Strategies for organizing your Corporate Social Media Program (Starting internally first)

Last week, I was invited to speak at Intel, one of the largest tech companies in the world, I gave them some practical advice on how to organize internally. While this is only part of the information I provided them, there’s some good nuggets that I want to share with the world based upon my experience.

For many large corporations being able to manage the many additional voices due to social media in an industry is a daunting task. Many companies are just starting to appoint Community Managers or assign budget and resources for the marketing organizations. Listening to the blogosphere, podcasts, and now video requires time, figuring out how to respond to them is yet another challenge. Being somewhat internally coordinate as many employees communicate is an even larger task.

Strategies for organizing your Corporate Social Media Program:

Recognize the new influencers. Like Media, Press, and Analysts, consider Social Media yet an additional influencer group to reach.

Prepare for all scenarios. Create an internal process or at least discuss how to deal with crises. (such as exploding products, embarrassing situations). Draw from classic PR strategies, but realize that acting quickly in a human way, and not hiding is key.

Don’t shy away. Acknowledge deficiencies, no matter how shameful immediately. If you don’t have the answer, at least acknowledge you see the problem and will respond as soon as you have an answer. As a result you will become the first source of news, and will control any additional buzz. Stay relevant, address the issues.

Human media is at your disposal. Consider using video to humanize communications, during a crisis this could be a big difference. Recently Jet Blue and KFC have done these during crises.

Address the good as well as the bad.
In addition to planning for fire drills, be sure to plan for positive unexpected events. If a customer raves about your produce on his blog, learn how to acknowledge and harness. There’s a variety of ways to use this.

Track who’s who. Create an index of bloggers and influences in your industry, consider putting on an internal list, an internal feedreader or even on an industry wiki. Update: Not sure what a feedreader or feeds are? Start with this video.

Appoint and Empower.
For especially large organizations figure out who’s on point to respond to bloggers and social media in different segments, product groups or verticals. Teach them, empower them and support them to act without unnecessary political review processes. Let them be human.

Employees will blog, embrace.
In addition to creating the corporate blog(s), be sure to recognize the natural employee bloggers that appear. You may find them in the product groups, support, and marketing departments. Have a discussion on how to include them in your strategy, even if it means to let them continue on their own. When it comes to trust, prospects and customers may trust employee bloggers that don’t have the corporate logo on their blog.

The Blogging/Ethics Policy. This depends on the corporate situation, for some companies, this is a requirement, and for other companies, this is already covered in the employee ethics policy. Figure out what’s right for your culture. Ultimately, you should trust your employees, if not, why did you hire them?

Consider creating the “Air Traffic Control Tower”. Just like at an airport, having an internal direction to let know corporate and employee bloggers know what’s happening is helpful. This internal blog could help let bloggers know what’s appropriate to say, what’s not, and indicate what’s happening out on the blogosphere. Use to keep track of advocates and detractors, and use tags as appropriate to create a running history.

Use Social Media as Sales Tools.
I’ve found that corporate blogs can be used for sales and marketing three ways: 1) A “living” white paper by your companies thought leaders, 2) A rapid response tool. Think about how long a press release takes to craft. 3) A Conversation Starter: encourage your sales teams to send along interesting or controversial blog topics to prospects and customers to elicit a dialogue –even if they don’t agree. Consider creating sales FAQs and upload to intranet, these are tools that can be used.

Measurement. You’ll need to measure to prove worth in this new arena, get more budget and even get a raise. I’ve discussed this extensively, see all posts tagged Social Media Measurement.

Who am I?
I’m the Director of Corporate Media Strategy at PodTech.net, I help our customers understand social media. Check my profile or this interview conducted by Shel Israel.

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