Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Dreaded Social Media Checklist

There have been many great articles recently discussing social media implementation within the organisation; two of the more recent being Danny Brown's 'It's Not All About The Blog', and Chris Brogan's 'Social Media is not a Life Raft'. Both articles provide fantastic insight into organizational social media strategies, emphasizing that it is often not necessary to create a presence using each of the social instruments. In creating a social media presence with many points of contact, the organisation faces the challenge of ensuring that the message which they convey doesn't become diluted. Unfortunately, when it comes to identifying appropriate social platforms, many organisations continue to place their faith in the dreaded social media checklist.

Remain Focused
I should note that whilst the passion for engaging the customer demonstrated by these organisations is laudable, maintained focus is essential. Careful selection and implementation of appropriate channels is critical for success. No single social media strategy is universally applicable. Indeed, to suggest that there are instruments which must be present within every organisation is naive, as each of the social media platforms has their own strengths and weaknesses. The capacity for these to influence successful customer engagement will depend entirely upon the organisation's devotion to the project, and the social media based proclivities of the customers themselves.

Fish where the Fish are
This is a phrase which I have often seen used by Jeremiah Owyang, and it's simple enough. Fish where the fish are; or in social media terms, only target those platforms in which your customers have an active presence. When developing a customer engagement strategy for the social media, the importance of monitoring cannot be understated. It is imperative that a thorough analysis of the media is undertaken with the intention of identifying those platforms in which your customers are already established. In so doing, your organisation can ensure that the customer is offered an additional point of contact through which to connect with the organisation. By creating your own active presence, the organisation is invariably depicted as more human, which in turn enhances the likelihood that interactions will occur.

Of course, that is not to say that your organisation should lack an insight into developments within the social media. Even the greatest fishing grounds will become depleted eventually. An awareness into platform developments will allow your organisation to estimate future potential usage habits of your customers. Ongoing monitoring of the platform will allow the organisation to verify their expectations.

Checklist Schmecklist
Checklists would suggest that the social media is easily quantifiable; it's not. Don't get caught in the trap of perceiving the social media as comprising a set of standardized tools which must be employed by each and every organisation. This is naive, and will almost certainly result in your efforts being misdirected. It should be noted that your interest in engaging the customer through the social media alone will almost certainly have placed you ahead of a great many of your competitors. Ensure that your efforts to engage therein are not wasted through resources being inappropriately sourced.

Above all, you need to ensure that you ask the right questions. It's not a case of asking which tools should be employed by your organisation as standard, but rather in which platforms do you customers demand a presence? Answer this and you will be on your way to social media success.

Over to you now. Do you believe there are standardized social media platforms in which organisations must have a presence? Conversely, do you think there still exist occasions in which social media is entirely inappropriate? As always, your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

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  1. Checklists can be a dangerous thing. They can make a lot of people think, "Oh, it's a list - it must be right."

    They do have their uses but a lot of the times they're just generic (as you rightly mention). Additionally, aren't many checklists just someone's view of what should or shouldn't be done?

    Who's to say a checklist for a banker will be the same for a bus driver will be the same for a housewife?

    By all means, make your checklists but make sure they're double-columned: Pros and Cons.

    Once you have the Pros, then make your checklist.

    Great points, Chris, and I hope your employers are reading and paying you your true value - you offer great insight that's a credit to them and you both :)

  2. Thanks Danny!
    I think your suggestion concerning the duel columned checklist is excellent, and one that all organisations should exercise when selecting the platforms that are for them. In so doing, rationale plays a part of their decisions to implement; as it undoubtably should. Historically, this seems to be lacking from many a presence.

    I think that one of the major problems is precisely that social media is still rather alien to many organisations. Perhaps they find it difficult to apply their otherwise healthy logic to foreign concepts. If that is the case however, it is absolutely inexcusable for research into the platforms not to be conducted. There is an abundance of information available online concerning the various social platforms, and this must be sought out. As you suggest, the data must then be closely scrutinised to identify the pros and cons of each, with specific consideration for how these will effect the organisation.

    Organisations; don't just follow the pack in implementing supposedly standard social media platforms (blogs, Twitter, etc). Retain your common sense and engage the social media through those channels that will develop your business.

    Thanks again, Danny.