What separates the laggards from the leaders is the difference between just doing social media and doing it well. This means that the company has to understand first and foremost its intent and how it's going to approach this from the inside out. Here are key things to consider:
• Open Leadership. Too often, social media takes place in the trenches of the marketing department and never makes it up to the executive suite. Only when disaster strikes do executives take notice and shut it down, leaving no room for lessons learned. Before disaster strikes is when an executive sponsor such as your VP-marketing or CMO must first understand and embrace the social Web and slowly communicate with executives and the board about the risks and benefits of social media. Without getting true buy-in from leadership in understanding the full impact, it may be a losing war. Charlene Li, in her book “Open Leadership,” makes some great recommendations on how leaders can win by letting go:
• Identify the top 5-10 worst case scenarios.
• Develop contingency and mitigation plans.
• Prepare everyone for inevitable failures.
We urge every leader who is considering or using social media to read this book and truly embrace open leadership and commitment before diving in. Open leadership can transform your organization from the top down. Leaders should serve as change agents to drive change management and social media.
• Establish your intent. Social media is not about tools. You don't just establish a Twitter account and start tweeting. If you want to do it right, set a strong foundation by establishing your intent and level of commitment. Shift happens only when you can clearly communicate your intent and rally your troops to help fulfill that goal. Whether your company is b-to-b or b-to-c, there are many benefits—real-time customer engagement, innovation, feedback, etc.—but only by understanding what your strategy is can you establish your approach and execution plan.
• Policy, policy, policy. When the gold rush of social media hit the business world, companies were jumping in head first to be the first to the social Web. Ego? Maybe. The marketing rule says you have to be the first to market to be the first in the market. That may be true. But social media reared its ugly head for a lot of companies in 2010 and 2011. Policy is not only crucial but should serve as the backbone of your social strategy because when it's designed with the right intent in mind, it should provide the guiding principles for your company and your employees that enable them to use social tools in a responsible manner. The policy should set boundaries as well as provide best practices. To build a policy can take a village but it's worth it. It should not be architected in a vacuum but by a committee of people who will be affected. Gather your core teams to help build a framework that makes sense for the entire company—marketing, executive team, human resources, legal and IT. You should not only communicate the intent of the policy and guidelines but get input and feedback on how they'll be affected. This will also create a sense of community ownership and ensure you've covered all the bases to make the policy tangible and enforceable.
I'll continue my discussion in Part 2 of “Must-haves of social media marketing.” In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Do you agree or do you see priorities shifting?