Tag Archives: Social Networking

What Should I Do Today?

8 Mar

I’m reading Amber Naslund’s post on how to do ‘hard work‘ as I try to decide how to start two quite distinct proposals while it’s still morning.  Worth reading if you need a little inspiration and a reminder to get focused, get to work and push the results beyond simply what’s expected (incidentally, it’s also worth a click for the photo of Spider-Man ambling along the sidewalk with his duffel).

This has me thinking once again about one of my favorite client questions on managing communications in a world where there are just too many ways to reach customers — how do I find the time to do social media when I barely have the resources to get the basics done?  The answer, of course, is to rethink “the basics.” But how do you do that?

One of my maxims for clients thinking about establishing their social media and online presence is to re-cast their thinking from “what I have to get done today” — the newsletter, the brochure, the article, the trade show booth, the website redesign — to “what’s going on out there today, what do I have to say about it, and how can I help?”  These questions are likely to lead you toward your audience via communications media and tools that are much more immediate and direct.

For example, the corporate communications to-do list might include:

* Each week, review company news, topics and themes with corporate, marketing, sales and service: what do you want to say today?  Where should we say it?

* Scan industry news, blogs and social chatter — how can we be relevant? What can we learn from customers and influencers today?

* Determine whether and how to respond to social chatter, blog posts, news articles. Respond or elevate where needed.

* Post your news on your website or blog, and on networks where customers and influencers can find and follow.

* Meet with internal stakeholders to ensure in-depth awareness and understanding of what’s happening inside the business. Adjust the message. Take time to review the strategy. What are the tools, media and materials you need to make the message work?

Do all this along with creating corporate presentations, participating in meetings, handling ad hoc high-priority executive requests, communicating across the team, juggling deadlines and actually writing and producing the stories your organization has to tell.

(Are there enough hours in the day?)

If we keep asking questions, the answers should become clear — what works? what doesn’t? what does the customer need? what moves the needle? what are we doing because we’ve always done it?

If you could start over, what would you keep? What would you drop?

What We Can Learn About Tech and B2B Marketing from Comic Books

3 Sep

My  deep, dark secret is that I like comic books.  I was hooked on super heroes the day my 5th grade teacher gave away his comic collection to his class, and though I stopped collecting years ago, I never stopped being a fan. I still follow the industry, and even pick up a title or two (or three) for escape or inspiration.

So with the planned acquisition of Marvel Comics by Disney making the news, I can’t resist the opportunity to combine my vocation with avocation.  And I’ve thought for a long time that corporate communications and marketing — especially B2B and technology marketing — has something to learn from an entertainment business like Marvel Comics.

The comics industry is fun to watch, and they do a number of things that translate into B2B and technology marketing.  To wit:

1. They remember that it’s about people. In comics, Marvel’s breakthrough was superheroes like Peter Parker and the Fantastic Four, who acted like real people with real problems.  It’s all about real people doing extraordinary things.

Beyond the product, your people vital are characters in the company story — from the visionary technologist to the insightful marketer (hopefully) to the customer service rep who goes above and beyond, businesses can grow awareness and loyalty by pulling back the veil and making the corporate more personal…and real.

2. They know that the customer owns the product. At a company like Marvel that has shared the soap opera of its character’s lives for nearly 50 years, the editors and creators clearly recognize that the characters and stories live in the hearts of the fans.  They are stewards of the story, responsible both to respect what came before, and to innovate in ways that keep the stories vital and break new ground.

There’s a parallel in B2B and technology — every purchase impacts the livelihood of the purchaser. It may be a part of their day to day business, or fuels productivity.  The customer, in other words, is invested in your success. So it’s only natural that they want to be respected and heard.  It’s why users groups and conferences are so important for many tech businesses, and why companies that are socially engaged in their markets tend to be more successful.

