The How, Who and When of Social Engagement
My colleague Don Jennings shared an interesting post written by Daniel Kraft of NewsGator, that lists & Habits of Highly Effective Social Leaders. The “grabber” sentence is the following: “Leaders that ignore the Social Business Revolution will be replaced. If you don’t buy into it, your competitors will – they’ll take your job, your company, and your place in history.” That, combined with some McKinsey data about the potential margin improvement that social engagement delivers, sets up the reader for the recommended lucky seven habits they need to adopt.
Having had a ringside seat to this entire evolution (and, truth be told, several others), I completely agree that no matter what your business segment is – B2C or B2B – and regardless of the industry you play in or serve, you need to engage in social channels. We’ve seen the rapid shift in our mostly B2B client base to this level of acceptance of the need. Even the highly regulated health care clients we work with have recognized that there are controlled and safe ways to engage socially that are tremendously valuable.
The biggest decisions now are how they should engage; who will do the actual engagement and when they will truly kick it off or, more likely, kick it into gear.
How they should engage completely varies by company and market. There is no single answer to this question. Some of our clients have focused their engagement around a corporate or theme-based blog, a YouTube presence and cultivation of a focused Twitter page and following. Others have gone “all in “quickly, adding a Facebook page, LinkedIn and participation in Google+.
Who should engage is always the toughest question. Typically you need two groups to answer this question. The “face” of the company via social channels and the “facilitators” of the social process. Top executives are the ones customers want to hear from, but they have the least time. So the right team of content creators, social channel managers and effective monitoring squads can leverage even the busiest executives’ time to have a regular presence and voice via a corporate or theme-oriented blog owned by the company.
When do they engage – initially or fully – is a decision that can be about financial investment for a startup company or can be about a broader bench of content expert support and engagement for a larger company. Very young companies may just not have the resources to build and manage their own blog, so they can instead create a social presence by participating in other key blogs and forums via comments. They can introduce channels like Twitter more gradually, as they have the time to effectively build the right followings and create a steady engagement. It’s a wise decision to hold off on creating any social channel until you are truly sure you can sustain it. Nothing is worse than a blog with two-month old (or older) posts. Even companies who have the means to invest have work to do to rally the troops for full engagement. They need an established bench of content creators. They need regular and timely content contributions, which often are best guided by an editorial calendar based on company and industry events. Most importantly, they need to check the prime time readiness of their content providers. What does their social profile look like? Do they have an updated LinkedIn profile that matches what the company is saying, and what they are saying today in the marketplace? Do they engage in Twitter now; if not, should they so they can keep conversations going with the people reading their posts and company Tweets? Some may need a social makeover before they step out into the blogosphere limelight.
It’s been fascinating watching all of this evolve over the years and to know that most of our customer base understands that this is part of an effective integrated communications strategy to reach customers and stakeholders in a world in which there are fewer and fewer effective media translators.
I still wait for the day when the channel descriptor “social” is removed from our lexicon entirely, as it is just part of what we all do every day, both personally and professionally.