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The key to social media management success – understanding the journey!

Where are you on your social media journey?The social media journey is the route that an organisation takes from first recognising the benefits of social media to having it truly integrated across the entire organisation.

There are many benefits in recognising where you sit on the journey. Often momentum is lost or approaches are replicated simply because it is the way that things have been done in the past. So where do you sit today?

There are four stages of evolution to consider. 

Stage 1 – To listen or Broadcast? That is the question…

This is the first stage of the journey that almost all organisations go through on their way to delivering enterprise social media. The most sensible approach is to start listening, although many organisations start the other way round and start broadcasting first in order to test if the market actually wants to receive and engage with the organisation or its content.

When To Broadcast?

For many managers and teams they will have inherited accounts, some that could have been dormant for a while and for others they may be taking over accounts when people have left the organisation. If there has been activity delivered to date, then to keep the consistency this should continue while the plan is developed.

For many organisations it may be just about trying to see if customers want to engage with the organisation. Who would have thought that some of the largest users of social media would be UK Police Forces, fuelled by the public appetite to engage with their local police force across digital channels.

From a standing start in 2010 when Greater Manchester Police started its social media journey the force now has over 350,000 fans and followers. This shows how the public want to engage with not just global brands such as Coca Cola or Nike, but living breathing organisations that are local and meaningful to them.

When To Listen?

We all know that social media listening is generally regarded as the place to actually start! It enables you to look at competitors, customers, suppliers, stakeholders, employees as well as any current resource capacity or skills within the existing communications team.

Today the amount of public comments, opinion and insight is playing a significant role in researching and shaping products and services. Not just in the good times but also in the bad times too, where listening moves further towards offering a helping hand to our customers in their hour of need. In the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal the public were crying out for information, asking questions and seeking answers. Many of the Volkswagen accounts were accused of ‘silence’ leaving their customers alone in their hour of need. Clearly the crisis PR plan was to wait until something ‘official’ shiny and PR tested could be produced which took a number of days. Thankfully, the UK social team at VW were held up as the genuine knights in shining armour who persevered with their social media channels, seemingly ignoring their brand wide ‘head in sand’ approach, to keep talking to their customers.

Stage 2 – Starting to engage… 

Engagement on social media is a fairly complex task, especially when the organisation maps out all of its stakeholders; partners, customer groups, employees, market influencers. It may well be that the organisation cannot manage all of these different groups through a single social media account.

The bottom line is that the customers have control. We can ‘integrate’ our communication approach with the best intentions to find out that our customers derail. They have the power to highlight a product shortfall or lack of feature, which in an ideal world a brand would prefer to keep hidden from public debate, not to mention the complaints and camaraderie of whipping other customers into a frenzy.

Social media for many has started with the organisation’s agency or in house team developing beautifully crafted content, which has the aim of supporting the positioning of the brand and ensuring that key messages are delivered through the social channels. However, the context of the content also plays a significant part and with more people accessing content on the move, on mobile phones, the context or the environment in which the message is consumed is not always easy to predict. For example, no one wants to sit on a dirty train to read an update from a rail network about a stock of new trains operating in a different part of the country. Context of content matters!

Stage 3 – Involving (functions and teams from across the organisation) 

Almost all departments and functions from across the organisations can and should be using social media. For the R&D team there is a huge amount of insight that is available on social media gained from listening to what people are saying about competitors to enable them to design services and products with differentiators.

Social media also helps operational staff to know where to deploy resources; volumes of activity around certain topics will be able to guide how certain teams should be resourced.

Not forgetting the customer services team who are increasingly finding more time is needed to respond to customer service enquires via social media. In fact, the general rule of thumb should be- if you answer customer queries via the telephone or operate a customer contact centre then you should be starting to upscale your teams in social media. For example, Npower deliver customers services on social media and have openly admitted that they will respond to complaints on social media ahead of those through any other channel because they are visible for the world to see how the organisation responds.

Many organisations also have to contend with seasonal or event specific peaks of activity throughout the year. For example, during enrolment at Loughborough college, inbound activity doubles when compared to any other month during the year. The organisation has to be able to deal with this capacity especially when the majority of the content will be about courses, criteria, subjects and dates- probably something that the marketing team would not be equipped to deal with.

Stage 4 – Delivering (enterprise social media to deliver objectives)

The journey that many organisations take from just starting out on social media to delivering enterprise social media is a long one and actually never stops. It is important to define ‘Enterprise social and plan for the steps to deliver it.

“Enterprise social media is how a complex organisation with multiple audiences and varied objectives efficiently arranges itself to deliver one-to-one, one-to-many, & many-to-many communication across the digital landscape.”

Enterprise Social Media delivery is a challenge for any organisation and is considered a “change project”- it will need to have the buy-in from senior management, a project sponsor on the board is absolutely key. The project will need to be led by a programme manager and not necessarily someone that has to have a communications background. Social media will need to be embedded across all departments, including HR, Customer Services, Operational teams, IT, Information Security, Legal and of course Comms & Marketing.

Some of the key pillars that need to be in place are:

  • Social Media Policy – employees, stakeholders and brand advocates need to be really clear on their role in driving brand value on social media and safeguarding the brand. It is also essential that they understand the seriousness of consequence if they choose to cross the line.
  • Rules and alerts – these need to be set up across all departments to identify when key issues or topics are raised either internally or externally to enable management to act on the information or security breach
  • The legal responsibilities – of operating social channels need to be understood by all involved in delivering social media
  • Social media strategy – social media can be very resource intensive and lack focus, especially when there is a lack of planning or understanding of the organisations strategy. And let’s be clear – a content plan is not a strategy!
  • Workflows - multi tiered, multi geographical teams should ensure efficiencies are in place for social media – to save time, share insights and grow share of voice.
  • Training – much has been written about the need for training around social media. With employees a reflection of their organisational brand, the need to extend this into supporting employees with their personal use of social media, may need to be factored in.
  • Evaluation – social media managers have been on a very steep learning curve with their social media, with many mistakes made in metrics used for evaluation. It is essential that every social operator understands how to plan, evaluate and respond to metrics on a daily, weekly and longer term basis.

James Leavesley, Chief Executive Officer at CrowdControlHQ

CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform, built for enterprise. We help organsiations of all sizes to optimize their social media delivery, work in multi-faceted teams and evaluate success.


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Lewis Jones