3. They know that being social gets results. Comic books are largely sold in specialty stores and online rather than through mass market retail.  Comic publishers like Marvel deal constantly with the push and pull of B2B channel marketing — their audience is store owners as much as the comics fan — often simultaneously.  Their channel to the audience is an often bewildering array of online and traditional magazines, national and regional cons, fan blogs, gossip columns, discussion forums, social networks and even a couple national newspapers.

The result is an industry where the channel, fans and media are incredibly close to the creators, editors and publishers. You get weekly interviews with the Marvel editor-in-chief, a teriffic ‘inside baseball’ blog by their executive editor, Q&A’s with writers on major storylines via podcasts and text, individual creator websites and forums, writers’ Twitter feeds…et cetera.  They produce news themselves, and participate in the hurly burly of the media market.

Of course, not every business generates the kind of passion that comics do.  The point is, they’re out there participating. And they are out there producing.  As a media business, they recognize that they have something to say every day, their customers have something to say every day, and they use all the tools available to say it.

Any other secret or not-so-secret comics fan/marketers out there?  What say you?

Social Media Policy Guidelines

26 Aug

Two weeks ago, I drafted a social media policy for a client, and in the next week, two more clients were asking about establishing policies of their own. Something’s happening here.  A recent article in the StarTribune here in the Twin Cities put a spotlight on the issue, citing a survey that indicated that while few companies have social media policies, nearly all are concerned about the impact of employee use of social networks on corporate reputation.

My own experience shows two converging issues. On one hand, companies see opportunity. For my startup client, there’s no reason that every employee couldn’t tell their own networks about the work of this new online business … but the company has an interest in protecting its own reputation and employees have to decide for themselves.

On the other side is concern with reputation, as well as workplace productivity. Vince Giorgi posted a terrific summary of the concerns that lead many companies to filter out social networking sites and monitor employees’ online activity.  Giorgi cites analysis by Nucleus Research indicating that “Companies that let employees access Facebook during
work hours can expect to see total office productivity decline by an average of 1.5 percent.”

I guess it depends on what you mean by productivity.  My take is that the work of the company is not simply just the work of the company.  Employees are ambassadors of the business, and when they are happy and well treated at work, it shows in the way they do their jobs, the service they deliver, the kind of talent they attract, and yes, in productivity as well. When they’re treated as grown-ups, given guidelines and largely trusted to do their jobs and do them well, good employees will do so.  Giorgi followed up his earlier post to cite a survey of human resources executives, noting a recognition of these benefits, along with reasonable “angst”.

In my view, the goal of social media policy is to reconcile the reality of the new ways people communicate personally and professionally, the associated risks and the potential opportunities.  Policy guidelines should, a minimum:

  • Remind employees to act professionally online, to protect their own reputations and that of the company.
  • Provide reasonable restrictions to protect the company, such as not revealing confidential information, disparaging the company, employees or management, etc.
  • Encourage participation in professional networks appropriate to their role in the business.
  • Encourage authenticity and honesty in all online activity.
  • Never coerce employees into participating in company promotions through personal networks.
  • Guide employees toward better understanding, generally, of what these networks are and how people are using them personally and professionally, so that they can better interact in the online world.

What would you add?

For more information, check out:

Altimeter Group — Social Media Policy Links

Help a PR Agency Update their Social Media Policy

Bigger List of Social Media Policies from Social Media Governance

4 Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications

25 Aug

I thought I’d collect my last few posts into one big ‘ol post.  The point to all of this is to show that you can think about social strategies in terms of “valuable activities you can measure.”

The challenge, as always, is to measure them in sales. But in many ways, that’s just not fair. First, it’s clear that we know that marketers firmly believe that many online public relations activities work — and traditional PR activties — without being able to tie them back to sales.  Second, there are many corporate activities that either support critical operations (i.e., accounts payable, accounts receivable, running an IT network, maintaining office space, etc.) that you can’t necessarily tie back to sales, but you know is important to the business.  They, like communications, are part of the basics of doing business.  The key is to do them — and measure them — efficiently, strategically and with focus — not just on sales, but on your goals for the kind of business you want to be.

