Checking In With Your Social Media Program

I was recently asked to take a quick look at colleague’s social media program and render an opinion on my overall impressions of its effectiveness.  Mind you, the goal wasn’t to spend a lot of time investigating, but to give a cursory look and try to draw some conclusions.  The problem as I understood it was the overall program results were not showing up in ways that were meaningful to the business.  That’s not to say there were not any results, because there were!  There was significant web traffic increases, follower and network growth, and some real pretty graphs that showed remarkable spikes that driven by their program.

In some companies, this would mean a big CHECK in terms of program success.  But, measurable success comes in other forms:

  • Are calls coming in based on a blog post for more information?
  • Did webinar registrations increase due to social media promotions?
  • Are your email lists or RSS subscriptions growing?

My friend knew something was askew.  First, the company was spending a healthy monthly budget on social media through a mix of outsourcing and internal work and was questioning the investment. So I took a look around, and found some revealing things.

Before I go there, I’ll set the stage with they have the core program components, including a company blog, twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. There were 1-2 blog posts weekly happening, and a regular stream of social activity that would be considered a good level – not too much, not too little.

So, what was going on you ask?  Let’s take a look:

1.  NO PERSONALITY

There was no personality present that I could sense in reading through their activities.  <<Personality you say?>> YES, personality.  This is critical in social media activities, it’s a vital part of brand building.  It’s also challenging to accomplish without some level of freedom with those responsible for social media.  Many times a company blog will fall flat, despite their best efforts because the hammer comes down when personalities come out.  It’s important to loosen up, give your brand a palpable feel from the folks behind the scenes in all parts of your social media program.  Dammit, we’re trying to be social here!  Boring people get left behind at parties, and they get left behind in social media.  Period.

2.  DRY, DENSE BLOG POSTS

This company had consistent blog posts which is always good. But they were pretty dry all around.  They had an approach where each blog post was officially signed by the executive writing it, which screamed “outsourced writer”.  I’m not against signing off on a blog post, but not when the post sounds like it was written by Miss Etiquette or the AP Guidelines.  You KNOW it wasn’t written by that person.  Perhaps the exec approved it, but not much thought was given there.

  • Too much information in a post

The second thing I noticed was the blog posts tried to cram too much in.  There were some interesting market stats and short stories all piled into one post that could have easily been broken out into 3 or 4 interesting posts.  Make your material edible and digestible in bites, not in humongous sandwiches.

  • Few to no comments

As a result of all of this, there were very few comments on the blog posts despite the fact that they asked a posing question at the end of almost every post.  It was too late, people stopped reading by then or didn’t feel compelled to provide an answer.  A tactic that is highly successful for growing comments in a blog is to make thoughtful comments on other blogs in your industry.  Bloggers appreciate the effort and will reciprocate over time.  It is important to pay-it-forward, it really works.

CAVEAT:  Knowledgeable people need to be people leaving those thoughtful comments, it’s hard for outsourced people to do that without knowing the company and industry cold.  The most they can do is say “Great post, thanks”, which is not thoughtful and does not add value to the discussion.

  • Lack of content variety

Almost every post was original content. While this is quite impressive, the problem is that they missed the opportunity to leverage other good content out there. There were many links built into the posts,  but they did not use any “pull quotes” or excerpts that help give credit to other good content being generated.  Use other content sources as an opportunity to recognize good work being done out in the Internet ethers, and good will will come back to you.   Secondly vary the content medium to include video, PPTs and other media to spice things up.

3.  NO SHARING ON TWITTER

While there was some decent twitter activity, there was little interaction with their followers and virtually no retweets that I could see.  I understand that I could have missed some, but it did not seem to be a regular occurrence in their Twitter pattern.   While there needs to be a balance of sharing redundant information, it is good practice to share good information from your twitter following.  It’s how you build deeper relationships and people deeply appreciate it when you share their tweets or strike up a conversation.

They also had an informative post on Twitter Chats, but did not appear to participate in any.

