As 2016 rolls in, social media is no longer the stepchild or shiny object in your communications strategy. It plays a pivotal part in allowing your organization to spread the word strategically, protect and improve your brand’s reputation, inspire your fans and customers, and align with the overall corporate mission, objectives, and goals of your organization. If you are a corporate communicator, this is your time, to seize the day and the big data and embrace the opportunity to apply strategic imperatives to your social media strategy and ensure your critical messages do not remain a lone tree in the forest that no one can appreciate. Here are Borenstein Group’s 10 Strategic Imperatives for Social Media Success in 2016 as featured in Communication World Magazine.
- Go Mobile or Go Home.
In the past, most corporations could get away by posting links from their Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn accounts to their corporate websites that were not responsive and compatible with smartphones and tablets. In 2016, most studies are showing that if your corporate website is not mobile-friendly, your social media nuggets of gold will be rendered useless as prospects will leave your site quicker than you can click ‘delete’ on your keyboard. Bottom line: before you deploy any social media campaign, ensure that your organization has upgraded to a mobile friendly and responsive design. If you are not sure, just take your CEO to a conference room, open up your homepage on your tablet and ask him to find his profile. That works really well to get executive buy-in if all else fails.
- Integrate SoMo Strategy unto Your Multichannel Marketing Plan.
Your Social media strategy plan cannot succeed if it is disconnected or misaligned from the rest of your online multi-channel marketing plan. At all times, you must stay true to your corporate brand and use the social media tools available as an extension of them. Be creative, but stay consistent with your brand voice. Second, before you begin planning your multichannel marketing strategy, be sure to map out your company’s or organization’s goals in advance. Goals could include creating brand awareness, building relationships, generating leads, growing authority, improving interactions, promoting a product or increasing sales.
- Align Your C-Suite’s Mission, Goals & Objectives with The Analytics & Metrics They Care About.
Let’s be real: when was the last time your corporate boss said “I LOVE our social media’s return-on-investment! This really helped us GROW this quarter!” If you are being honest with yourself, chances are the answer is slim to none. The majority of us have never experienced joy when it comes to explaining social media ROI metrics to a corporate executive like a CEO, CFO or CIO. While, in the past, one could claim that there were very few tested marketing and social media automation systems that allowed you to capture meaningful analytics and metrics, 2016 is changing the game. You can now use Big Data analytics to measure anything about which your corporate c-suite is skeptical.
From levels of digital engagement to potency to velocity to repeat visits and downloads of the CEO’s white papers or links to influential third-party validation sites, there are no excuses in 2016 not to measure. What should you measure first, second and third? Measure what your corporate management cares about, not what’s cool in the digital water cooler. Most importantly, if you finished your social media plan and you cannot identify anything that’s relatable to sales, marketing, recruitment and corporate social responsibility, consider a re-do. You are not done yet. Remember, nothing could be more frustrating than having a big win in social media engagement than having your boss say ‘so what, that is not our target audience, irrelevant.’
- Develop & Implement a Scoring System for Social Media Postings Aligned with Your Organization’s Business Objectives.
Let’s face it: not all metrics are created equal and not every social media posting on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or vine is going to be important to you or your company. In order to avoid meaningless reports of the number of “mentions” and “retweets”, without assigning a level of importance, you can create a simplified scoring scale from 0-10 in what you’d consider successful and impactful for your organization on social media. For example, your can determine the top three impact data points that your CEO, CFO, and CMO agree and align with, that are worth the company’s time. Remember, you do not want to be the professional that floods your management reports with meaningless metrics of “apparent success.” Analytics is here to help, but please don’t lie with statistics but asking the wrong questions.
- Promote Your Corporate Social Responsibility Brand: Doing Good Works Well on Social Media
Because of the viral nature of social media and the capacity to share moments of joy, one of the most critical investments you could make is to ensure your corporate social responsibility initiatives are not happening on a desolate island or being posted only after an event has already happened. They say that no good deed goes unpunished, but what if – by the power of social media – a company’s good deeds could instead be rewarded? Bad news may travel fast, but through the power of social media, these days, good news travels even faster.
For example, AARP, not your average millennial social media membership profile, has managed to garner tremendous national publicity via social media by actually promoting their partnership with Outreach Program, a non-profit 501 (c)(3) corporation that organizes food packaging events around the country. With more than 300 million meals packaged to date, the organization’s mission is to provide food, safe water, education, and medical care to those in need at home and abroad. More than 5,000 AARP volunteers and employee’s packaged over 1.2 million Outreach Program Rice and Bean Casserole meals in Washington, DC on Friday, September 11, 2015, to help feed hungry seniors and veterans in the DC area.
In essence, going viral, or even having a healthy social media community, is more than just scheduling a few tweets or posting photos on Facebook. Curating content, looking for opportunities, and effectively communicating your story is key.
- Stay Strategically Relevant: Connect Your Brand to Real-Time News Narratives.