Herewith, four strategies… and there are more from whence they came:

Idea #1: Doing a Better Job at PR and Media Relations.

Do the reporters and editors that follow your company post on Twitter? Do they have blogs? Are they using RSS?  Are you outsourcing all of this to the agency?

You may be missing out for a couple reasons. First, reporters and editors appreciate having direct relationships with representatives of the company. Next, tools like Twitter and blogs make it possible to reach certain reporters in ways that you never could through email — commenting on what they do, sharing ideas and more.

But what is more interesting to a reporter — a Tweet or blog comment from the director of marketing at COMPANY, or one from an agency representing…who knows? Use the agency for strategy, ideas and formal pitching…in between, if you’re not connected with them, you may be missing opportunities.

Measure by clicks to your website, search ranking on key topics and sales.

Idea #2: Getting in front of…or catching up to your competitors.

You might do a few searches and find that no one is talking about your brand and think, “My customers aren’t using social media — I don’t have to worry about this yet.” But…are you sure about that? Maybe they just aren’t talking about you… The first, most important step is to make sure you’re watching — that you’re monitoring the forums, topics and keywords that are important to your reputation and sales.

If your competitors are being discussed without you, there’s an issue to address — how can you become part of the conversation?

If customers are complaining about competitors’ products, is there an opportunity?

If no one talks about what you do…there may be an opportunity to start something new — a web portal, blog or partnership — or an indication that online resources need to better support offline interactions.

The remedy is to actively monitor, evaluate and plot a strategy that delivers for your company.

Measure by links back to your website from social networks, tone of key messages visible online, search engine positioning.

Idea #3 sits right in the wheelhouse of corporate communications:  Being ready for the crisis.

It’s true that if you keep your head down, you’ll probably be OK for a while. But eventually, something will happen. You’ll recall a product. Or well-connected customer decides to vent their product/customer service frustrations on you.  Or some ‘enterprising’ employee decides to make a video ‘unbecoming’ of the brand. Or an energized group of consumers decides to be offended by your new ad campaign.  Should your brand’s first participation consumer and influencer communities online be an apology?

Again, it pays to be watching…and listening.  The earlier you catch wind of a brand or reputation crisis the better.  What if, like Comcast, you keep an eye on Twitter for service complaints and make sure they are handled? The better connected you are with those online communities, the easier it will be to respond.  The better you understand online communities and social networks, and how you’ll get the word out in crisis, the better for your reputation as well.

Measure in how long the sales hit lasts — if at all.

Idea 4: Empower Employees…and manage them.

Employees are consumers. Employees are people. Employees have networks both professional and personal. And you never know when that will help … or hurt … your corporate goals. Employees engaged online — through blogs, private forums, social networks like Facebook or Twitter, or industry forums — are ambassodors of the brand. They are problem solvers. They are recruisters. They are sharers of the promotions you want to “go viral”.

The Knowledge@Wharton blog offers some great case studies in a recent post — Del Monte Pet Foods chats with consumers about problems and ideas to shape new products. HP has 50 bloggers engaged in product communities every day.  E&Y uses Facebook for recruiting.  As Joe Kraus of Google is quoted in that post:

“What all organizations need to prepare for, said Kraus, is a completely social web, where “your users will simply expect to be part of the conversation.”

What communications needs to provide is policy that guides engagement but does not constrict.  Or, to put it another way, to encourage employees who want to help the company, while offering reasonable advice on how to do so without hurting the company, or their own livelihood.  Charline Li offers an informative listing of corporate policies that are great examples of how very different companies come at the challenges and opportunities of online social engagement.  Worth a read…and a whole new post that I’ll save for next time.

Measure by improved search engine positioning, increased media attention, greater website traffic and sales leads.


Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Part 4

6 Aug

Here’s the fourth of this week’s ideas for measurable online social engagement strategies.  I’ll collect these into a single post for easy viewing tomorrow.

