Building the Case for Social Media

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Many of the students in the media relations class that I’m teaching are frustrated with social media. They work for companies in Salt Lake City and Cairo. For Federal, State and Local governments around the country. For Fortune 500 companies. The common compliant?  I can’t get the CEO, legal counsel or other senior executives to approve a blog or other social media channels.

Social media may seem risky. But …. No risk, no reward. No pain, no gain. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Okay.  Clichés don’t win approval of your social media plans. How do you change perceptions of the C-Suite and build the case of social media — be it blogs, social networking, video/photos, book marking or a combination?

1)   Read. A recent study on corporate blogging by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research  finds that nearly 40 percent of Inc. 500 companies blog. About 16 percent of Fortune 500 companies are blogging. What lessons can be applied to your organization?

2)   Define your purpose. Why should your organization plan a social media strategy? How does it advance your business goals? Who are your audiences? What do you want to learn from your audience? How can you make fragmentation work to your advantage? Will social media be a long-term commitment? A series of marketing or education campaigns? Know what you want to do and for whom before presenting a plan to management.

3)   Look at all the options. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube are among the most ubiquitous. However, LinkedIn, Wikis, or Ning may be more appropriate to building community. The channels and integration depend on what kind of conversation you are trying to achieve. If you aren’t ready for a two-way conversation, then continue to monitor trends and competitors.

4)   Research. If you have budget for primary research to conduct a survey or focus groups, do so. If not, use the myriad of free tools and analytics to learn what content is accessed most frequently on the corporate Web site and to monitor conversations about your company (e.g. blog alerts, Twitter monitoring tools).  Study what your competitors are doing. Make a few phone calls – to peers at similar organizations, to journalists, to trusted customers or clients. Arm yourself with information and prepare a reasoned argument to convince leadership why social media is critical to help achieve business goals.

5)   Create a social media council. If there is strong resistance to social media in your organization, you may need to do this informally at first. Gather three or four colleagues from across the organization to understand better what their concerns and goals are. If your organization is actively planning to launch a social media strategy, defining this group of decision makers is essential to managing the success of the social media strategy. This also is the time to create a company-wide social media policy.

6)   Plan your work. And work your plan.

For additional resources on digital communications, visit PR-Squared’s Jedi Training list or read Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications.

Best of success!

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