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This is a great question that was brought up via Twitter by @BronwynWright during a Social Media Panel (#uwsm) at the University of Washington earlier today.  148 characters just isn’t going to do this question justice, so below are a few of the challenges we have run into with our clients and how we overcame them.  Big thanks to @cmmoffitt @petersmeg @worldli @WPZRebecca and @UWcomm for the discussion and ideas.

 

Justifying a Business Case

You don’t have the other logistical challenges yet if you can’t even get your company to decide it needs social media. Even with the mass adoption of social media in today’s culture, the corporate world can still be a bit cynical towards it.Companies often worry about the loss of control, about the crowd having a voice other than what the company wants in the public domain and about the implications social media may have on productivity in the workplace.

  • The comments will be out in the public domain regardless, as a business you have the opportunity to spin these in a positive light…but only if you participate in social media.  This is not a problem that goes away by ignoring it.
  • Social Media can serve as a fantastic customer service tool, saving money over traditional customer service methods in a lot of cases.  Done well via social media, your customer service story now becomes marketing as well.
  • People who are negatively vocal about your brand will be very positively vocal if you can wow them with great customer service.  Rather than worry about bad sentiment and try to ignore it, take control and swing it positive by investing in social media.
  • Keep control over who is allowed to be on social media during work hours (see “Delegating Responsibility”) and make a firm company policy about it.  Personally, I subscribe to the school of thought that you shouldn’t allow people to spend hours on social media during work, but allowing the occasional check-in during a break keeps employee morale up.

 

Delegating Responsibility

Who is going to do it? Should the CEO be the voice of the company? The marketing department? Should all employees be given access?

  • If the CEO has time, they should do it.  If not, whomever is in charge of your branding, communications and/or marketing should be the ones in charge of your “official” company profiles.  They can then delegate additional users to other departments as needed (such as customer support).
  • Set guidelines on what can and cannot be talked about on social media. If you are an Apple employee, don’t talk about new products that haven’t launched yet and don’t leave prototypes in a bar.
  • Encourage all employees to talk positively about your company from their personal social profiles and to bring negative comments about your company to the attention of whomever is in charge of social media.

 

Technical Challenges

So you’ve decided to make the leap and identified who will be taking charge. Now how do you actually get it done? Luckily this is the smallest hurdle and there are some great software’s to help you get it done.

  • Don’t hesitate, register the accounts NOW!  Think of this as a land rush for online real-estate.  Don’t let someone else get your company name.
  • Select software to help you manage it.  There are a ton of free programs that can be helpful for small teams and some fantastic systems for larger groups needing a more collaborative effort.  Hootsuite is one that Mashable uses for Facebook & Twitter.
  • Setup your mobile applications.  While you’re not expected to be nearly as responsive when away from your computer, a mobile device allows you to remain tuned in and able to respond to any important messages.
  • Integrate it with your website.  Content Management Systems (such as WordPress) allow you to seamlessly integrate with your Facebook & Twitter pages, making posting new content a one-click process.  Facebook & Twitter also offer “widgets” that you can easily add to your website.

 

Marketing your Social Presence

Now you’re all setup on social media and blogging/tweeting/facebooking away…but nobody is listening. How do you get the word out about your social presence?

  • #1: LISTEN!  You need to know what people are already saying about your topic/industry/business.  Do some searches on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Google and see what’s being talked about.  This will give you a better idea of what you should talk about to be relevant and not spammy.
  • Post some content even when nobody is listening. You need to show you are active before anyone will follow you.
  • Include content that is entertaining, informative and relative to the audience you want to attract.  DO NOT include a boring business ad and expect people to want to hear more of that.  The funnier you can be, the better, but keep your business goals in mind.
  • Add your social profiles to your website, newsletter, email signatures and even put mentions of it anywhere in your physical office where customers may see it.

 

Measuring ROI

At the end of the day, this is what your company really wants to know.  Show me the numbers.  Unfortunately there is no “system” for doing this as every company may have different goals, different internal systems and thus unique ways of crunching data.  Some general Logistical Challenges to consider as you devise what this looks like for you:

  • Most importantly, decide what counts as a “goal” for your company and set this up to track in Google Analytics.  Now you can run a report such as: “For every goal that happened this week, how did the users find us and where did they come from.”  You will be able to clearly see that your Facebook post about widgets gained you X customers.  If you know how much an average customer is worth and how much you have invested in Facebook, you can derive your ROI.
  • For tracking web data, Google Analytics is free and Clicky is a great low-cost option. They both track where web traffic came from, allowing you to know if someone came from YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.
  • URL shorteners often include tracking for the number of clicks.  You can create a different Bit.ly URL for each social network you submit an article to, allowing you to track how many times each link was clicked on each network.
  • Facebook Insights is a part of any Facebook “Page”, allowing you to see statics about your Facebook fans and your interaction with them.

This was a list that I brainstormed after the panel and I hope it answers the original question.  I’m sure a lot more can be added if I were to spend a few hours researching.  What items do you feel should be included that I missed?  Comment away…