Best Practices For Your Social-Media Strategy

I'm beginning to hate the term "social media" more everyday. As David Pogue, tech columnist at The New York Times once said, "What is social media? A bunch of televisions talking to one another at a cocktail party?"

Regardless, self-expression and peer-to-peer communications are changing the game in how businesses and customers interact. In fact, one of my near-term initiatives at my own new start-up company is defining and executing our so-called social-media plan. I prefer to call it our community strategy. So it was good timing that Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff sent me his new report: "Objectives: The Key To Creating A Social Strategy."

Here's a summary of his "POST" strategy:

1. People - Assess your customers' social activities.

2. Objectives - Decide what you want to accomplish.

3. Strategy - Plan for how relationships with customers will change.

4. Technology - Decide which social technologies to use.

(See his in-depth summary post here.)

While the POST framework boils down to straightforward strategic planning 101 (i.e., defining stakeholders, objectives, strategy and tactics), there are some valuable takeaways on strategic and execution risks. They can't be overemphasized:

1. Customer profile mismatches - This happens when you mismatch technology platforms with actual behaviors and sophistication levels of your customers.

2. Poorly defined objectives - This happens when you execute without a clear goal.

3. Strategic timidity (or lack of internal buy-in) - This happens when your effort only goes halfway, or gives up without truly embracing and acting on opportunities to employ social technologies to change relationships.

4. Flawed technology implementation - This happens when you choose the wrong technologies, or fail to adapt.

These learning and refinements are great, but really are only the beginning of what I think most marketers are seeking in designing their community strategy. I know, because I'm one of them! So here's a few more I've picked up over past years, as well as in my latest endeavor.

1. Poorly defined scope - This happens when marketers fail to forecast what resources are truly necessary to carry out the plan. Community building is hard work, and demands significant resources and budget.

2. Mismatched expectations - Face it: "social media" is an ill-defined term that carries great promise and excitement amidst all the Web 2.0 hype. You should be realistic about timelines and milestones while tying them to specific business goals. You don't want expectations run amuck to kill your community initiative and label you a failure.

3. Technology complexity - The fact is that social-media technologies range from open-source to utmost proprietary. They are offered standalone and free to bundled inside of expensive consulting services, often inseparable. Some of the best consultants won't work with anything other than their proprietary platforms. Some of the worst, most inflexible services are receiving the most hype. It's messy, so you first must invest time digging through the clutter to understand what's out there. I've yet to find a single comprehensive, authoritative and experienced information source that clarifies the landscape, and I've looked everywhere.

4. Technology immaturity - Josh's Forrester report starts to get at this, but I'll emphasize further: social technologies are in their infancy and you can count on tremendous change, as well as consolidation. The landscape is bloated and commoditizing. Therefore, front-load flexibility into everything you do. Invest in products and services backed by companies with solid footing and strategic vision.

5. Community context - This has always been one of the most difficult questions for me: Where in the overall user experience should the community exist? If you're a retailer or Web service, is it best to position community within your service offering? What if you're an offline service provider? How should community connect to your corporate Web site? My rule of thumb is that transparency, openness and high exposure should inspire the profile and context. A spirit of "helping the community accomplish its goal" should also inform.

These are some of my best practices in community strategy. What are yours



Next story loading loading..