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Creating, executing and evaluating a social media plan takes a healthy amount of time, money and talent — resources that are scarce in today’s business world.
Mashable spoke with Altimeter Group Industry AnalystJeremiah Owyang and Intel Social Media Strategist Ekaterina Walter to get their thoughts on how businesses can save time, money and other valuable resources by creating more efficient social media processes. Here are five essential tips.
1. Utilize Your Existing Team
“Leverage your front-line workers who already support customers in different mediums like live chat, phone, and in person,” says Owyang. “Use the support and customer service teams that already know your products and services and have been trained in customer relations. Take a page from Best Buy’s ‘Twelpforce‘ that empowered thousands of retail professionals to take to Twitter than just train a new social savvy workforce.”
Tread lightly when figuring out how to organize social media efforts, though. Walter says that too much time is spent “fighting over who owns what” when developing a social media strategy. “Different stakeholders (PR, web, legal, privacy, security, marketing, HR, etc.) need to partner on this and work closely together on the structure and processes that are beneficial to everyone,” she says.
Walter suggests against “putting [social media practitioners] into a box with too many guidelines,” and instead is all for “unleashing the employee potential and giving them some freedom to engage online.”
2. Build a Plan That is Nimble
While a triage system can be helpful for novice social media programs, make sure your communication process isn’t complicating problems. After all, social media is meant to make communications easier, not more tedious.
Walter says, “The biggest issue is the amount of time it takes to make a decision internally. It is a time of ‘now marketing,’ or what I call ‘agile marketing’ — we cannot afford to spend too much time making decisions or creating elaborate processes of approval. We need to act quickly and nimbly; otherwise, the opportunity is gone forever. This is the biggest hindrance to digital creativity.”
“Most companies like an effective triage system to pass information around the company directing who will respond and how,” says Owyang. “As a result, more than one business group may respond to customers — reducing efficiency and of course, potentially confusing customers.”
3. Minimize Spend on Tools & Consultants
From her experience, Walter points out two areas where businesses tend to spend too much money — social media tools and consultants. Here are her thoughts on both:
- Social Media Tools: “A variety of tools perform similar functions. If you utilize several key tools and establish the right infrastructure centrally, it will allow a number of business units and geographies to use the same tool across the company. This will accomplish a number of things: It will allow you to compare results apple-to-apple across various campaigns; negotiate global contracts centrally to achieve huge cost-savings across the company; and have central enablement in place where key training on the tool and its support will be provided in the right way.”
- Social Media Consultants: Stay away from “bringing expensive consultants in who only provide high-level information that is already knows internally. Management needs to trust their employees internally to know the subject and provide the best strategy and direction.”
4. Hire Qualified Talent
After searching your ranks to find the right talent internally, don’t be afraid to hire experienced social media and community managers. Granted, you probably won’t need to hire a full social media team, but bringing on at least one strategist could save your organizations dollars in the long run.
“Most of the time we want to hire interns to do the work of experienced community managers, but then we complain that they didn’t handle something right,” says Walter. “I think the issue for most companies is that they don’t hire enough seasoned people to truly manage communities and online conversations on behalf of a brand. You need to have experienced people in place to manage communities, advocacy programs, etc. — these are the voices that know and represent your brand appropriately. And most of the time we are not willing to pay for people like that, citing lack of resources and then paying the price of damaged brand reputation or dead or inactive communities.”
5. Learn From Others
Equipping social media practitioners with the proper knowledge will save them lots of time, says Walter. This means building social media education programs, creating spaces where colleagues can discuss best practices and learning from other organizations.
Leading Intel’s social media strategy has enabled Walter to figure out the best ways for educating employees of social media processes and best practices. Here are her tips on how to effectively communicate new information about your company’s social media plans to those in the field:
- Implement social media training across the company, including face-to-face and online programs.
- Create playbooks around specific platforms — such as Twitter and Facebook — that will allow social media practitioners to learn about them.
- Create an internal best-practices forum and monthly calls that bring the company’s social media practitioners from around the world together to talk about particular internal case study and discuss learnings gleaned from them.
- Distribute a monthly newsletter to help social media practitioners keep up with the ever-changing world of social media.
- Become a member of organizations like Social Media Business Council or Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), where you can easily connect with other brands that have experience with any particular topic/project/vendor/platform and pick their brains on what worked and didn’t. Walter says, “This ishuge. These types of connections and interactions saved me a ton of mistakes and headaches — it’s a huge value-add!”