phone system. The ability to mine social data and direct potential customers and information to your customer service representative at your company is now available. An IT leader should be able to provide the information on what capabilities exist with the current systems.

  • STEP 3: Community analysis
    This is the step to find out what the competition is doing today with social. There are many tools available to a business that allow you to understand and monitor what the competition is doing with social. Have you heard of HootSuite, Radian6, Alexa, or Hubspot? These are all important tools to better understand community involvement for the competition as well as your company. Of the many areas for social community involvement, what is the most beneficial for a business? Understand where the competition is positioned today and what other communities should be considered for your strategy. At the end of this step you should know where to invest your time and money.

  • STEP 4: Plan development
    This is the goal setting process along with the plan development. Who is the target audience; who is the business trying to reach? What are the business objectives and what are we trying to accomplish with social investments? Make sure to thoroughly understand search engine optimization (SEO) and how that impacts social. Actively seeking and creating links between corporate websites and social communities with new, interesting and fun content is critical.

    As part of the development, a company must plan to closely monitor the communities in order to quickly and efficiently respond to communications. During this process, specific communications should be directed to the customer relationship management (CRM) solution of a business. This allows a business to monitor discussions and possibly generate leads by using a CRM solution to consolidate community discussions. Planning for CRM integration will be important to the long-term success of social.

    Additionally, business intelligence (BI) should be considered as part of the social development plan. In order to get the most ROI out of social, considering BI as part of the enterprise system is imperative. Understanding more about your brand and customers is possible by working with social data sources and pulling out critical information that can assist with business decisions.

  • STEP 5: Deployment and training
    With this intense planning for social, now it’s time for the deployment and training step. You must determine if an outside agency will be engaged to assist with deployment of content to your communities or with training of internal staff to prepare them for content updating. It is critical that internal or external staff be identified so you stay current in the selected communities. Failing to keep content current and fresh will create negative results for social.

  • STEP 6: Maintain, monitor and measure (the 3M's)
    One of the most overlooked steps in the development of social is the ongoing maintenance, monitoring, and measurement. As a means of measurement, make sure to continue to listen or monitor all the communities and to ensure you keep content current and interesting. By now, you have determined who will keep the content current and maintained and can watch performance of these individuals. Also, finding the appropriate tools to automatically update your communities will help in this process. Finally, using tools to measure your success of social will provide dashboards to the executives within a business and allow them to see how impactful social involvement can be to a business.

A social strategy is important for every business and it is not just one department making the decisions. To build a solid social strategy, you must call on all departments for involvement to fully embrace social and reap the benefits.

Social has become a platform that is easily accessible to anyone with internet access. Increased communication for organizations fosters brand awareness, lead generation, and improved customer service. Additionally, social serves as a relatively inexpensive platform for organizations to implement marketing campaigns.

The strategy for social deployment is critical for every organization, small or large. Any business can attempt to engage in social communities, but engaging a professional with expertise in this area that can guide a business through this six step process will ensure the proper investments and the best results possible.

For more information, please contact RSM Director Ron Beck at 319.360.9104.