In yesteryear, the right thing to do was to stay within the lines of your dogmatic brand guidelines to avoid conflict and to get any attention that isn’t in the ‘interest of the corporation’. It allowed corporations to communicate with little to no emotional connection to what is really going on the world. However, in 2016, social media is where the buzz is inspiring people to learn about your company in real-time. For example, when a major refugees’ crisis became the dominating headline, did your company have an internal tag-team to consider how to leverage your brand in social media? I am not advocating taking political positions as much as making it clear that your corporate social media strategy includes being attuned to what would make a positive impact to your company’s image online.
- Validate That Your Leadership’s Personal SoMo Accounts Aren’t in Conflict with Your Corporate Accounts
Truth be told, not every organization has a pithy, enthusiastic, social-media friendly CEO. Conversely, many organizations have CEOs that are tweeting their opinions from personal accounts without regards to the company’s social media brand perception, creating chaos and inconsistency between the brand you want to present to the world, and the brand that is being hijacked by personal political views to major misspellings that go worldwide in seconds. Because the distinction between Personal & Corporate social media is inherently gone, your 2016 social media strategy must fully align with the corporate interests of your organization. For example, it doesn’t matter how good you do with the corporate account if unflattering pictures of your CEO on a beach vacation, drunk at a local watering hole, make the ‘Twitter machine’ explode with expletives of #WTF.
- Be Ready: Develop a Social Media Disaster Preparedness Plan
It is not a question of if, but when. Whether it is a security breach that affects millions of your customers, or a negative recorded customer service experience that went viral on the web, natural or man-made brand disasters will strike your corporation, and your corporate brand that stood for trusted & reliable will unravel before your very eyes. Unless you are prepared to handle crisis communications in the digital age of instant citizen journalism and social media rumors that travel the world faster than you can type, you are already behind on digital emergency preparedness.
Within hours of any public event that get publicity, whether it’s a security breach exposing credit cards at a healthcare insurance company, or a bad customer service call of a cable provider that goes viral in a bad way, social media was filled with livid postings by customers that already blame your brand for slow response on social media, while internet trolls are posting more disparaging remarks about your brand in real-time. The biggest takeaway is that, unlike in the past, when we would all be waiting to see what CNN or Fox would be reporting, your corporate brand is no longer owned by a controlled narrative. It is owned by anyone with a social media account, qualified or not, that can vilify or defend your trusted brand. It is clear that being ready isn’t optional anymore.
What does it mean to be ready? It is called Digital Preparedness. You cannot control social media brand disasters before they happen, but here are proactive strategies you can enact right now to mitigate potential hazards lurking in the distance. At the minimum, since most social media explosions go from zero to 100 really quick, establish a Virtual Command Control Center for Emergency Communications Between the C-Suite, Social Media & Corporate Communications. Often, in times of crisis, executives rely on or hide behind their communications directors to take care of the outside noise from media.
However, without access to the certain leaders in charge of the crisis, whether it is information security breach or catastrophic failure, communications professionals cannot help you unless they got some facts about the who, why, what and where. In the age of available marketing automation suites, it is easy to create an escalation process that allows you to contain communications and ensure there is easy access to decision makers. Most importantly, don’t allow others to define your brand because you were not prepared or overly conservative and cautious. No response is a form of a response in today’s fast moving digital media age and it could make or break your brand more forcefully than any cosmetic fixes or updated customer services policies would.
- Recruit & Engage a Social Media Employee Advisory Council
In most organizations, social media is still viewed as the new shiny object that is highly coveted, but one must be aware that if your social media messaging and brand ambassadors are not included and don’t give you the necessary ‘buy in’ on your messaging, you are simply creating an ineffective strategy. The solution is to recruit from within employees that can form a monthly brown bag luncheon to discuss what they’d like to see the company communicating about in different areas. By making them part of the process, as early as possible, you can be assured that you will have additional ambassadors to promote your messages through a multitude of social media channels as well as avoid having a giant disconnect from the cadre of believers in your company’s digital brand.
- Make your social media messaging indispensable to your target audience.
Social media power comes with a mission of creating quality content that people care about. In 2016, the excuse that the only ‘approved’ messages from corporate are about account wins, new hires and company picnics is void of connection with the real-world. Successful companies use social media to create engaging content, no matter their field, to amass new fans and customers by offering up tips, how-to guides, funny meme’s that speak to their unique audience, and usage of un-contrived videos that show the authenticity of your organization. Your plan must strategically emblazon the word ‘what’s in it for my prospect on social media’ before any and all postings are promoted. If that answer isn’t clear, you got a loser on your hand.
About the Author: Mr. Gal Borenstein is the Chief Strategy Officer and CEO of Borenstein Group, a top digital marketing communications firm in the Washington DC metropolitan area that serves clients locally and globally. He is a recognized expert and strategist in digital branding, marketing, social media, advertising, online reputation management and public relations matters. He is the author of the new business leadership book, ACTIVATE! How to Power Up Your Brand to Dominate Your Market, Crush Your Competition & Win in the Digital Age, available in premiere bookstores and on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Apple’s iBooks
Another article with Gal Borenstein talking about digital trend- http://www.itbusiness.ca/blog/3-cmo-trends-for-2016-show-how-digital-disruption-is-evolving/63828