This is the second in a two-part series of posts laying out how to plan and then execute your social media objectives. The first post looked at setting social media objectives through the lens of the customer journey. This post will cover 9 key operational considerations for executing your freshly minted objectives.
Social represents a challenge to traditionally structured companies as it doesn’t obey the traditional lines of organizational boundaries. Failing to understand and agree what is done, how it is done and who it is done by, can present fatal barriers to successfully realizing your objectives in social.
While by no means comprehensive, this list will take you through the main operational considerations and in discussing them, surface other considerations. For each objective, it is useful to run through these considerations and use them to craft your execution strategy.
1. Context: what is the business issue that the social objective is designed to meet? Are there broader business considerations that should be thought about in achieving this objective; declining market share, changing audience demographics? It is important not to lose sight of whatever has driven the initial marketing or business objective and to clearly tie your social media activity to that objective. If nothing else this will avoid the ‘get to 1 million fans’ tailspin that social can be subjected to.
2. Global: what is the role of the global team (this could be any central team; either by geography or function)? There is no right or wrong answer to this question; it depends entirely on the cultural, political and organizational nature of the company. In general it is best to build your social strategy in a way that aligns to those existing structures.
The oft quoted framework for understanding the organisational structure for social is from Jeremiah Owyang’s time at Altimeter. Like all suspiciously tidy frameworks, it ignores the rather messy reality of human nature: legacy structures, irrationality, politics, egos and self-interest. But it provides a useful starting point; “our organization is sort of like <name of example>, but also has the following exceptions”.
Once you’ve defined the role consider what resources the central team has and what budgets and time are available to fulfil this. The temptation may be to fudge things at this point in the hope that once up and running resources will become available. Resist that temptation; my personal approach has been to make dependences very clear upfront, as you rarely get more than one chance to put your cap out. The start of a process, before anything has started to go pear-shaped is usually the best time to ask for what you need. Another strategy is to admit that you are not omniscient and to build in a review point after x months or x stages have passed to assess what resources need to be added or reallocated at that point.
3. Local: what is the role of the local end point; this could be a national office or an individual location within a collection of hotels, stores, franchises or dealerships. It is vital to have a clear distinction between what is being done centrally and what is being done by the markets and / or individual sites and who holds the hammer. This will have governance, budget, staffing and workflow implications.
Where you have a number of local sites in different markets there will also be different abilities. This will be a result of willing, available budget and skills as well as local market conditions such as audience and competition. By taking into account this matrix of variables it should be possible to build out some bands or cohorts of local markets whose timings, objectives and support could all vary according to their ability to deliver.
4. Integration: what connections with other departments are required? Typical dependencies can be found between social media and departments responsible for
- Brand Marketing
- Digital Marketing (.com, SEO and digital ATL)
- Public Relations
- Customer Service
- Consumer Insights and
Sometimes it is useful to build out a RACI matrix to ensure everyone is clear on who’s is responsible for what. Even without implementing a RACI as a formal process, the discussion of it will surface issues and tensions that will need to be resolved.
As you develop a project plan to roll out specific workflows you will need to take account of dependences between departments. Keep in mind that the dependences can flow in both directions; data produced from social can have an impact on other functions as much as they can impact social.
5. Stakeholder audiences: who are the different audiences for each objective? While some objectives will appear to have a single easily identified audience (e.g. Customers who are complaining) it’s worth trying to tease out the nuances. Customers who are complaining and have high influence online may well be treated differently to those without.
Audiences are not just made up of customers; they can also include internal audiences, legislators, supply chain partners; anyone who has a material impact on the business.
6. Platform strategy: how is each social platform used to achieve each objective? The way that the target audiences use each platform will be different and the functionality of the platforms will also dictate how you use them. And all of this will vary depending on your objective, the market you’re in and the target audience.
A simple way of breaking this down is to go back to the Customer Journey. Look at what you need to achieve at each stage of the Customer Journey to achieve a specific objective and then consider what aspects of each platform are best suited to achieve it.
If at all possible, make use of existing behaviors and the most commonly used features of each network. It is exponentially easier to use existing than try to create new. Think about this when you’re working on a hashtag strategy; to be sure, your own unique 24-character hashtag will make the campaign easier to track, but it’s not going to bring you into an existing conversation.
7. Content: rather than build out an entire content strategy at this point, the goal here is to think about the role of content in delivering against your specific social objectives. On one hand brands have a tendency to create too much: they over estimate just what it is they have to say that is actually of interest to the target audience and have little discipline around what is said by whom in the organization. To be fair, this comes from a legacy environment were sales brochures, operating manuals, press releases and consumer reviews were not all available within search. But now they are.
Once you’ve identified your requirements a content audit will help you to identify for each piece; Does it already exist, if not, where will it come from and what does it need to look like to achieve this objective?
The greatest challenge I’ve seen is weaning brands off the crack cocaine that is broadcast media. In the broadcast paradigm the consideration is almost entirely one way: what is it that we want to say about our brand/product/service? An advertising brief will often ask “What do we want the audience to think, feel and do as a result of seeing this communication?” There is no historical ‘conversation muscle’. An alternative to this might be: “What is the existing conversation about our brand/product/service? How can we contribute to it?”
Google has some excellent frameworks to help you think about the scale and nature of your content. I particularly like Hero / Hub / Help as it acknowledges the different stakeholder needs and gets you out of the broadcast advertising mindset. There’s more here at Thinking with Google.
8. Performance measurement: For each objective we need to ask ourselves;
- Why is this an objective and what will it look like when we have successfully achieved it?
- Is there a number that will change?
- Is it a number that we can measure?
- Where will that data come from and how will it be gathered?
As we move through the customer journey the numbers that matter will increasingly be abstracted from vanity metrics and more closely related to the actual business; leads generated, subscribers added, items sold and complaints resolved will all take precedence over views and shares. Social numbers become diagnostic, in that they tell us the direction of travel or are regarded as contributing factors, but hard business numbers are what we’re looking for to make the case that the investment in social was worthwhile.
9. Staffing implications: do we have the right team to execute this (in social or other departments)? If the need to meet these objectives in social is a new one, it’s more than likely that you will lack either the team members or the requisite skills to achieve them. Now that you have mapped out all of the operational considerations you should have a pretty clear picture of what activities are required to deliver them.
The next step is to map these out as a set of activities that occur on a daily or weekly basis and be clear about the effort and skillsets required to do them and your teams’ ability to meet those time and skill demands.
10. A Success Plan: At this level of execution you’ll be working with a Social Media Marketing Suite like Spredfast. To get the most out of this investment you need to be clear on what elements of platform need to be used to achieve each objective? One of the most useful tools I have discovered in the SaaS world is the Customer Success Plan. We use this to map the functionality of the platform against the customers’ stated objectives. We set a benchmark for adoption and usage and track this over time, departments and geography. In it we identify both the benefits to the business of using the platform and the costs of not. The Plan tracks what integrations are required to get the full value out of the platform and who needs to do what to make them happen.
Ultimately this plan becomes a roadmap for success between us as technology supplier and the customer as it’s end user and we use it to hold each other accountable at milestone check-ins.
This seems a lot. And it is a lot, but in my experience, if you don’t invest the time at the outset to work through these you’ll wind up having to revisit them at some point down the road once money has been spent and time has been invested in non-strategic efforts.
And nobody wants to do that.