The Five Must-Haves of Building an Integrated Social Media Plan

So how do marketing professionals take the reins and steer a cohesive, integrated social media marketing plan? I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of local marketers at a recent IABC Phoenix Luncheon on the topic of building a cohesive social media marketing plan. Here, I lay out five must-haves when building an integrated social media plan.

You start by understanding your marketing and content marketing model well enough to integrate social media practices and tools into the overall program. That takes good internal planning. My “5 Must Haves of Social Media Marketing” will help you get there. These must-haves are:

1. Shifting + Controlling of Consumers and Audiences

2. Planning with Internal + External Customers in Mind

3. Aligning + Orchestrating Integrated Content Strategy

4. Executing as a Team

5. Measuring Impact to Business with Focus

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Welcome to the Dark Side of Social Media

It wasn’t too long ago when companies were chomping at the bit to adopt social media as part of their overall organizational and communication strategy. I can’t blame them – it was all the rage. Blogs and news were abuzz with why and how companies would fall behind if they didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon. Major world-class brands and small companies alike couldn’t get enough of social media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. Well, the time has come when we see the dark side of social media. That is, engagement and open communication are being taken to new heights – outside of our control. As with all good things, we have reached a point with social media where we must look at not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

A few months back, Nestle took a nasty hit when Greenpeace UK turned against the giant nutrition, health and wellness company, posting a provocative YouTube video calling into question Nestle’s methods for acquiring palm oil. The online attack didn’t stop there. The Greenpeace group launched a full-blown social media attack against Nestle, posting negative comments on the company’s sites and forcing Nestle to answer Greenpeace’s questions. Weeks after the social media backlash, Nestle announced a “non-deforestation” policy in partnership with The Forest Trust (TFT).

Most recently, Intel, one of the largest manufacturers in the electronics industry, was attacked by activists opposed to minerals mining in the Congo. Opponents initiated an attack on Intel’s Facebook page, challenging Intel to pledge its support for a congressional bill that would restrict the import of “conflict minerals” that contribute to fighting in the war-torn country. Intel is highly reliant on a range of minerals. The company, per its long-standing Facebook moderation policy, took down posts they deemed to be “spam” and closed comments for a very brief period, which they reopend shortly after after realizing the significance of the issue. (Per clarification from Intel’s social media strategist Kelly Ripley Feller, Intel did issue an apology immediately following). Please take a moment to read Intel’s blog. For more details on this issue, I would recommend reading Fail to Understand Social Media by Torben Rick.

What now? While most companies may understand the value of social media, what these real-world cases have shown us is that transparency, engagement, communication and open dialogue come with a price. Before you jump on the social media bandwagon, companies must first look internally and look at pros/cons of social media and adopt a social media crisis management policy. Remember – both good and bad news can travel at lightning speed – especially in this social Web 2.0 age. Today, companies that use social media must have a sound policy in place not just for social media but crisis management policy that can help you address these challenges head on.

  • Social Media and Crisis Management Policy

Every company using social media should have a policy in place that includes best practices and dos and don’ts that align with your organizational strategy. Further, companies also need to incorporate crisis management policy that demonstrates the key steps in case a crisis should occur. We call this a social media response plan. This should entail your company’s plans step by step from gathering information to when and how company representatives should respond. 

  • Continuous Monitoring Process

Listening is a discipline – even in the social mediasphere. Every company should have a monitoring process in place to understand who’s talking about your brand, services and products at all times. Daily Twitter search, Bloglines, etc. should be used to monitor your brand every day and flag all positive and negative conversations around your brand. This way, you’re not reacting but can have the upper hand in preparing your Rapid Response Strategy. To do this well, your company should have a list of all the social media channels you’re tracking on a daily basis and share a daily, weekly and monthly social media index.

  • Influencing the Influencers

Your Rapid Response Strategy should include a running list of all your influencers and where they are most active across all social media channels. This way, you can reach out directly to them with your final response or message. This is assuming you have an ongoing relationship with them, which you should, to help extend the brand and message.

  • Rapid Response Plan

This plan is crucial and should reach across your executives, experts, spokesperson(s), PR teams and communication agencies. This outlines your external strategy for responding to the media and social media channels if necessary and explains the process when a crisis occurs, how you’re going to work across teams to cultivate your message and distribute it both internally and externally, including to traditional media outlets.

  • Communication Strategy

While you may be focused on engaging the social media/online communities with your rapid response, don’t forget your employees, partners, shareholders and customers. If a company fails to alert the internal teams (employees), shareholders, partners and customers, it can further damage your brand and customer trust. This can also damage your bottom line with stock shares falling and partners pulling out. Through an effective communication strategy, you can help control the message internally and externally.

Below is a very good crisis communication presentation by Olivgy on Social Media for Crisis Management. I highly recommend you take a look and adopt their best practices. For more information, please feel free to e-mail me at kimvanhorne@gmail.com.

