Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Top Secret Recipe for Cooking up Your Social Media Strategy

It's a simple equation and I'm not even a numbers type of girl. Mix one part marketing (dollars) to one part public relations (words) to one part communication (people) and wah-la. Your social media strategy is ready to be put in the oven.*

*Just make sure you do all the pre-work and don't trust any old oven.

Invest in the best technology and of course, the best staff. Oh, and also make sure you have an unlimited marketing budget. While you live in this land of milk and honey, why not set yourself up for success by making sure your executive team is the sponsor so that everyone is on board before you launch.

If you can't do ALL OF THAT, then just follow this top secret recipe for cooking up your social media strategy.

1. Get top-level support from the people who sign the paychecks. That helps to get --and keep -- everyone's attention, especially when the glitter wears off and all there is to do is work. (Yes, social media is work. Nothing in life is all play, all the time. Take my word for it and save yourself heartache. And heart burn.)

2. Commit to agile development for your social media success. Why? Because gone are the days of lengthy investigation and fact-gathering. By the time you have gathered facts for one capability, likely technology has evolved to a newer form of that same capability, rendering all your data nearly useless. That is not to say that data is not your friend. It is. But social media responds to fast-paced business decisions and even faster still action. Just because you are agile doesn't mean there is no method to your madness. Here are a few points to ponder for agile development:
  • investigate and assemble (governance boards, audience analysis, traffic patterns, feedback loop)
  • build (write the strategy, buy media, launch forums, beg for feedback, go live)
  • test
  • optimize and evolve
3. Commit next to slow and steady phased roll-outs of your action plan, making sure to partner with marketing, public relations and corporate communications every step of the way. Social media normally is rooted in one of these areas in an enterprise, and that's good because these groups should interface with each other in order to optimize the collective efforts. Having a strong bond between these groups will either tremendously help or hinder your organizational success. It sounds trite, but if you don't have top-down support at these three places in your company, your social media strategy will suffer. Not necessarily in order or importance, there are a few steps to ensuring that your social media plans will be able to make the biggest impact across your organization.
  • integrate into existing channels
  • share with your friends
  • make it safe
  • make it easy
  • make it fun
4. Dedicate resources to metrics. Collect data before, during and after social media campaigns in order to constantly access. Remember, you agreed to an agile development of your strategy, so be prepared to win some and lose some. Take those learnings (don't call them failures) and share them with others. Social media is open-source and should remain so. As new capabilities jump into the equation (and they will every single passing day), carve out time and resources to investigate and formulate metrics gathering or don't waste your time. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Say that three times every day. Drink it down like your morning coffee. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. (Honestly, that's a good mantra for social media...and life.)

5. Absolutely commit yourself to the idea that learning is the foundation to growth and long-term sustainability when it comes to social media. Socializing the idea that we are all in this together and that learnings will be shared and then ACTUALLY sharing the learnings will be key to eliminating anxiety for stakeholders. Your learnings will help improve all your digital endeavors; it will help SEO, SEM, paid media, press relations, marketing content and sales and employee satisfaction scores. It will be the warm blanket of curiosity that covers others within your origanization that are also key to making your social media strategy stick. Dedicating your strategy to the idea that learning is a lifestyle will only help your cause by removing barriers people + processes throw up in the face of change. Make conversations less intimidating, invite people to contribute and encourage them to  feel empowered and useful in the evolution of what you are trying to do with social media will allow folks to embrace these new channels instead of refusing to play along. Keep in's not rocket science. It's social media, stupid.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What's Your (Pinterest) Image Strategy?

There has been a fundamental shift in media. You may have noticed. People (and brands) are getting away from long-winded copy and diving headfirst into the choppy waters of creating an "image strategy." Pictures tell a thousand words, so maybe it's the strain of a poor economy that is spurning this move away from advertorial content and into sneaking a peek at something abstract. Know what I'm talking about? Sure you do. Pinterest, Wanelo, BO.LT, Pinstagram, Pingram, Rebelmouse, Linterest, etc.

The news is that it's not news. The history of printing tells us that way before Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, the Mesopotamian civilization used round cylinders to transfer images. That was the basis of their knowledge transfer, if you will, and it worked because the knowledge has been transferred all the way to wikipedia today. That was sometime around 3000 BC, but who's counting? Less people are concerned with counting time than consuming words and images. And based on more recent history, I'm seeing more people (and brands) more concerned with images than words. Why, though? Gutenberg's moveable type is credited as one of the most prolific inventions in the second millenium, or rather, modern history if you count 1440's among modern history.

What I find most interesting in this "Move to Imagine" movement is, of course, the discovery aspect of it all. I adore the idea of wonder and love the fact that this new shift in media and consuming media is one that allows for an air of surprise and delight. In this poor economy where time and resources are continuously tapped out and in this ADHD-driven social media society, a little bit of wonder goes a long way. These new social platforms that highlight images over words give me hope that our society is begging for more wonder. The more technology that serves it all up all the time, the more natural desire we have to go back to the basics and rely more on ourselves to figure out what it all means, just like the Mesopotamians.

So it's no surprise to see and hear that marketing (for people and brands alike) are shifting to focus more on pictures to tell emotional stories. Just think about how Facebook updated their timeline photo's and incorporated a photo album tagging strategy. It's because images are where it's at. Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr? Same story. More images convey more emotion. Emotion connects. At the root of everything a brand or a person does, it's for a single reason of "making a connection."

Most of the brands I interact with are responding with their own version of an "Image Strategy," and that's fine and dandy. It's nothing new, though. Images have always been part of an identity for brands (and people) but now they are paying more careful attention to how that identity is represented in the absence of a full court sales pitch. It's not an entirely new or bad thing, like I said before, it's just an interesting part of the evolution since the first image transfer back in 3000 BC to the latest picture of Jeremy Lin in Linterest.