Right-sizing your Social Media Management Process
I spent some quality time recently with a report from Altimeter's Jeremiah Owyang: A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation. Like everything that comes off his desk, it's smart and well-researched. What's more, it's a recipe for bringing order to the chaos of channels, goals, metrics, departments, contributors and tools.
But as an operations guy at heart, I found myself wondering why the reality of most implementations bears little resemblance to the elegant watchwork Owyang prescribes.
That's because even when an organization commits to the right steps and puts them in the right order, it may still charge out the gate with a process that has a little, uh, weight problem.
Now I haven't done the research to be able to say whether corporate social media initiatives are more prone to anorexia or obesity. Even in that generally process-laden world, social media may still be a malnourished step-child fed mostly by budget scraps and unpaid interns.
But let's set aside those too-lean approaches. It's alot easier to beef them up next time around than it is to scale back an overinflated one. It's the hefty ones that are most likely to become the object of disappointment and recriminations because of money wasted, employees that didn't perform, goals unmet, and you know what? This whole social media thing was a stupid idea to begin with.
When the problem was the process all along.
Consider the warning signs of social media process obesity:
- Expensive tools that no one uses
- Analytics that no one has looked at
- Uncoordinated activities across channels
- Slow responses to inquiries or criticisms
- High production-value creative that drives minimal engagement
- A cycle of performance analysis and tactic revision that is so slow as to be useless. That "post-mortem" meeting you're having? It could be because your project really is dead.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, here are some rules of thumb that may help:
- If you're just getting started, limit your tool set. Sure, Sprinklr and Hootsuite may each have features that the other can't match. But the cost of managing, training and confusing your staff with redundant tools is higher than the benefit of leveraging the strengths of each. At least, assume that's the case until you know otherwise.
- Guess what's great about tools that require minimal investment of time and money to adopt? They are also low-cost to abandon! While you're still learning what works best, a light-weight toolkit can be a much smarter play than picking up a full-featured tool with a big learning curve and much integration required to achieve full benefit.
- Beware the chase for the holy grail of Total Integration between monitoring, outreach, CRM, compliance analytics, and who knows what else. Technology and the business landscape of the social world are changing very quickly, and that omnipotent system you envision can turn into an albatross around your neck overnight.
- Don't undertake any initiative without knowing how you are going to measure the results.
- Actually measure them.
- If you are putting resources into gathering or collating analytics that you don't use for anything--stop! It's a sign that you are overdoing it.
- Remember, your plan is going to be executed by human beings. They can only have 2-3 "top priority" projects at once and still focus on each sufficiently to achieve success or at least meaningful failure. Sure, you can tell them that 10 initiatives are top priority. You can also sprinkle fairy dust on them to turn them into ponies. Each approach will have a similar chance of success.
- And something from the cannon of the estimable Eric Ries. You have to mercilessly compress the timeframe for the gestation of concepts, the production of media and the acid test of public exposure. That video series you've been pouring money into for six months? Every moment that goes by without finding out whether your audience likes it increases your chance of flopping. The slickness that your marcomm department holds so dear is rarely required in the social space, and can frequently backfire.
I'm not suggesting you take any shortcuts in your social media planning. By all means, determine your goals, conduct discovery, get your stakeholders on board. And certainly some businesses--those with special regulatory or compliance requirements, for instance--cannot avoid weightier processes.
But the path to success in the social space is unusually similar for companies big and small. Learn and react. Preserve options. Be agile. Hedge your bets. And don't go all in on tools and infrastructure until you already know it's a winning play.
Perhaps you can add some items to the list of obesity symptoms or prescriptions above? And if you know any good horror stories of social media initiatives that collapsed under their own weight--do tell.
I'm the CTO at Social Media Today, home of the world's best thinkers on social media.
For fifteen years, I've mashed-up content and technology to deliver great customer experiences in news, gaming, 3-D CAD, interactive television and distance learning.
A one-time writer and editor for Time Inc. and others, I made the new media leap in 1995 when I was selected to spearhead digital product ...
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