Social Media: Balancing Security & Authenticity w/o Controlling the Message

Social media is all the rage. According to a recent report, 94 percent of Generation Y has joined a social networking site. Social media is believed to be leading the next social revolution. In fact, social networking has grown so dramatically that it is now the number one activity on the Web. In response to this social media phenomenon, businesses are moving at a rapid pace to take advantage of the untapped opportunity by making social media an integral part of their business strategy. 

On the flip side, the rise in this trend is giving hackers more motivation and greater opportunities to use the Web as the new threat vector.

Recently, I spoke in front of Women in Technology International group with my colleague, Chris Hewitt. I wanted to focus on three key areas:

  • How social media is forcing business strategy shift?
  • Why social media poses huge opportunity and RISK for the corporate world?
  • Why businesses should adopt processes and policies to maintain and educate on security best practices without controlling the authenticity of the message and voice?

This presentation will highlight how businesses can put security front and center to protect brand and customer confidence while learning to let go of control and reach their audiences through the open dialog of social media.

Social Media Balancing Act: Sentiment vs. ROI

SourceGeorge Beckenstein of Digital Media and Social Marketing Strategist recently wrote an interesting post on how business used to be conducted. He noted that anyone you did business with lived in your immediate community. There was no such thing as advertising, marketing channels and brands. You did business with people you knew. It was not an “information economy,” and nothing was mass produced. It was a Trust Economy. In a Trust Economy, your market is your community or network. Trust is mandatory, and influence is king.

Recently, I was at a marketing event where I engaged in a heated discussion about social media with a senior account rep from a local marketing agency. I asked her why they were one of the few agencies not engaged in social media. Her response: “We don’t do social media because there is no ROI.” She also mentioned that it was more appropriate for B2C not B2B. Ironically, we are one of their clients and happen to be B2B, not to mention heavily into social media. —I said social media is not always about ROI — it should be first and foremost about sentiment and driving influence, which could eventually lead to ROI.

This leads me to my blog throw down with Amanda Vega, founder and CEO of Vega Consulting; Mike Abrams, VP of Business Development for TBD Consulting; and Chris Hewitt , senior director of marketing operations at Lumension. Amanda once tweeted to me that whenever her clients come to her about social media, their main driving factor is ROI (return on investment).

Social media by no stretch of the imagination has become an important part of a business’ overall corporate strategy. While many companies may understand the importance of social media, some are misguided in the notion that social media is about directly driving leads and increasing sales. This is understandable given how businesses today face greater economic pressures to perform and show quantifiable metrics to validate their investment. Adding social media to the marketing mix is no exception.

Figuring out ROI on social media continues to be a hotly debated topic. I am a firm believer that social media is a critical asset to a company in terms of building a brand, monitoring customer attitudes, gathering ongoing business intelligence and growing your influence. However, using social media to drive sales shouldn’t be the main focus of engaging in the first place. It’s nice to get those results, but we need to set the right priorities when it comes to using social networking tools. In a world where businesses no longer have control over what people are saying about their brand, products or services, social media gives us the opportunity to quietly monitor and listen to the conversations. If we choose, we can even engage with the broader community and participate in conversations around our brands in hopes of providing a positive brand experience. Why? More than being focused on driving sales as the main motivator, influence is king. Influence drives trust. Trust can lead to powerful Word of Mouth. Powerful WOM could lead to sales and deeper engagement.

There is no question that social media can be a dynamic tool. However, an organization cannot be successful in social media without building brand awareness and engagement first. Without establishing this all-important foundation, one cannot be successful in social media or drive sales. The whole point of social media is the ability to participate in a conversation that’s taking place around your brand or your industry. A company cannot build a social media strategy simply to drive sales without first building trust within its community. This takes a lot of effort in building sentiment, not to mention a lot of time. Once you’ve established trust around your brand, then the community will take the next steps to listen to what you have to say, follow your conversations and get to know your brand.

@tdhurst said to me: “Social media is always about sales.” True — most companies want you to justify their investment, but it’s up to the social media experts to educate them on what the purpose of social media is and what the overall objective is for that company. This way, you can better align corporate objectives with social media strategy.

I had the opportunity to listen to @GuyKawasaki at the recent BOLO 2009 event where he demonstrated different levels of social media successes — monitor, watch, sell, support and engage. Companies such as Starbucks use social media to monitor what people are saying about their latest promotion and their brand while others such as Dell and Kogi use social media to sell their goods. Another good example is Comcast, which uses the platform to provide customer support direct. While major brands like Dell and Starbucks may have the luxury to choose what type of engagement they want to have with the community, it’s still about understanding and measuring brand awareness and driving positive brand engagement before pushing promos. If you don’t have these in place, when it comes to driving sales, you’re SOL.

Let’s face it, whether it’s social media, marketing campaigns or PR, if you don’t have brand awareness, brand trust and positive brand engagement to drive influence, your results would be the same — lackluster interest in your company and products. Social media is another medium where you get the privilege to first monitor and listen to the overall sentiment around your brand before you look to integrate other objectives, such as driving sales.

Join the Debate

My colleagues – Amanda, Mike, Chris and I have started a community to openly discuss this throwdown: Social Media Debate.  We welcome your thoughts, comments, and ideas.