How Brands Balance Their Diet With Social Media Supplements

Developing a social strategy is a lot like having a balanced diet.  While the employees can learn from each other, additional external supplements must be introduced into the diet for a balanced meal.

Unlike other tried and true mediums that are used to connect with customers, social strategies come with implications and risk. While brands will ultimately drive and implement their own social strategy entrée they’ll still need supplments to ensure they’re getting a balanced and healthy diet for this marathon. The below is a list of methods that brands are getting their daily dose of supplements for their social programs.

[Developing a social strategy is a lot like having a balanced diet.  While employees can learn from each other, additional external supplements must be introduced into the diet for a balanced meal]

How Brands Balance Their Diet With Social Media Supplements
Brands ultimately drive their own strategy, but must have additional resources outside of their firewall to understand the rapidly changing social space.  For each supplement, I”ll define what it is, give an example, then suggest how to best use, these supplements include: 

Workshops and Webinars:

  • What it is:  Brands often bring in third party experts that have formalized workshop agendas, content, and workshop content to help them succeed. 
  • Examples: I know many of the community platform vendors like LiveWorld have such an offering, as well as most social media conferences.  Education hubs like Marketing profs have ongoing webinar series, as does Forrester’s teleconfernces.
  • How to use: Use these once internal stakeholders have buyin, and there’s momentum from groups that want to learn best practices.  Don’t apply too early –nor too late.

Ongoing Training/Internal Labs: 

  • What it is:  Brands are offering marketers ongoing training classes for social, that include a variety of external speakers, but coordinated by an internal resource or central team. 
  • Examples: Proctor and Gamble has the P&G social media labs which has provided a multitude of internal brands with resources, including a safe place to experiment.  See their recent “Tides of Hope” experimental campaign, which was a success in learning.   Secondly, PepsiCo, is leaning on Edelman Digital Strategy team (Rubel) for internal training, strategy, and recommendations.
  • How to use:  Large conglomerates or CPG brands will benefit first by having this ongoing educational program and curriculum.  Great to deploy when multiple teams need education –and need to benefit from synching from each other.

Social Media Advisory Boards: 

  • What it is:  Brands have a dedicated relationship with external thought leaders and practitioners, build relationships with them and seek their perspective. 
  • Examples:  Intel has a social media advisory board, dubbed the “Insiders” that has a broad collection of industry practitioners and commenters –I’ve noticed some of them get Intel sponsorships.   In some regards, Wal-Mart’s 11 moms program, which is non-paid sponsored conversations will result in similar benefits.
  • How to use:  Brands that want to develop long term relationships for programs, campaigns, should set these programs up, these are great stepping stones for influencer relations, esp in markets that take heavy criticism.

Councils and Clubs

  • What it is:  Brands join ongoing clubs and councils created by third parties. Some have member fees, and some are free, depending on sophitication.  In some cases, memberships are wide open for the public, and others have private membership 
  • Examples:  There’s a great number of councils and clubs from the: Social Media Club, Social Media Breakfast, BlogCouncil, Internet Strategy Forum, Forum OneWomma, EConsultancy among others.   IBM hosted a Tweetup in their  NYC office to meet and greet the social media community, although a one-off, a tweetup is an ongoing meeting across the world of passionate social users. At Forrester, we offer premiere clients the opportunity to join the Forrester Leadership Board for Interactive Marketers.
  • How to use:  Encourage practitioners to attend these clubs to learn from peers on an ongoing basis.  Host or sponsor these meetings at your own company to learn from folks.    

Research Firms: 

  • What it is:  Research firms provide brands with data, best practices, and recommendations that help them to make successful decisions. 
  • Examples:  eMarketer, Comscore, Nielsen Online, Pew Research, and Compete offer strong analytics.  Brands seeking strategy and advice could approach Society of New Communciations Research, Gartner or  Forrester, my employer.  Leave  a comment below if I’ve missed someone.
  • How to use:  Research is needed before crafting a strategy, as brands must find out who their customers are, how they use technology, and use for vendor and service vetting.    

Ongoing Social News

  • What it is:  News about the social media space is well, noisy.  Finding the right areas to find signal are key for every brand, as spending time scouring blogs can easily consume one’s day –and night. 
  • Examples:  You’ll find consistent summaries and digests from SmartBrief’s Social Media daily wrapups,  RWW’s weekly wrapups, or, my weekly digest of the social space.
  • How to use:  Be selective in your choices, you don’t have a lot of time during the day, once you find your credible news sources, be sure to encourage your colleagues to subscribe.    

Other Forms
Of course, this dietary supplement is an ongoing process, and not just limited to social, brands, leaders, and everyone need to constantly learn to stay fresh.   Additionally, brands should have internal training areas that employees can share their best practices and learn from their wins and losses.  Take for example Vignette’s Dirk Shaw, a recently appointed social media strategist who has an internal blog dedicated to helping their marketing and product teams and beyond learn social.  I purposely left out the extensive list of books on the topic,  and this large list of marketing related conferences.

Upcoming Research on this Topic
I’m working on a Forrester report to uncover “How companies organize for social media” and if you’re a large brand that wants to talk to me, I’d love to interview you for this Q2 report, contact me at jowyang @ forrester.com.

I hope this list helps you maintain a balanced and regular social diet, leave a comment with additional suggestions, I’ll add them in as appropriate and credit you.