Web Strategy: The “Air Traffic Tower” helps to keeps you aware, coordinated, and relevant

In my presentation at WebVisions (watch video and slides) a few weeks ago, I discussed this concept, below is the breakdown of how to create your own Air Traffic Tower. As a social media resource, I will likely refer clients to this post.


Web Marketing is not just on your .com site
Web Marketing has spread like a virus off the corporate website to blogs, forums, and social networks. As a large corporation you’re beyond just dipping ones toes with a corporate blog, because several groups are using social media around the corporation. Web Marketing is not limited to your corporate site and google results only.

Faster and Faster

Social Media makes news in any industry nearly real-time, the corporate communications department can’t keep up, and the PR agency is not staffed or skilled correctly. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, different people are responding, and worse yet, that customer’s widget just blew up and no one at your company has yet figured out how to respond.

Many Voices

There are millions of customers out there, and about 20-40% of them will engage in the conversation, how will you keep track? Email isn’t going to cut it, it’s not shared across the organization, and easily retrievable.

Communications are also distributed to the edges of the company

In addition to the press release and other mainstream types of communications, two-way conversations are happening at the edges of the company. The product teams, support, and marketing folks are communicating using these casual tools, you can’t stop it, and it’s only going to increase as the next generation of workers enters the workforce with their facebook, myspace, and youtube accounts.

Centralize awareness of the conversation with a internal tracking tool. Align internal communications to keep track of advocates, detractors, new influencers. Keep track of events, tag and label them as they emerge, during conversations, and after an event.

Web Strategy: The Air Traffic Tower
This is a concept as much as a process.

What it is: A tool, process, or method to encourage empowered and distributed communications, but helping all of the groups on the ‘edges’ of the corporation keep track.

What it’s not: (This is important) I specially left out the term ‘control’ in Air Traffic Tower. It is not command and control, it is not centralized communications. This tool is not about control, it’s about keeping track. While an organization can certainly be more coordinated, and at least increase awareness of the conversation, it’s not intended to do what PR has done in the past.

I’m expecting some flack from blogger purists out there, but as someone who is visiting with the individuals from top companies using social media, I promise you, it’s integrating.

This is tool for awareness and tracking, not for controlling.

How to Deploy and Use

The following are specific steps I would take if I were to deploy in an organization, feel free to modify as needed.

1) Create tool on Intranet. It’s a pretty simple tool to use, it’s a blog, a forum, or a wiki. It’s a multi-authored living document that any employee can contribute to.

2) Educate and Encourage employees that are watching the conversation to contribute. As different conversations occur from different parts of the blogosphere, employees will post a snippit and a link

3) Identify and Organize.
Employees will tag (using that categories or tagging feature native to blog software) the content as appropriate. Detractor, Advocate, Fire, Good to know, etc will help to quickly keep organized

4) Empower. Communications are now decentralized and from the edges of a corporation. Successful companies have learned to let go to gain more. It will be clear which group will need to handle the situation, maybe by product team, or maybe there’s a specific community manager role. While those involved can make suggestions in the comment section of the Air Traffic tower, it’s not a place to force a communication. Remember, authenticity is important now, so letting the humanness come out is key.

5) Resolve and Label. When an issue, (or praise) is completed, tag the post on the Air Traffic Tower as responded, ignored, or just watching. It’s important to listen and watch conversations, so keep track.

6) Other Uses:

A) Keep a list of influencers in the ‘new’ media space. Those bloggers that talk about you and your competitors can be used to help you spread your own news, embrace and talk to them. Build a relationship with them.

B) List out successful engagements and programs that were tied to your corporate objectives. Pretty much every company I know that has a blog is using it to spread it’s announcements in addition to the traditional press release, so go ahead and measure it.

C) Measure in other ways. Put links to metric reports, measurements, and other types of measurement, keep track. Integrate with other listening tools and reports.

D) Encourage the organic employee bloggers. You know that employee who has a sky-rocketing blog who emerged organically with no aid from Marketing? Chances are he or she thinks the corporate marketing efforts are horrible and is also scared to get close to marketing as they’re afraid of the restriction that could be placed on them. Encourage them to help keep the rest of the company aware using this tool, let them get involved internally.

E) Encourage conversations. Hold a real life meeting every month to talk about how Social Media is being used within the corporation. If customers are starting to organize and talk to each other using social media, why aren’t’ you doing it internally?

Over time, you’ll have built up an internal chronology of how your company has listened, joined and added to the conversation in your market. You’ll be able to better know your market, learn to coordinate. While still a concept of how a corporation needs to evolve, the Air Traffic Tower is a good way of staying relevant by being aware and coordinated.

My Background:
I’ve managed or been involved with four Enterprise Intranets and one Social Media Program. I’m now a Social Media resource for clients of PodTech. I’m here to help you too, my email address is on the right column of my blog web-strategist.com.

When I tag a post Web Strategy it’s because it’s a “how to” type of content, check out all the other posts tagged Web Strategy.