Today a came across an extremely solid blog post written by Lisa Barone from Outspoken Media. In it, she painstakingly laid out 52 individual questions that a company should ask when speaking with a potential social media provider.
First off, kudos to her for putting forth such a herculean effort. Secondly, though I know that there are other questions that can and should be asked, I believe that Lisa’s offering is a “must read” for any marketing manager that is involved in the decision-making process when it comes to social media. This article applies to all companies; from the one-person operation to the Fortune 100 icon.
That said, I do believe that there is a 53rd question that is an absolute must for social media decision-makers that work for Fortune 1000 companies:
Are you prepared to play the role of “quarterback” or “director” as we work on integrating social media into the very fabric of our business?
Kind of broad and abstract, right? Well let me explain exactly what I mean by this and why it’s such a crucial question.
After working with (and pitching to) literally hundreds of different organizations on social media strategy and tactical implementation, one thing I’ve learned is that in order for large companies to succeed, they need to weave social media into virtually every facet of their business. It needs to be much more than simply a marketing and/or advertising initiative.
- The C-level executives need to be briefed on the overarching strategy, priority list and ROI projections, so that they can put their stamp of approval on the social movement and ensure that potential barriers to implementation (like heavy-handed legal departments or old-school agencies of record) are mitigated
- The legal/government-relations departments should be looped in so that they can work with the social media provider to ensure that no crucial lines are crossed that could lead to significant issues/litigation.
- The various business divisions (as well as distributors, dealers, agents, brick & mortar branches, etc) must all be looped in and informed of the process by which they can their individual social media goals and initiatives executed, so that you don’t get a bunch of rogue Facebook pages with no semblance of brand continuity or organization
- The IT/dev team(s) have to be in lock step so that they understand what parts of implementation they’ll handle in-house and what aspects will be handled by the social media agency or even another agency of record that has a specific set of proficiencies (since most Fortune 1000′s have a handful of agencies working concurrently)
- The advertising team (TV, radio, print, online display, and even paid search) needs to be in lock step so that they understand what their role will be in supporting specific social campaigns
- The PR team (both in-house and agency) must be in lock step so that outreach and engagement effort don’t overlap (e.g. PR handles the big, mainstream outlets and the social agency handles bloggers, etc)
- The email and CRM database team needs to be in lock step so that their email (and SMS) messaging includes social calls to action and helps support to overarching goals of the social media program(s)
- The SEO team needs to be in lock step so that they are ensuring that any and all social media content and outreach is leveraged (when feasible) to secure inbound links and keyword-rich anchor text as well as to ensure that all social content forms are optimized for search (again, when feasible).
- The customer service team should begin to take a role in handling customer inquiries that occur in social media channels like Twitter in much the same way that they would handle those queries when they come in via phone or email (this almost always involves some level of ongoing training and best practices documentation)
- All employees of the organization (including contractors and independent agents) should know the rules of engagement so that they help spread the brand’s message while also protecting the brands integrity at the same time (this almost always involves some level of ongoing training and best practices documentation)
- The company should be grooming at least one individual (if not a group of individuals in each business division) to become the internal social media point person that acts as a liaison between the social media agency and all of the other moving parts of the organization listed above. This internal stakeholder(s) would also help push the envelope in terms of innovation and strategy. After all, in most cases, the company employees will almost always understand their own brand and business better than an outside agency because they live it and breathe it 24/7.
While it’s true that every company is different and has a unique set of needs virtually all large companies share these scenarios that I’ve pointed out. That means that the social media provider you bring in should be comfortable being the catalyst that helps pull together all of these various moving parts. It also means that your social media partner should be comfortable regardless of whether they’re handling implementation directly (i.e. building a Facebook app or sending @ replies on Twitter) or simply guiding the client’s internal stakeholders on the hows and whys so that they can do it themselves.
Lastly, it means that your social media provider should have proficiency across virtually every marketing channel (especially online channels like SEO, email, web dev, creative, and analytics) because the reality is that social media doesn’t really exist in an of itself. It’s actually a conglomeration of many different channels and mediums that are available for online communication and interaction.
So if you’re working for a big company and you’re looking for a social media provider, make sure you seek out a good quarterback (or director, or any other metaphor that suits your personality best).