For the past month I have been moonlighting for a number of friends who run small companies trying to inculcate PR in their activities. Due to the small size of their businesses – many are entry level SMEs – our focus has been mainly on external communication.
All this was done with zero budget ideas. Hold on, Did I just say zero budget? Yes, many people believe that PR, especially via social media, should be free and the only expenses should be for some drink-ups here, there and Giggles Club.
Anyway, one area that each client wanted to get into was social media, and when I asked them why, many of them struggled to convince me how this was going to plug into their business strategies. After engaging a number of industry friends that have mastered the art of using social media to build brands locally, I came up with this few pointers to help clients and agencies to come up with a strategic plan for social media.
Before you actively engage in social media as a brand, it’s important that you first master the science of listening – listening to what your customers are saying, listening to what your employees think about their employer as well as listening to what the agency thinks you should be doing. If you are willing to do this, then you are close to building an effective social media programme.
Be ready to be part and parcel of the process of putting together content. I mean, the precious hours you spend on putting together board papers for 15 people, you will need to spend fractions too on the content that you are about to share with the whole world. Trust you me, everyone can tweet, but building a true connection with people is where real value lies. This won’t happen without good content, and this is why spending time onthe strategic perspective of the business will help you to come up with succinct communication for your programme.
For the agency, you need to provide education, not just training. Clients shouldn’t just pay to be taught how to update the social network and blog. Make them understand why they are doing this by measuring return on investment (ROI) across the business.
Let social media be adopted across the company. Apart from the Marketing Director who requested for this ‘hot new thing’ that has made our competitors grow, What is Customer Service, HR, Sales, IT and Operations doing about it? Many are times, when HR team is keen to run job adverts in the dailies while their LinkedIn page is loaded with the recently launched product. Or when the IT Director is redoing the company website but shoving the twitter handle somewhere in other folders.
As you venture into social media be ready to leverage other exiting platforms to help grow your online assets. Just like your defunct postal address is always on all your stationery, start getting your Twitter handle and Facebook pages on them too. For the agency, be that third pair of eyes for your client, help them to borrow with pride from what competition is doing. Provided its working, ape it and optimize; be part of client’s discovery process, they will remember this and refer you when others ask who helped them with social media.
Even as you borrow with pride, remember to be authentic. Social media users are bad, really bad once they discredit you, even four centrespreads and prime time television commercials will not get you out of the lion’s dens.
All said and done, social media as a business component is maturing fast. As it becomes more of a necessity and less of an add-on service, it will be increasingly important that agencies mature their offerings along with it while clients reserve budgets for them too.