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Lessons from WOM-COMM: Social Media Strategy Requires Upfront Thinking

At NST, you’ve heard us talk a lot about strategy.  Whether it’s writing a news release, creating a brand position or managing a crisis situation, strategy is at the core of what we do – and with social media, strategy is equally as important. But what does “developing a social media strategy” really mean and how do you “do it?”

Setting up a social media strategy involves many components, including listening to the social media dialogue, determining the best platforms for your company or organization based on your particular audience (NOTE: Facebook and Twitter aren’t for every company), thinking through your online voice to ensure it is consistent with your brand, setting benchmarks and determining how you will measure success, among other factors.

While all these steps are important, a recent WOM-COMM course led by Blake Cahill at Visible Technologies underscored an important component of developing a social media strategy that people often overlook — drawing your virtual line in the sand as to what you will and will not do in social media prior to engaging. Cahill talked about defining “actionable content” and “blacklisted content.” In other words, what topics in social media will you respond to and which ones will you let be?

Like all social media efforts, nothing is set in stone, and there is no cookie cutter approach; however doing some of this upfront thinking will save your team time and energy in the long run. Here are three simple steps to help you get started:

  1. Ask yourself, “what are some of the most common issues we encounter as a company?” (reminder: listening to the online dialogue will help you answer this).
  2. Then, think through how you will respond, making sure those responses are consistent with how other areas of your company may respond to a similar issue, i.e. if a customer complains on Twitter, your response should be consistent with that which would be given if a consumer were to dial a 1-800 customer service number, or send an e-mail complaint to your company via the Web.
  3. Put this all together – along with your key messages – into a social media response guide, which can be used by anyone communicating on behalf of your company. This should outline what you will and will not respond to along with common or sample responses (NOTE: I can’t emphasize enough that this should be a guide, not a document to merely cut and paste from).

Cahill gave the following examples of “actionable content” and “blacklisted content.”

Actionable Content
•    Posts with positive, neutral or mixed sentiment
•    Posts written within the past 5 days, or that still have active comments
•    Posts where users are asking questions or requesting more information
•    Posts that contain inaccurate information about your brand

Blacklisted Content
•    Posts that are flaming, raging, or use excessive profanity
•    Posts that are older than 5 days, or no longer have active comments
•    Posts on sites “X,” “Y,” and “Z,” which prohibit corporate participation
•    Pricing discussions

If you are considering entering the social media space, it’s important to walk through this process. At NST, we’ve seen it be extremely successful.

WOM-COMM is a certificate program by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

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