Friday, October 9, 2009

Before you jump into social media, ask who speaks for you?

The topic on everyone’s mind these days is social media this and social media that. But, even before you get started and promote your company in this new online environment and create customized conversations with your customers and other stakeholders, you must consider who can “speak” on behalf of your company.

Do you know who is responsible for entering your company’s details on LinkedIn? Think about it. At this very moment, a member of your IT department is spending time that should be allocated toward infrastructure improvements on the LinkedIn site adding company information – information that might be confidential, or at the very least, not appropriate for worldwide distribution. Do you want the number of employees stated as well as which employees were terminated and which were promoted? Do you want your website included? What is the one sentence that best states your competitive positioning? Do you want all senior management names and titles listed? Should the CEO, COO, CMO, VP of Human Resources, or the marketing department be involved in making these decisions? And what’s more, how does a member of the IT department know the answers to these marketing questions?

Those were just some basic questions for LinkedIn – there are more in-depth questions that apply to the other social media marketing sites. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and several other sites provide a unique opportunity to build relationships with your customers – previously, one message was sufficient to promote a product or service. Today, customers are more brand-savvy and eager to learn how a particular product or service is a close fit with his/her preferences and needs. Welcome to marketing for the 21st century! Sorry if any offense is taken by the IT folks, but the marketing teams are the ones to lead the defense and implement social media strategies. However, the tech people do have a place in the social media realm. When employees start accessing Twitter, Facebook, etc., from their office computers, they open up company networks to viruses and other malware. Therefore, companies need to create and carefully monitor employee usage of these sites – or institute a policy to not access them during company time.

Marketing teams should be studying the nuances of each social media site (for example, Twitter has a 140-character limit for all messages, Facebook creates specialized content for “fans,” and LinkedIn provides people to connect through specialized “groups”) and then create unique campaigns to take advantage of the opportunities to reach existing and new customers.

In order to successfully utilize the new social media tool as part of a complete, and many are now calling it a “traditional” marketing strategy, senior leadership should involve all levels of a company. But either one person or a department needs to be in charge of creating and executing the company’s policy. Otherwise, your company’s genuine message will get shut out by all the clutter.

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