Social media doesn’t start with the platforms.
It starts with the people who are entrusted with its development.
If they are disinterested then no amount of technology will rescue your efforts.
You may feel inclined to produce a compendious social media policy or, if you are feeling brave, you may even combine this with a strategy paper. But, as much as it pains me to say so, you need to up-skill first (the ‘What’ is just as important, at this stage, as the ‘How’), and to paint vivid and meaningful pictures of a world filled with remarkable content that engages your clients. If all you think about is content of old, then social media will not correct your ego based obsession with showing how learned you are!
There is no good saying: “This is how Twitter works”. You need to produce a more nuanced approach by looking at the Good, The Bad and The Ugly (and not just your competitors), and provide your kick-ass strategy to build solid engagement.
For Twitter, I might decide to focus on networking either in person on virtually (Skype is still my preferred option). For LinkedIn, I might combine networking with content syndication and event management. For You Tube, I might decide on my Top Tips for one practice area or another – something that shows how risk can be avoided or, perhaps, tax mitigated. And for Audioboo, I might work on a series of interviews to develop topical issues.
The issue will be time: don’t get people interested if you are not going to allow for and reward engagement.
Aim to work with everyone but manage your expectations to the extent that you may only get 50% of the firm on board. Remember it is not just about having everyone working with the tools; it may be the case that they just provide the content.
And, of course, you will need to agree who will have day-to-day responsibility for the management of each platform. Don’t let this default to the person who shouts the loudest.
Appoint a social media Tsar if you must or at least someone who has the strength of character to make things happen. You will want them to be at the hub of what you do. Often, there is too much talk and not enough action. You want an Action Addict and not someone who thinks it can wait until tomorrow.
When it comes to the external picture, start with ‘Why’, then ‘How’ and then ‘What’. Use a Mind Map to work out which platforms you are going to leverage, with the hub of your activity being something that you have control of – your website very likely.
Start off with 3 platforms but growing to no more than 5.
Develop a publishers mindset and start weaving in your campaigns, events and likely market/legal changes with the content most suited to your (social media) demographic. Don’t go and produce a whole slew of material on You Tube if your target audience prefer email. If you don’t know what people might like to receive then ask them. Use Mailchip or Google Forms to send out a short survey.
Have some clear objectives but they should be tied to your business goals. If you want more revenue or better clients then how is social media going to assist in the process?
As to the technology, accept that some people will be more adroit than others but the trick is to make sure that you keep raising the bar and not allow people to rest on their laurels and ignore the paradigm just because they make the choice not to understand things.
Use a dashboard like Hootsuite, Seesmic or Tweetdeck. Get into the habit of being on-line at the busier periods. Create lists to make your experience less about the numbers and more about the quality of engagement. Set up some searches for key words. Use # if you are on Twitter but don’t overdo it.
You need to have a content strategy that works. Blogs are great, but in order to leverage your expertise think about something of value – an eBook or podcasts work well.
Combine your on-line with your off-line material wherever possible but only if the latter has real value. If it is filled with gobbledygook or is too verbose then putting it on-line won’t save its mediocrity.
Change your printed material to reflect your new found love for social media. Make sure your website shows everyone’s LinkedIn profile. The plug in is easy to install.
Make sure that when people attend a networking event they have some lines rehearsed about your social media programme, but most importantly make sure that they don’t miss an opportunity to connect and introduce others – always the hallmark of a great networker (see the book Endless Referrals by Bob Burg).
The point is if you really want to leverage for gain you need to understand that social media is an active medium. It is not, and never will be, something you can put out ‘there’ and expect to sit back and see things happen. That is not to say that might not get lucky with the odd blog post or You Tube video but think of your efforts as a marathon and not a sprint. I was always taught by my mentor in recruitment, Douglas Knipe, that the reason why the Japanese had been so successful in their dominance of the electrical market was because they took the long view – “the “softly, softly” approach won every time”, he would say.
Now I am an incredibly impatient guy but I recognise the wisdom of thinking long term and modelling your behaviour on a picture of how your business could be different with social media. Call it a vision, primary aim or strategic objective, it matters not. What matters is the ability to scale and grow.
If I could make one final point – and I know I have said this ad nauseum – it is that you need to create the very best content you can. Call it remarkable if that helps but better still create content people will want to engage with. Remember a call to action as well, and don’t be afraid of at least considering how you can make money from your social media efforts.
And finally, have FUN.