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Eight ways to play in social media without corporate channels

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There might be several reasons why corporate social media channels are not accessible to you—maybe they just don't exist or maybe a different organization holds the cards to playing on them. If another group manages your branded properties, the first piece of advice is to partner with them. This may take some time, so be patient and collaborative. Your efforts can pay off big time.

Not having your own playground, however, doesn't mean that you should abandon your dreams of becoming a social shaker and mover. There are plenty of opportunities to get creative. Here are eight tips to get started:

Know your social policy and crisis plan

No matter where you play, you need to have rules agreed upon by all relevant parties. It's not enough to HAVE a social policy and a crisis plan: it's vital to KNOW IT. Your plan should include the process, people and their roles and responsibilities. And make sure that all the people that are a part of your escalation process know and understand it, too. It's important to understand governance even if you don't have (access to) corporate channels.

Listen

You don't need a branded channel to listen to the conversations in the social sphere. All you need is a hash tag (or hash tags), a list of terms you want to listen to, and a listening plan supported by a listening liaison network. A listening plan should include your "art of listening:" the conversations you're following, how you're going to separate noise from actionable data, how you're going to classify and tag the information you uncover, how you're going to prioritize it, whom you need to communicate it to, and who's going to take action.

If you have a listening platform in place, assigning tasks and automating these workflows in the tool can save time and resources. Be sure to follow up with the action item owners to close the loop.

Get to know the person behind the profile

I'm making this a separate point because I mean this in the truest sense. When you don't have branded channels behind you, getting through to your audience can be a daunting task. (It's challenging enough even when you do have corporate presence). You're one drop in the sea of social chatter. So it becomes ever more important to take the initiative to proactively identify and connect with them, and then take the time to truly understand them. Understand their story, needs, challenges, opportunities, online behaviors, digital touchpoints, and so on. These insights will become a great asset as you join in on the conversations….on and off the web.

Engage from your personal channel(s)

Check your social media policy first. Many companies now allow their employees to participate on the social web upon including the appropriate disclaimers in their profiles. And remember, just because a conversation starts online, it doesn't mean it has to stay online. Become comfortable navigating between the online and offline worlds, and feel free to take the conversation private if the situation calls for it.

Be active on third-party forums and social networks

Listening, browsing and talking to people can help you learn about popular forums and communities that are relevant to your subject matter area. Assess and prioritize these communities, and decide which one(s) you want to commit to. Follow group members, listen to what they're talking about, read their posts first to understand what's important to them. The goal is to build relationships with them by providing value to the readers, answering their questions, offering your perspectives on a topic, and so on.

Activate your community

I'm using the word "community" loosely here. I'm referring to one of the most untapped yet powerful resources: your employees as well as your influencers, advocates, partners, customers and other targeted groups you may think of. What's better than enabling your larger community to tell your story through their eyes and in their authentic voices?

Enable sharing

Whenever possible. Sharing capabilities in your online press releases, web pages, and other digital content and assets help spread the word about you. Make sharing easy to find and do. Include social calls to action—for example, a hash tag in your deliverables to encourage continued engagement.

Think "Next Step"

Ask yourself: "Once my customer has discovered a piece of my content here, what else can I offer to keep him or her interested?" You can do simple things such as highlighting your hash tag in your brochure or creating linkages between various social, digital, mobile and offline assets and activities. But it's important to also think about how you want to tell your story in each channel and how to optimally connect these experiences. Giving your audience a reason to stay engaged with you can help move conversations farther down the funnel. So take them on a journey and allow them to discover your story in different ways at different touch points….even if you don't "own" these channels.

For sure, there are more ways to play. But you'll most likely find that you need to pace yourself and prioritize all the possibilities, depending on the cards you're dealt. What are some of your favorite ways to play without owning your own channels?

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