1) What are our overall business goals?
What is the organization trying to achieve through its use of social media? Hint – the answer isn’t “Get lots of Twitter followers so we can look cool.” The answer could and should be many things from many departments within your company. Just of few of the possibilities are to increase sales in a specific geography, identify new business partners, reduce recruiting costs, test market a new product or identify new sources of capital. Social media may not be the answer to every business goal, but it can allow you to accomplish some things more efficiently and at a lower cost than via other methods. Bottom Line – Before you can determine what role social media will play in meeting your goals, you first have to know what your goals are.
2) What are the risks?
Many companies believe that being active on social media increases the chance that someone will bash their brand. Trust me, someone somewhere is already saying something bad about your brand online right now. If you aren’t there to hear it, learn from it, respond to it and hopefully end it, the chance of it spreading is much more likely. There are also probably good things being said online about your brand right now and if you aren’t there to show gratitude, learn from it and multiply the positives, the negatives will eventually steal the spotlight. Bottom Line – Not engaging in social media is the riskiest choice you can make at this point.
3) Should I have a social media policy?
Yes. Does it need to be 100 pages long? No. Social media is vast, so a policy needs to be general with specific protections where needed. My company, SocialMediaDelivered, partners with law firm HaynesBoone to develop social media policies for organizations and to train employees on those policies. No two policies should be exactly alike. Companies are often surprised at how quick and painless the process is. When selecting a law firm or company to assist you with this, make sure they bring international experience to the table as social media crosses all borders and laws vary widely. Once you have your policy, you must inform and train all employees on it. This needs to be done in person if possible, and should be revisited on a regular basis. Sending out lengthy documents attached to emails and and conducting long, boring webinars aren’t going to cut it. Bottom Line – You need a simple social media policy that your employees clearly understand, and it’s not going to be as hard as you think.
4) Will this take a lot of time?
Yes. Social media takes a lot of time. In fact, some studies have shown that it takes an organization about 32 hours per month to effectively manage just one social media channel to achieve business results. And, here is the scary part – social media takes daily interaction that never ever ends. Why doesn’t it end? Because if you are doing social media correctly then you are communicating in a way that creates and fosters relationships that achieve business goals, and you won’t want those relationships to end. Do your sales efforts ever end? Do your advertising or recruiting efforts ever end? Nope – all of these things have to be fostered each day and social media is no exception. Bottom Line – Social media will take more time than you think but is well worth the investment in order to build relationships that achieve business goals.
5) What’s the ROR?
That is not a typo. I didn’t mean ROI (to be honest, I’m getting a bit sick of ROI). What do you need to know in social media is what is the ROR (Return on Relationship)? When you attend a networking event and you get back to the office the next day, do you immediately know how valuable it was? No, it typically takes time because first you must foster the relationships you’ve started or continued from that evening. Weeks or months later, you may be able to have a clearer understand of the value of those relationships, and what new business may have come from attending that event. Social media works the same way, except that the networking starts (and sometimes remains) online. Bottom Line – Systematically create relationships with the right types of people on social media who can help you achieve the identified business goals, and the Return on Relationship will materialize before your eyes.