Is The Social Media Hype Over In 2010?

My job is social media so why would I even bring this up? The reason that I am and the reason that I believe the hype is over is because social media is no longer a buzzword. Instead, it is and should be accepted as an integral part of any marketing strategy.

Looking back at 2009, it is truly amazing how fast the media world changed, and how many new tools and exciting opportunities arose from the transformation. A lot of the new tools are digital and range from Iphone Apps to Ning Communities. These tools are all fun and have been the reason for some interesting and controversial campaigns.

As you transition into a new year (and many of us do our best to surface from this recession), think about what is important to your marketing efforts.

Here are some thoughts:

Accept Social Media – It is here to stay and is a big part of modern media.

Protect Your Brand – Everyone is talking, even your employees. Put together a social media guidelines sheet to protect your brand and your employees (We have one at Mason, Inc.).

Spread Your Budget – There is value in other mediums, social media should just be a part of your strategy.

Public Relations Matters – You and your employees donated $XXX to a local charity. Let a PR firm spread the word; don’t build your profile to always “toot your own horn”. By the way, who is monitoring what is being said about you and looking for articles that can establish your brand in your industry?

Go Viral – Online and offline, creating a campaign with the ultimate goal of going viral is key to your success. I recently read that “content is no longer king”; “customers are king (or queen)” now.

Don’t Waste Anymore Time – Before you know it, January will have come and gone and you are still debating whether or not you want to reach your customers and establish your brand. Don’t waste time; get the ball rolling immediately even if that means getting on the phone with someone that works in this industry!

I want to wish you the best of luck in this New Year. Some people look at 2009 as a tough year. It was, but it is over! So let’s look at the many great tools 2009 gave us, and let’s make the most of 2010!

For Small Companies, Successful Social Media Strategies Start Internally

In large companies it is necessary to have a very complete social media policy in order to avoid as many issues as possible. In large companies the brand will be represented by one person or a small team, so you need to have set guidelines in place for your other employees, informing them on what they can (or can’t) say in their free time. In small companies, however, when you are setting up a social media strategy you should include everyone, from the ground up.

As your company develops its voice online, it needs to take into account a few specific things. You need to identify who you are targeting, what your message is, and most importantly, what your ultimate goal is. Some companies get involved in order to sell products or get new customers. Others, such as Best Buy use social media as a creative answer to customer service. When you know what your goal is, you can develop your strategy, and assign tasks to your co-workers.

I am a firm believer that you should hire someone specifically for social media. I think that it is an important part of your marketing strategy, and it deserves full time attention. I do realize however, that some companies cannot afford to take on new staff, and would rather not put their online brand in the hands of an intern (which I agree with). If this is the case it is a good idea to make the entire team accountable so that everyone has something to say, and everyone will be cautious about the material they put online.

One great tool to get your company familiar with social media from a professional perspective is Yammer. Yammer allows companies to have an “internal Twitter” stream. Someone can administer who is invited, and should urge people to stay involved. Yammer will keep your employees aware of what they are saying because they will know that their coworkers and bosses are reading it. This message should be translated into the real world. Keep in mind, the people that read your content online could very well be a coworker. Another great use of Yammer is to discuss industry trends, and share ideas on blog topics.

The most important part of developing a successful social media plan for a small company is to create (and follow) a schedule. This schedule can have anything on it from someone finding 10 industry blogs that can be commented on, to someone twittering at 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 4:45 PM in order to keep consistency. Following a set schedule that people are held accountable for will make the tasks routine, and if you are switching each person’s role it will identify who is good at what tasks!

These are a few ways to put the strategy into action. Using these tools and bringing energy and excitement to the office will motivate your team to get involved and take part in your initiative. Social media should not be looked at as another task to your already busy employees. Instead, it should be an exciting new project that your office does as a team!

3 Steps to Managing Your Company’s Social Media Policy

With online conversation now a way of life, it is very important to monitor the information that is being said about your company. You cannot always control the external voices online, but you can (and should) control the voices coming from your organization.

The best way to control your company’s brand online is not necessarily to block Facebook and Twitter, instead it is to set guidelines that your employees need to follow as a part of their contract. I want to cover some basic steps to creating and implementing a company-wide social media policy.

1) Don’t Do It Alone

Your company brings consultants in for many different reasons, whether it is for leadership training or teamwork exercises. With social media now playing a major role in the way that companies connect with their employees and customers, it is very clear that you should be bringing in a consultant to work with you on your policy, and to work directly with the employees so that they have an understanding of what the company is trying to achieve.

2) Limits Are Good, But Encourage Conversation

Some companies think that in order to control social media they can block social networking sites at work… WRONG! For starters every one of your employees goes home to a computer and then needs to get all of their Facebook and Twitter hours out during the night. During this time they very well may be complaining about how they can’t use these sites at work, and their company is left out of real time news because of it. The solution to this is to allow your employees to use social media, but bring someone in to tell them the correct way to use it, emphasizing the limits they have to follow in terms of talking about work (whether they are there or not).

3) Align Your Social Media Marketing Plan With Employee Usage

As with most things, this is a give and take situation. If you give your employees the opportunity to stay connected while at work, make sure that they are benefiting the company while they spend time online. This can be approached in many ways, whether it is through the set up and coordination of a blog team, admin rights to a Facebook page, or access to the company Twitter account. A short training session will prepare your employees to handle these responsibilities, and will give them the opportunity to contribute to the company as a whole, giving them the credit they deserve.

These are just a few ways that your company can handle the social media situation that is now present in companies all over. Some people think that this is still a risk, and they would rather avoid it completely. Those companies will not be considered forward thinking organizations by the outside world, and their position on social media will eventually hurt their brand.

It is an ideal time to get your company involved online, if you aren’t already. If you are, it is an ideal time to make sure you are doing it right. Take advantage of this opportunity and don’t stray from it, or you will be left behind.