August 2011

Social Media: A Structure-First Approach

By Michael Smith, Digital Strategist, Palio

Sure, you know you need consistent, effective social media for your organization – after all, it’s 2011, right? The value of online social interactions has been demonstrated across virtually every industry and customer segment.

But that begs a fundamental question that’s relevant whether you’re a startup or a multi-billion-dollar organization: How do you organize it?

Figuring out how to structure social media in your organization is the second-most important question you’ll face, right after “What do we want to accomplish?” That’s because organizations have existing processes and cultural biases, and your social media program has to exist within them in order to be successful.

What should you take into account? Consider the following:

Understand what others are doing. Social media blogger Jon Bell points to research that shows five distinct models, with a hub-and-spoke approach used by 41% of responding companies.

Understand the capabilities of your team. Your approach will be directly driven by the capabilities and bandwidth of the staff. Is everyone trained in social media or are those skills segmented in silos? And it goes beyond individual skills: Small companies benefit greatly from all employees promoting products, services and/or brands across their networks, but public companies or those in heavily regulated industries face severe risks and even legal liability in this same model.

Understand that consistency of plan starts with consistency of message. No matter your situation, content should be of one consistent voice across platforms – because that voice is the embodiment of the brand. A message that is inconsistent with what followers or customers of that client expect can be grating and off-putting, so that needs to be in place – and understandable to everyone involved with the social-media effort – from the outset.

Understand how to get others on the same page in language everyone can understand. For example, three plain-English goals that nearly any team member could understand for a social media campaign could be:
* Generate sales leads and conversions
* Get quality backlinks for SEO
* Increase brand mentions and brand awareness in social channels
The effectiveness of your social media marketing campaign should be measured against those three goals, using success beacons. Did our efforts generate leads and conversions? How many? Did we generate backlinks? How many? How strong? Were our messages spread by our targets’ social networks?

Social content should, ideally, lead to an interaction with the audience – a clicked link, a retweet, a response, a forward, a blog visit, a conversation, a sale. Composing content with forethought towards generating an interaction or engagement is social media 101; but planning ahead so your company can be fluid, consistent and true to its brand is also part of being “brilliant at the basics.”

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

© 2011