Social Media FAQ #4: How Do I Launch My Social Media Program?

I’m starting a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, so please, pass them around.

If you’re seeking advanced topics, cruise through the web strategy posts (it goes back pages and pages)

Social Media FAQ #4: How Do I Launch My Social Media Program?


Companies unsure how to launch
Most companies are used to announcing products or initiatives using press releases, advertising, media influence, and even analyst influence. While many companies are toe dipping in the social media waters (The majority still have not, I’ve seen some adoption data from work) so there’s still many questions on what to do once you launch your blog, community site, podcast, etc.

Unlike Traditional Marketing
First of all, the term “launch” is the wrong way to think about this. Launch implies a single effort, getting a program in the air, and letting go, social media efforts are long term, and require a different approach, here’s how to approach it: think grassroots, not big bang.

The first thing to do is to remember this is unlike traditional marketing efforts. Remember that trust is highest between customers-to-prospect, not marketer-to-prospect. The next time you buy an item, think about who you trust more, a friend who has the product, or a marketer from that company. Therefore, the most effective way to announce your social media program is to get those in your community to announce it for you.

Tactics vary
In many cases, companies experiment internally with tools, and then launch a public social media program quietly, and let it build up momentum through natural word of mouth spread.

When a company wants to boost it’s presence, there’s quite a few ways to do this: 1) Link to the blogs, communities in your marketplace, add value from your own social media properties. 2) Join existing communities by leaving comments that add value, be an ongoing member of the community you’re trying to reach 3) For the sophisticated, provide special access to influencers in your market to announce, join, or co-create your social media programs.

Objectives
The goal for this exercise is simple, your employees, using social media tools, is to engage your community by interacting with them, being relevant, and adding valuable content to them (which is often, not marketing content) to your community. The objective is for them to respond to you, and sing your praises on your behalf. We’ll explore more advanced goals in future posts.

While I think good things are going to come out of ebay’s social media effort, to some, going the route of mainstream media to announce a groundswell effort seems counterintuitive.

  • This reminds me of a long email I once wrote to a colleague at Borland (now CodeGear) about changing the mindset there about product launches from “Supernova to snowball.” I should really turn it into a blog post 🙂 The basic point is simple. For traditional product managers (and yes, communications managers) the idea of “launching” something is about making sure everything is planned and perfect and that on the day of the launch the company, product, service is the brightest thing in the sky — a supernova.

    BUT, with social communities online, products (and communications efforts) can be “launched” by starting a little snowball down a hill. The benefit of doing so, as you rightly point out, is that you can engage your community in the way the snowball is developing and as it gains speed and size, it has benefited from the “steering” that the whole community contributes.

    So expand this research note to every kind of market engagement that a company has — its not just about social media, this is a principle companies should apply to product and service development as well!

  • Ted, I really like this, snowball vs supernova, clever.

  • Jeremiah –

    what if a company is not fit to have a social media program, but they still want to somehow engage in this space? They wont necessarily have a blog, but they still want to let their customers know that they care, are looking for their input, and what to build relationships beyond (sales and marketing)? What do they do?

  • There’s a big difference between “wanting to care” and actually caring Chris.

    While employees can certainly leave comments on other websites, it doesn’t look like a whole program (and a cultural shift has occurred) until social media programs are setup for customers.

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  • An important point – “In many cases, companies experiment internally with tools, and then launch a public social media program”.

    As you point out, there is often a massive culture shift at play. In my experience, an internal pilot really helped people understand the what’s and the why’s of Social Media. It’s given employees a place to experiment with and understand the channel while honing their voice in preparation for expanding our external reach.

    In my book, internal experimentation is a key approach for most companies struggling to understand SM concepts.

  • “adding valuable content to them (which is often, not marketing content)” – that sentence summarizes a significant hurdle in getting traditional marketers to adopt social media.

    Traditional marketers want to talk about their product and only their product, anything else is a waste of time and money. It’s often difficult to measure the real impact (ROI-wise) of these kinds of social conversations.

    How do you respond to these kinds of prejudices, Jeremiah?

  • My website http://www.handywise.com just launched a week ago, and I am thirsty for any good ideas on how to market my site. I have a blog myself and it is getting traffic, but handywise.com is more like a web tool like keen.com or odesk. I started spreading my words like you said, grassroot marketing, telling every single friends of mine, but friends and family are not as enthursiatic as I am. I am tight in budget, so bootstraping / grassroot marketing is the only way I can do right now. Or maybe I have communication issue on my end 🙁 Anyhow, good to have blogs and people like you so I can get some tricks and tips. Thanks.

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  • There's a big difference between “wanting to care” and actually caring Chris.

    While employees can certainly leave comments on other websites, it doesn't look like a whole program (and a cultural shift has occurred) until social media programs are setup for customers.