Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Four strategies for social media campaigning

Setting online objectives is as traditional as beef and Yorkshire pudding. Online, objective setting remains the starting point of all activity. It is good management practice and objective setting is as basic as being specific, measurable, achievable, resourced and time bound.

But we seldom see what the next step is before approaching the tactics we need to deploy.

Strategies are important and we don't very often see examples.

I thought I might share some that I have found useful in some of the approaches to client social media management.

In future posts, I will add to this list but this is a start and if you have strategies you would like to add, that will be good too.

It is not reasonable to imagine that a generic post such as this one will cover all exigencies. Each organisation is different but to give a flavour of the strategies that might well be put in place by an organisation, a number are outlines below. Some are useful for meeting most objectives others fill basic needs of good corporate governance while yet others are drawn from experience and have more specific application.

Communication planning, says Anne Gregory in her book ‘should include both systematic and creative elements. Both are essential to information interactive communication work’.

With such a wide range of communications channels the selection of media has a lot to do with the reception of an organisation's stance. Ensuring that the relevant messages chime with the most suitable media is important.

The ‘internet has made interpersonal and mass communication instantaneous’ and care needs to be taken when engaging the organisation's values with stakeholders'. Once interactions are public in the online landscape it will is impossible to retrieve or erase them completely.

For this reason, it is important to have a number of strategies in place to arm the organisation with capabilities and a range of options to meet ambitions and contingencies.

Media Selection Strategy

It is really easy to elect to use some social media because it’s fashionable and cool. Twitter and Facebook come to mind.

Some media are more appropriate to achieve objectives than others. Consideration of audience use and application is essential. For example a podcast has some appeal for the visually impaired while the use of a photo sharing service would need to be used with care.

Part of a media strategy will need to include reviewing the wide ranging landscape of communications platforms and channels. Some will be well known, others less so and many useful new channels emerge from time to time.

In considering media, it is worth looking further and at how the selection of media can interact one with another. For example, many Facebook pages include a Twitter feed. It’s not compulsory but adds interest.

In addition, consideration of time and resource are important. Facebook and Twitter require a lot of attention.

Setting up a presence and proselytising values requires constant attention. For the most part, social media presence will require a minimum of an hour per day for each channel and in some cases, much longer.

In essence, using one of these channels, once created, will require content and, in time, people will respond to it. They in turn often need a response as part of an online ‘conversation’.

Once channels have been decided upon as a strategic decision, the tactics can be thrashed uot and will be informed by a number of other strategic approaches.

The key elements of a media strategy are:

  • Knowledge of the audience
  • A review of the range of relevant and practical platforms (PC’s, laptops, mobile phones, slates etc)
  • Interest in the many channels such as Blogs, Facebook, Wiki’s Twitter and many other services.
  • Media interactivity
  • Time and resource needed to maintain the channel/s
  • Capability to maintain a ‘conversation’

Timed and timely programme strategies

Used correctly, social media programmes are a great way of bringing awareness and attention to initiatives, events or projects.

Unlike traditional media communication, the advent of social media has changed the nature of timing communication.

Once, an organisation might issue a press release or press briefing which in due course would be published.

Once read, the resulting article would be discarded with the paper or magazine. Today, that same story would probably be published online, might attract online comments and or may be references in a blog, social network or microblog immediately or at any time in the future. The life of a story is now potentially much extended. Stories from long ago can quite suddenly reappear. The internet ‘time shifts’ content. Not just content from a newspaper but all online content.

In addition, as most social media programmes use more than one channel for communication, the timing for issuing content or responding to content may have to be co-ordinated such that all audiences see it at the same time or, depending on the campaign, at different times.

The key thing is that the activity has a timeline and is planned to meet the key objectives. The strategy should outline the timescales and activities to achieve the level of interaction to meet the objectives.

Then there is the opportunity to develop a story over time. The plan may be to develop a story over time and to engage a community progressively as the story develops. There is no reason why, using social media, an organisation might not involve its constituencies in the development of an initiative, story line or announcement. The online community will then be involved and will act as ambassadors right from inception.

Timing strategies have two other dimensions.

One is time of year and seasonality. Most organisations have a time of year when they are at their most effective. In addition, there are times when competition is at a peak. For example during October and November the BBC charity event ‘Children in Need’ provides both focus and overwhelming competition for a host of charities involved in child based charities. In the chill of a British winter, there are good reasons to promote holidays selling family holidays in the early Autumn is not a great idea.

  • Timing strategies have to be created to deliver objectives on time.
  • Timing will take account of the range of modern multimedia communication.
  • Timing can be aimed at a single time/event or can be an evolving number of activities with goal posts.
  • Time of year and competitive activity will affect strategy and has to be considered.

Internal communication strategy

Even with small teams the need for effective, timely and transparent communication is important. As the internet forces organisations to interact with an undoubted and existing online presence, internal audiences can and are affected. It is better that any online communication is both available and well under stood by employees and other stakeholders.

The strategy covering internet usage in the organisation should cover the explicit policy for employees and volunteers which should carry the full weight of the dominant coalition.

Most people are more productive when they can access the internet. As a rule, people access the internet using work computers, home computers and mobile phones. The device in the pocket or purse has now removed the ability for organisations to build communication walls round internet access at work and so the implications have to be managed.

This means that there is a need for employment to know about and policies to cater for the new online environment.

At the same time this also affects the management and other internal stakeholders.  This would suggest that a strategic decision on whether internet access policies and expected behaviours should be made internally or publically online.

Such policy statements about attribution, confidentially, respect for the law, notably copyright and much more can be considered as part of online strategy.

In brief, internal strategies need to consider organisations’ access policies, what access and behavioural policies shall be made available internally and externally and how people can be expected to represent the organisation and behave online in the interest of the organisation.

The Importance of Auditing, Monitoring Measurement and Evaluation strategies

Monitoring online presence is important. Much of what is written about or represented in images and videos online is provided by third parties.

As part of setting objectives there will be a need to audit presence and there are a number of ways this can be done. Many such tools are made available here.

In addition, watching how many visitors there are to the charity’s web site, how long they dwell, numbers of pages seen and from where they depart is very useful to identify what activities have prompted people to take an interest in the organisation and what interests them (or puts them off) may help in development of a more effective web site presence. Fortunately the service is free and is provided by Google Analytics.

There are a number of free facilities that will be found to be very effective. Google Alerts .