Sunday, November 7, 2010

Social Media Engagement: Integrating into Your Business

You have provided the necessary education to team members to help them get started, you have your objectives in place, you know what you’re going to measure, your staff understands your social media policies and governance. (Obviously you need to have policies and rules of engagement in place before you engage. They help protect you and your company and help set expectations.) You’re ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in. But wait, there’s at least one more thing to add to your to-do list. Social media is more than just your social media managers and subject matter experts conversing on the social web, and you need to be prepared for that. Let’s look at another layer of social media engagement through the 4P’s.

1. People: It Takes a Village (The “Behind-the-Scenes” Players)

Your social media managers and subject matter experts now engage together, but is that enough? As you designate your people for social media engagement, not only will you need to think about their roles and responsibilities, but also about the work and information flow, with specific handoff points, they need to follow in case of a crisis or to help move people along the activity or sales funnel. Therefore, additional questions you may want to ask here are:

A. What are the possible scenarios that will prompt a social media manager or subject matter expert to “pass the ball”? (Classify the possible actions that trigger reaction).
B. Who do they need to pass the ball to?
C. What action will they need to take before passing the ball?
D. What action do they expect the other person, who has the ball now, to take?
E. What constitutes the END? When is the situation considered to be over?

The key is that a backend team needs to exist who is clear about the topic in question, their roles, responsibilities, and work and information flow should they need to jump in. For example, in case of a crisis, your extended team will likely come from PR and/or Corporate Communications, depending on how your organization is set up, or in case of a sales opportunity, additional engagement may need to come from sales, business development or another related function, depending on your organizational structure. Customer service and legal are other groups whose expertise is often needed in social media.

2. Places: Move between On- and Offline

In some cases, the handoff process also means the transfer of the engagement offline. Just because a relationship starts online, it doesn’t mean it will stay (only) online. Social media for B2Bs is no different than in this regard: you meet somebody online, you chat with this person and you decide to ask this person out on a date. In the world of the social web, corporations need to understand and assess when to move conversations offline (and move them back online if needed). The ability to realize when a shift in the communication approach is necessary and then effectively transfer the online conversation offline is critical. This can become a significant challenge if the online relationship was established and nurtured by another person or department than the home of the offline engagement. This process should be carefully orchestrated within the company and transparent to the customer (see some tips under “People”). The last point is key. From a customer, fan or follower’s standpoint, it is irrelevant where you engage with them. Establishing and providing a positive experience to this person at every point in the funnel, wherever it may be, is crucial.

3. Parts: Help Uncover Situations and Manage the Engagement Process

Your tools and applications can play different roles in the engagement process. To start with, the insights from your listening tools can help uncover challenges or opportunities. Or, you can use various tools and applications to monitor and document what happens to your lead or customer in question to help ensure that the “ball keeps rolling”. As an example social CRM comes to mind. And when you have resolved the situation or seized the opportunity, you can use social media measurement tools to analyze the outcome. The message here is that your social media Parts can augment your existing, traditional tools and applications (e.g., your traditional CRM tool) to help provide a holistic view and manage the engagement process. So choose your Parts wisely.

4. Practices: Close the Loop. Follow Through

Your tools and applications can help you follow and document the “life” of a situation or an opportunity, but it’s really your practices that will make the biggest difference. And these practices are not possible without having the right people on board.

Act upon what you have uncovered from your listening efforts or on the web, follow the process outlined for moving people along the sales or activity funnel or dealing with a crisis, and always, always close the loop and follow through as a team. Stay in close contact with your extended team members to help ensure the prospect or customer is taken care of. There’s nothing worse than dropping the ball.

Once the situation is over, don’t just walk away. Add two more questions to your checklist:

F. Are there any other people, groups, fans or followers this situation or resolution of this situation should be communicated to?
G. What have we learned? What should we do differently in the future…on and off the web?

Just like my previous blog on the 4P’s, this post is also a simplified version of the work and information flow that need to exist for successful engagement. What I really want to leave you with is the need to integrate social media into your overall business processes. It should not be done in a vacuum, and I hope the above examples help highlight a few reasons why integration is important. Social media works best when it’s integrated into your overall business and is managed as an on-going and long-term activity next to your other marketing, PR, customer service, etc. efforts.

In the next few weeks, I'll share some more thoughts on Practices, please stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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