Social Infrastructure

Many organisations dipping their toes into the fast flowing waters of Social Media get cold feet. The medium just does not deliver the returns they expect or worse, they make a social faux pas and wind up with a major PR exercise.

It is a fact that Social Media Marketing is effective, it delivers great results and, as traditional media makes way for the Internet, it is the way all organisations will market in the very near future.

Individuals inevitably fail when they tackle a job with the wrong tools (Ever tried to water a garden with a sieve?). Digital Media Marketing is no different: you need the right set of tools (and experienced tradesmen) if you are going to succeed. This blog outlines the infrastructure we believe organisations need to have in order to execute campaigns effectively.

Basic Infrastructure: The Principles

Social Media is just like any other media; there are assets you own and have complete control of, assets you ‘hire’ and have temporary control of and assets you neither own nor control but which you may be able to influence.

Unfortunately it is this latter group of assets that has the greatest impact upon your success.

The success of any campaign will depend upon the way you employ your owned and hired assets: get it right and you’ll be surfing the face of a social wave with skill and style. Get it wrong and you’ll be wiped out and eating sand.

A sound architecture is needed before launching a successful campaign. Make sure your controlled assets are properly linked to the right ‘uncontrolled assets’ and that you have done your media planning meticulously. Just like in the traditional world, you need to get your message in front of the right audience.

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Build for interactivity: independent, unaffiliated assets have interactivity built as part of their core functionality; it is what makes these assets popular. Make sure that when your audience uses your assets, they can exchange ideas freely and chat, preferably in real time.

The old adage ‘the harder I work the luckier I get’ is possibly more appropriate for Social Media. Your contributions to debate have to be regular, thought through and engaging.

Basic Infrastructure: The Assets Interactive ‘Blogsite’ or ‘Micro Site’

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It is highly likely that your website is unsuited for use in Social Media campaigns. Typically websites suffer from a lack of interactivity, inappropriate information structures or insufficient relevant collateral.

But even if everything was perfect, a corporate site is unlikely to ‘work’ in the Social Media space. Put simply: people will not chat and interact if they think they are going to be watched and sold to.

A Micro Site designed for blogging can provide the necessary distance between the audience and the organisation. Micro Sites can be issue or campaign driven and hold a wealth of information and collateral.

Sponsored pages

The company’s Facebook page might not get a lot of activity; it may be good for keeping friends (customers and staff) informed of events but it generally won’t generate the heated and useful discussions that help to develop the next killer product (or sell more of your existing product). There are exceptions, particularly if the product and company are synonymous: Promoting Bands, Celebrities and Events can be very effective on social media sites.

For most organisations, setting pages up which focus on the product or the issue is more effective than ‘The company page’. Product recall, complaint and feedback pages can help organisations get a feel for sentiment in the wider world. Some of these sites will be developed anyway – ‘I hate HP (HP Sucks)’ is a real group on facebook.

Twitter and other Micro Blogs

Too many people take Twitter at its word and just make noise. Don’t. It is annoying, will lose brand value and corporate credibility. Only ‘Twitter’ if you have something important to say that adds value for your target audience.

A good Tweet is the equivalent of a great email subject line.

But you need something to back it up with. Direct followers to your assets: your micro sites, webcasts and blogs. Used effectively Twitter will build your database and audience.

eMail

Do not forget your email audience; many will be waiting for your next instalment: it is how they prefer to consume your material. It is likely years have been spent cultivating a readership of customers and prospects. Do not forget them.

eMail is still the number one lead generation vehicle. Effective marketers are already executing co-ordinated eMail campaigns that incorporate social media and delivering great results.

Non Owned Assets

Perhaps the biggest mistakes are made by organisations experimenting with Social Media through membership of groups such as LinkedIn. They actively promote products or services: a strategy that inevitably backfires. Rather than increasing market share they shrink it. Discussion and interest groups actively exchange ideas on subjects and issues that directly affect your business. To get involved you need to pose questions and offer opinion. Direct discussion as an effective chairperson would.

It is possible to improve your organisations profile and mindshare within the ‘uncontrolled asset’ space. But your contributions will have to demonstrate expertise and your questions will need to precipitate lively debate.

How to get it working

A client recently told me that senior management wanted to get involved in social media because it was free.

Skill and expertise built up over years in digital communications are unlikely to be cheap and they are certainly never ‘free’. Whilst digital media may be more cost effective (and measurable)  than traditional channels, you will need a team of experts actively planning and expediting your campaigns. And it is a full, not a part-time, job.

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