social media

Why Am I Asking Why?

I know a lot of people write great posts explaining the top 5 or 10 ways to do something re: social media or PR. In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not a big fan of writing these. I’ll do it every so often, but I want you to delve deeper into what you need or want out of social media and why you need PR.

That’s not to say anything bad about those posts, they are quite useful and I’m hoping to do more of them in the future.

However, I ask so many questions because by asking you these questions, you will be able to provide yourself with better social media planning than I can from this side of the laptop screen.  It’s my hope that in providing you some of the foundational knowledge I have, I can help you to develop your own goals in using social media, public relations and communications strategy. It’s that old “teach a man to fish…” idea. I am happy to help and hope to plant the seeds for your own brilliance, and will help as much as I can to provide you with the ingredients for your own social media and communications menu (going back to the idea of Iron Chef Social Media), but the true brilliance for your needs will almost always come from you.

social media

Iron Chef – Social Media #3: “Who is your chef?” (Who represents your brand via social media?)

Why is a personal brand important for a company in social media? Because consumers don’t want to interact with a “company” or  “brand” they want to interact with the people behind a brand.  That’s why people won’t follow “Dell” because it’s a company, but they will follow Richard at Dell or Lionel at Dell because they give that company the personal interaction with their consumers.  As a result of that, people will want to become connected with your company or organization, look at the iCabal, the Apple fanatics who are incredibly tied in with the Mac brand, because they have probably been influenced by the Mac Evangelist crowd (and/or they are easily led by shiny things. 🙂 )

(Just kidding, relax y’all.)

Companies can’t interact with people. The people in your company can.

You have to make sure that the right people in your company are interacting with those people.  That’s one of the strengths of PR people working on your social media team, PR people are great at connecting with people – it’s our job, heck it’s in the job title “Public Relations.”  Who in your organization can you trust with the social interactions with your customers?

What are some of the ways people in your organization can get involved in social media? Here are a few of my ideas, what would you like to see your organization do to open up and engage more online?

  1. Set guidelines, not restrictions – you want to have guidelines that people blogging/tweeting/etc for your company need to follow (think of them as talking points for your evangelists, why do they rock?) But you don’t want to restrict what they can say too much.
  2. You don’t need to vet everything that’s said – your employees, check that, the employees who love your company (and these are the ones who should be representing you) should not have to run everything by the legal department.  You trust your customer service team in India to represent your company without running every statement through the mothership, you should trust your social media employees to do the same.
  3. Who in your company is already blogging? – Who’s already doing it?  Can you pay them to be part of the social media team at your company?  Why reinvent the wheel? Take these people on a long weekend retreat to Vegas, or the fun destination of your choice and intersperse some workshops on developing your social media team in between visits to the casino/park/hiking trail/etc.
  4. Are there any free agents out there? –Is there anyone in your organization, or someone that one of your employees might know, who is already active in social media and social networking? If so, you might want to consider offering them a job to produce your content. They have an audience already established, and you might be able to attract some of them to your new brand. And at the same time, if you are working on your own personal brand, you can learn quite a bit from your new free agent star.
  5. Who should represent the company? – Your new free agent? How about the guys you have on the team already?  What about the CEO?  Is he/she tech savvy and interested in this communications medium?  If not, it would be better for them to give up the reins here and let the people in the know take the lead, then report successes and concerns to the CEO.
  6. Experiment, experiment, experiment! There are a lot of kinds of social media out there, what works the best not only for your company, but for your team?  Remember, there are some pieces of social media that work best as entrees, and others as appetizers.  Maybe your video person loves working on video but has a voice that would only be improved by gargling with rusty razor blades.  Then he shouldn’t lead the podcasting.  Your podcast guru has that smooth radio voice but can’t hold a camera steady long enough for a picture, then you don’t need them leading up your Flickr stream.  Different people have different strengths, what tools are out there to augment them and how can you combine them?
  7. Training – Cross train your team, turn them into backpack journalists – able to develop news across all kinds of new media.

What other advice would you add for leaders interested in getting their people involved with their customers, competition, and colleagues?

Creativity, social media, Strategy

Iron Chef – Social Media

So your boss is interested in social media.  They’ve read some blogs, checked out some illegally copyright-protected videos on YouTube, and even have a Facebook page and one of them fancy Tweety accounts.  Now they want you to come up with a social media plan to get them into as many Social Media groups as possible.  You’re on the verge of throwing out your company’s communications plan and starting from scratch, looking at every social media site you can lay your browser on.

(There are bosses who do get social media, and they aren’t are rare as you might think. So to get this out of the way, we’re not talking about them.)

First, don’t throw out the comms plan. While a lot of people talk about “social media strategy,” myself included, it’s important to remember that social media tools are just that – part of the communicator’s toolbox.

Actually, think of them as ingredients in a dish. (OK, I admit I’m still on a “No Reservations” high after tonight’s premier).  But more than that, the various tactics we will be looking at in this series (many of which you know, some of which you might not know or might not have thought about) are more than the proverbial “pieces to a puzzle.”  There is not one correct way to solve this puzzle.  Instead, there are myriad ways to use these tactics, and how I put together the social media sub-plan for a communications plan will probably be different from how Crosscut Communications will put one together.  And each of these will be different from how Drake Intelligence Group will develop one. And it goes without saying that someone like Chris Brogan will take those same ingredients and whip up a 15-course dinner (with fava beans and a nice chanti) compared to our barbeque cookouts.

Are any of us right?  Are any of us wrong? Not really, we just have different ways of approaching a challenge.

Continuing the cooking theme, every great chef has sous chefs, cooks and grill peeps to  help them keep running things smoothly and even provide input on new dishes. Now is a good time to raise the point that if you can, get a few creative pros together and let ideas bounce around.  You’re bound to get a lot more good ideas (as well as more ideas that’ll never fly).  Pay them for their time, let them give you some tasty morsels and then run with it.  A good social media PR peep should aim to make themselves redundant to your company when they are done training you.  As previously discussed, firms should take a serious look at content creation and how they can add that and other social media tools to an overall communications plan.

Now, your ingredients are coming up this week.  As they say on Iron Chef, “Allez Cuisine!”

Note: In this series I’m going to look at some social media/new media tools and briefly touch on what you can, can’t and possibly shouldn’t do (in my opinion).  The creativity will come from you.  This is in no way a complete list of all of the tools out there, and if I miss anyone’s favorite tool then please feel free to leave a comment or email or throw something blunt at me the next time you see me.