The journey to social proficiency

Any serious, credible journey to social engagement typically requires a great deal of enabling activity.

Despite a maturing of the social media landscape, I still often hear corporate executives ask about the best way to begin the “journey to social proficiency.” In effect, they're asking how to go from a series of social initiatives in the company to a more holistic, enterprise-wide approach.

I'll devote my next two columns to this subject.

Any serious, credible journey to social engagement typically requires a great deal of enabling activity. From developing guidelines that regulate use to creating the initial levels of a long-term training program to ensure prudent, compliant engagement, these activities – while less exciting perhaps than activating in social – are absolutely key to maximizing the potential impact of any program.

•Governance is critical. In my firm's work with a company in a highly regulated space, the simple creation of a social media council of senior people across divisions had a significant impact on the organization's capacity to start defining how it wanted to engage in social and how responsibilities would be assigned.  

Often, this is also when companies begin to consider the staffing implications of social activity. It's a world where once you're in, you're in. Investment is required and this is the stage at which most companies begin to scope what that investment will be.

Defining strategy. Once the foundational pieces are in place, the next step in the journey is to create a social engagement strategy, identify key initiatives, and begin engaging.

Defining a social engagement strategy can be a drawn-out process and too many companies are spending too many months conducting research to define their social strategy. Those looking to quickly accelerate their entrance into social media are taking a different path.

One approach is that there are increasing ways to tap technology to identify the most important types of social engagement for a company – from investing in brand reputation to using social for demand marketing. 

While you may have a variety of goals for social engagement, ranging from reputation management to generating product demand to enhancing employee engagement, you should embrace a clear, consistent strategy across the enterprise. Assess how corporate character influences your approach to openness, to empowering employees to engage as brand ambassadors, to tapping customers to help crowdsource innovation, and so forth. Your overall social strategy should reflect and reinforce your corporate values.

Ramping up initiatives. When you have identified the specific social engagement activities that will move the needle for your business, the next step is to activate those initiatives. Start with a few pilots in your highest-priority areas. Often these involve establishing a narrowly defined corporate presence in social media to drive brand reputation and to begin demand-marketing activities. This could mean building out a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn presence to begin delivering relevant content to your priority audiences.

Social activity requires planning in five major areas: listening, engagement, content creation/syndication, community management, and measurement. I'll cover all five areas in my next column.

Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a digital and management consulting firm. He can be reached at bfeldman@pulsepointgroup.com. His column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.

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