In many ways, I think this is the most important idea of them all.

Idea 4: Empower Employees…and manage them.

Employees are consumers. Employees are people. Employees have networks both professional and personal. And you never know when that will help … or hurt … your corporate goals. Employees engaged online — through blogs, private forums, social networks like Facebook or Twitter, or industry forums — are ambassodors of the brand. They are problem solvers. They are recruisters. They are sharers of the promotions you want to “go viral”.

The Knowledge@Wharton blog offers some great case studies in a recent post — Del Monte Pet Foods chats with consumers about problems and ideas to shape new products. HP has 50 bloggers engaged in product communities every day.  E&Y uses Facebook for recruiting.  As Joe Kraus of Google is quoted in that post:

“What all organizations need to prepare for, said Kraus, is a completely social web, where “your users will simply expect to be part of the conversation.”

What communications needs to provide is policy that guides engagement but does not constrict.  Or, to put it another way, to encourage employees who want to help the company, while offering reasonable advice on how to do so without hurting the company, or their own livelihood.  Charline Li offers an informative listing of corporate policies that are great examples of how very different companies come at the challenges and opportunities of online social engagement.  Worth a read…and a whole new post that I’ll save for next time.

Measure by improved search engine positioning, increased media attention, greater website traffic and sales leads.

Further reading:

Idea 1: Doing better PR

Idea 2:  Geting in front of…and catching up to competitors

Idea 3: Being ready for the crisis.

Contact me to work with your company.

Measureable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Part 3

5 Aug

We’re on day three of ideas for measurable social engagement strategies for corporate communications.  If you haven’t found a good reason to get your organization engaged in online social networks — even in a small way — as part of your day-to-day business, here’s a good place to start.

Idea #3 sits right in the wheelhouse of corporate communications:  Being ready for the crisis.

It’s true that if you keep your head down, you’ll probably be OK for a while. But eventually, something will happen. You’ll recall a product. Or well-connected customer decides to vent theirproduct/customer service frustrations on you.  Or some ‘enterprising’ employee decides to make a video ‘unbecoming’ of the brand. Or an energized group of consumers decides to be offended by your new ad campaign.  Should your brand’s first participation consumer and influencer communities online be an apology?

Again, it pays to be watching…and listening.  The earlier you catch wind of a brand or reputation crisis the better.  What if, like Comcast, you keep an eye on Twitter for service complaints and make sure they are handled? The better connected you are with those online communities, the easier it will be to respond.  The better you understand online communities and social networks, and how you’ll get the word out in crisis, the better for your reputation as well.

Measure in how long the sales hit lasts — if at all.

Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Idea 2

4 Aug

We’re talking about measurable social engagement strategies for corporate communications — reasons to get started for public relations professionals who haven’t made engaging in online networks a part of their day-to-day business.  I’ll be sharing an idea-a-day this week.  I’m suggesting ideas that can become part of your daily routine, and part of strategic programs, along with ideas for how to measure their success.  Here’s idea #2:

Idea #2: Getting in front of…or catching up to your competitors.

You might do a few searches and find that no one is talking about your brand and think, “My customers aren’t using social media — I don’t have to worry about this yet.” But…are you sure about that? Maybe they just aren’t talking about you… The first, most important step is to make sure you’re watching — that you’re monitoring the forums, topics and keywords that are important to your reputation and sales.

If your competitors are being discussed without you, there’s an issue to address — how can you become part of the conversation?

If customers are complaining about competitors’ products, is there an opportunity?

If no one talks about what you do…there may be an opportunity to start something new — a web portal, blog or partnership — or an indication that online resources need to better support offline interactions.

The remedy is to actively monitor, evaluate and plot a strategy that delivers for your company.

Measure by links back to your website from social networks, tone of key messages visible online, search engine positioning.

See also:

Monday — Intro and Idea#1

Contact me to talk about communications strategy, positioning and messaging for your organization.

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