CAVEAT:  Like the note with making blog comments, Twitter Chats and Twitter in general can be challenging for outsourced personnel who do not deeply understand the market they are working in.  It’s a bit tricky, you’ll want them to engage followers but they can only go so far.  If questions start coming up, they will immediately have to defer to “get back to them”.   This is OK in some instances, but wouldn’t work in a fast-moving Twitter Chat.   Someone internal from product management or marketing in the organization would need to participate since they know the inner workings of the market and could better respond to quick conversations in a Twitter Chat.

4. NO SLIDESHARE ACCOUNT

I can’t say enough how important this web site/social network is for content generation and sharing.  Blogs do not allow you to upload PDFs or PPTs, so you need a repository location that allows you to embed the information into a blog post.  Sure you can send folks off to download content from a link on your web site, but embedding is much more effective and visual for readers.  Using this network, there are many tools available like an on demand Zipcast to hold a public webinar, you can add audio to a PPT so it becomes a webinar, it integrates with LinkedIn, and it’s a highly searched property for content.  I know when I’m preparing materials for a presentation, I always give a look around SlideShare to find validation points to support my content (and it goes without saying to always give proper attribution…).

5.  LITTLE MARKETING INTEGRATION

Finally, this is an area many companies need to work on.  There are of ways to integrate social media into your marketing programs. This is a way to bring the benefits home to the business in a visible way.   One thing this company did do was standardize their email signatures to have all the social network links.  This is a start, but there are other opportunities.  This company was attending a couple of important trade shows in the near future and there was little information visible in the social streams I was reading.  Drive a contest through social media and get people to your booth.  Set up shortened links (I use Bit.ly).  Start tracking webinar hits, registrations, email subscriptions, downloads, video plays, requests for more information.  Social media is another way to share a message, so start using the channel properly and track it.

It goes without saying that you don’t want to be come a pure broadcast channel in your efforts, you need to maintain a balance and  share information that is not about your business specifically along with some promotion.

Take Time to Check In With Your Program

If you’re deep into a corporate social media program, make time to take a step back and see what’s going on.  Are you getting the traction you want?  If not, why? Perhaps one of these areas is amiss.

Until then, happy tweeting all…

5 Comments

  1. Jon DiPietro says:

    This is an important point, Juliann. Almost every business I speak with thinks that the goal is to build traffic. Unless you’re selling ad impressions, traffic doesn’t pay the rent!!

    It’s all about conversions.

  2. juliann says:

    Thanks Jon. While traffic is always good, there is long distance connection (if at all) to driving sales. There needs to be a balance when measuring social media between a pure increase in exposure and how it really drives the business.

  3. Chris Smith says:

    I read your five points, and they illustrate a good understanding of the way people feel about marketing, how to make marketing almost transparent to the value of the company the methods are reaching out to. I am still thinking about the slideshare : website duality, since i guess most companies, mine included, put a lot of effort into a coherent website. With downloadable PDF information etc. Thanks, this is a good blog, and now I can refer other people to it.

  4. Jeff Ogden says:

    Love this post, Juliann, as it illustrates what a “dead blog” looks like. No personality, no sharing, no variety.

    This is, IMHO, the biggest difference between professional bloggers like you and me and the lame efforts of most companies. My blog, Fearless Competitor has words, videos, slideshares, comments, tweets, etc.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers “Lead Generation Made Simple”
    http://www.findnewcustomers.com
    @fearlesscomp

  5. juliann says:

    Jeff – Thanks for your input on my post. You’ve certainly written about the importance of personalty on your web site, and highlight that a variety of mediums is needed to develop that online personality. It also has to do with the right understanding at the exec level of how social media can enhance/extend business and marketing activities. It’s not just about building out a following. Much appreciated for the comment, thanks.

    Chris – Glad you stopped by too! Regarding Slideshare and web site duality, they actually work together and it provides you another way to measure interest in your content. Many people go to Slideshare and search for topics of all kinds, including technical. You need to be on there to get views, and if you are blogging, you can embed your PPTs right into your blog with that tool. It has alot to offer. Folks don’t want to be held hostage to finding all information through your web site anymore, they want to find it the way they want to – so be where they are. Don’t worry about the duality, it’s more about providing good content in the right places.

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