Setting objectives to tap into new influence circles

April 10, 2009

Beyond being new tools to reach audiences, social media/networking tools can easily foster and enable attention deficit disorder (ADD). This is why the very first thing companies must do when considering using social media is to set clear objectives. Moreover, objectives need to be set both internally and externally. What are your objectives internally for using social media tools to connect with customers, influencers and partners? Likewise, what do you want to achieve with external audiences by using social media. Both are explored below.

Internal objectives

Given the newness of social media in enterprise environments, conceptualizing objectives for communications, marketing, sales and development groups is not an easy undertaking. There are some baseline objectives that must be considered:

• Communication objectives
– Listening to the narrative about your solutions
– Mapping the influence landscape (who’s influencing who?)

• Marketing objectives
– Identify new brand ambassadors (i.e. moms/students)
– Test messages/campaigns with internal audiences

• Sales objectives
– Learn from communities new tactics to tell better stories
– Showcase sales wins more quickly (Twitter about new win when deal is signed)

• Development objectives*
– Crowdsource concepts
– Use social media to test new ideas
– Expose thought leadership through posts/Tweets
*these could also be leveraged externally depending on the appetite/confidentiality of the initiative.

External objectives

External objectives are similar, but there are some important nuances to consider. Whereas internal use of social media is targeted at colleagues and peers, social media usage for external purposes are more focused on customers, partners and influencers, thus the lens is a bit different. Some objectives to consider:

• Communication objectives
– Extending ongoing and starting new conversations
– Enhancing reach of stories

• Marketing objectives
– Utilize new media to enhance brand awareness
– Drive market share/connection with brand

• Sales objectives
– Expedite customer connectedness (more value conversations)
– Enhance openness/transparency with customers/partners

A good way to look at formulating objectives for social media initiative is in the context that the internal informs the external. A key question to keep in mind when launching a new influencer program using social media tools is: Will my story resonate with new influencers and can I use blogs, Twitter and communities to tell it? Only by listening to the narrative, identifying the right influencers and participating in a conversational way can you ensure that your message and story will resonate in the digital marketplace.

Acknowledging that these are high level guidelines, what am I missing? What other objective setting lessons have you learned? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


10 Commandments of Social Media

January 26, 2009

1. Thou shalt know thy audience prior to engaging
Effective engagements with influencers operating in social media circles necessitate a change in the way we think about communications. There are new rules for engaging, new methods for outreach, and new strategies that must be undertaken to ensure messages resonate in social media outlets. Knowing their interests and areas of coverage can lead to fruitful new relationships that can enhance perceptions of a given company, and hopefully positively impact buying decisions.

2. Thou shalt listen to your audience
Understanding who the thought leaders are, their preferences for engagement, and their interests is essential to any communications campaign targeted at social media. By listening to customers and influencers posting on Twitter, friending on Facebook, and updating blogs can significantly enhance the relationship bonds that exists or are being created with new influencers.

3. Thou shalt understand the landscape of influencers
It is crucial to understand the influence linkages. Are academics influencing analysts? Are individual contributors (i.e. developers) influencing A List bloggers? Understanding how to map the landscape will better equip communication & marketing professionals to deliver targeted messages and build relationships with appropriate influencers.

4. Thou shalt treat new influencers as a distinct group
Social media has given traditional influencers new vehicles to publicize opinions/analysis. However, outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc. have also given rise to a new cadre of influencers that are helping to shape perceptions, and, to some extent, purchasing decisions. As with analysts and the press, bloggers/twitterers see themselves as a distinct subgroup. It is therefore essential that communications & marketing professionals alter the way in which they view these new influencers and cater to them as a new subgroup of influencers. This means that companies should consider hosting blogger roundtables at events; Twitter social meet ups; Facebook events, and the like.

5. Thou shalt not use social media to promote a brand/initiative/product
Social media is not about marketing in the traditional sense; it’s all about participating in an ongoing discussion. It’s about giving the communities valuable data, early insights to upcoming announcements, and strategic guidance. Discussions taking place in social media circles are informal and conversational. Promotion of a brand or product will not resonate in most circles. Employing traditional PR & marketing tactics in social media outlets will likely fail to capture audience mindshare.

6. Thou shalt fully disclose company association when brokering relationships
Transparency carries a lot of weight in social communities. Operating under an @company X alias will likely lead to suspicion. It is proven that being up front and honest with your association to a given company, organization or specific campaign can lead to trusting and value-driven relationships in the virtual world.

7. Thou shalt respond responsibly to praise and criticism alike
Social media gives rise to new mouth pieces for critics and advocates alike. Opinions, comments, etc. can appear in a manner of minutes and be re-posted or re-tweeted in seconds by hundreds of people. Communications & marketing professionals must be diligent to carefully consider how responses are crafted. Opinions and comments to posts need to be done in a productive way that sways the critics and enables supporters.

8. Thou shalt engage in conversations with valuable insights
To win friends in communities and microblogs one must bring some value to the conversation. For instance, retweeting (RT) a post without any value added insights is not productive. Offering up your “spin” on the RT demonstrates that you’ve thought about the post and offered up what is hopefully a useful evolution to the story. This can be comical, analytical or advisory. The key is to jump in with some thoughtful insights.

9. Thou shalt utilize social media as a complement to traditional influence vehicles
Utilizing Facebook communities or Twitter groups to drive traffic to your companies online properties or other social media vehicles (i.e. YouTube product videos) can be an effective complement to ongoing engagements with influencers. Creating contests, conducting polls, and harnessing crowdsourcing can make your contributions to these social media groups more impactful, and thus valuable to followers/friends.

10. Thou shalt strive to become an authority/ambassador
Becoming an authority will grow your sphere of influence. Value + authority = influence. With influence comes more followers/friends, which are the underpinnings of success in social media circles.

Would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve these commandments/guidelines.