Jason Mical's comparison of first time social media engagement to first time sex. Though I must admit his post on the subject was eye catching and quite entertaining (Warning: article contains mild profanity). Consider my response on first-time social media engagement for companies and businesses to be more conservative or modest in tone and content - suitable for children and the audience I'm trying to reach.
A common mistake companies and organizations commit when engaging in social media for the first time is a wrong focus on technology rather than their business objectives. Companies are quick to conclude that a presence in the social media environment such as blog, FaceBook or Twitter is the final end goal of their social media campaign. However, choosing a technology or the online platform alone is a weak goal and the campaign is bound to fall short or not reach its full potential.
A bona fide communication strategy is vital to ensure strength and sustainability in the growing and complex social media environment. As CC Chapman of Managing the Gray Podcast described “social media is like water… don’t just jump in.” Companies and organizations need to think twice and carefully look at the bottom of the swimming pool before they dive into the social media waters. Without assessing the depth of the pool, the water, a creative public relations campaign, may look clear and safe until the company leaps in and realize the campaign hits rock bottom or drowning from overwhelming messages from the web community. The main objective is to swim not to dive. Thus, the organization needs to be strategic in social media. Look before you dive. Cautiously check the water first then decide which side of the swimming pool is safe to dive in.
Social media begin with the end in mind. The communication strategy is not the goal. It’s the path an organization takes to get there. The organization’s goal is fuel that runs the social media bandwagon. It is imperative for an organization to differentiate social media technology from social media strategy. Determining the social media channels are good but what’s more important, understands who to reach out to and how to use social media channels to engage a better, collaborative and creative two-way relationship with potential stakeholders. As Chris Brogan said, “a strategy aligns the path we’re going to take and develop with an understanding of how to reach the goals. Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How do we know we’ve arrived?”
In laying out a social media strategy, effective research must take place to get a bigger picture of the organization, brand or cause. Listening to the social web community is the most effective research methodology. The organization need to listen to find out if someone or no one is talking about your organization or cause. Listening can be done through blog or search-engine search.
In conclusion, a communication strategy is fundamental in any social media campaigns. A well-established strategy is a well-informed strategy and it can only be done through effective listening. Listening will answer important questions essential in designing a plan to reach the organization’s social media goals. Questions such as: Why do you need a social media campaign?; Who are your consumers or stakeholders? How do you want to execute a campaign (i.e. FaceBook or Youtube)?; How do your stakeholders perceive your organization or cause? And, are you ready to openly communicate with your stakeholders and most especially with your critique? Once the organization has strong, honest and realistic answers to these questions then it is safe and clear to dive into social media head first or feet first.