Removing Barriers to Social Media Engagement

In your travels, you've probably seen some big brands who are barely active on social media. It seems weird, doesn't it, that a Fortune 500 company or a trade association with hundreds of thousands of members would only post on Facebook a few times a week, or that it would never retweet anyone, or never post a video on YouTube, right?

Getting social media right can be like climbing a high mountain.
It's a challenge. Flickr user brewbooks.
Here's what's going on in these organizations, and if you work with one of them, what you might do to help:

1) The debilitating approval process. I have a colleague doing some work for a big company right now. There is a 5-layer approval process for Tweets. The end result? The product SME's responsible for generating content can't be bothered with Twitter, so the channel goes largely unused, except by HR, which retweets the same "We're Hiring!" tweet every few days.

How to help? If the approval process can't be flattened, sometimes it's possible to help the product people package Twitter with other content. For example, this company does a number of whitepapers and other reports. If each report was packaged with publicity  - perhaps including a blog post, press release, and then some content for LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter - then everything could be approved in one process. At that point, five layers wouldn't be as much as an imposition, since everyone would only need to look at one package.

2) The feeding of the content beast. Some organizations  just don't have a lot of new content every week. In fact, MOST organizations don't, unless they traffic in the news and current events. Belief that you can a) only broadcast your own content, and b) you can only promote each piece of content once, can really hold you back.

What to do? Twitter, especially, is a community full of people interested in any number of things who support each other in what they do. Find some organizations with similar goals and retweet some of their tweets. Also, find some news outlets in your industry and retweet important industry news. Last, anytime you get positive media pickups or people from your organization are quoted in the media, post it. Facebook is a wonderful place to engage with your customers - while you'll definitely want to share your media pickups there, it's also a great idea to request user-generated content. Ask your Facebook fans how they feel about issues important to your organization, how they are using your product, or run a video or photo contest. Finally, consider the stock and flow social media strategy. That way, you'll always have content but you'll be ready for breaking news.

3) The fear of true engagement. Many people work in organizations where they aren't allowed to thank people for comments or retweet their followers, or even follow most people back on Twitter. It's not surprising that executives from organizations like this don't see a lot of results from social media - how can they when these tools aren't being properly used?

What's your strategy? You've got to be firm in explaining to your organization that it's violating the social contract implicit in social media by not showing any love. Does that mean you have to follow back everyone who follows you on Twitter? No, but follow more than you've been following, especially influencers. When there's multiple comments on a Facebook post, thank the commenters for their support and feedback, and provide more information if needed.

How are you helping your organization grow with social media? Let us know in the comments.

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