Create Social Computing Strategies

Create Social Computing Strategies is the eighth in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

Social Computing Strategy

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Create Social Computing Strategies

“Over and over again, connecting people with one another
is what lasts online. Some folks thought it was about technology,
but it’s not. “

Seth Godin, interactive marketing expert

Let’s say you want to remodel your kitchen. A contractor visits and begins to describe his approach: “I’m going to use a screw­­driver and some screws; a hammer and some nails; a saw and some wood; a sledgehammer and a crowbar.”

Another contractor visits and shows you the plans for the new kitchen, a list of materials you’ll have to buy, and a project plan with a timeline and a cost.

Which contractor would you trust your kitchen project with?

It’s the same with social media. You may encounter social media consultants who talk about LinkedIn, and Facebook, and Twitter, and YouTube, and Flickr, and Digg, and blogs and on and on. They may express great enthusiasm about the latest cool tools, and may encourage you to just try social media — do a quick project and just see what happens.

Hey, kids! Let’s set up a Twitter account! Just as with the kitchen renovation, you’re better off having a strategy, a plan, and a design before you consider the tools you’ll use to engage your community via social media.

Social Media Performance Group’s motto ¾ No Tools Before Rules™ ¾ means take the time to first determine what social media can do to support the strategy and goals of your enterprise. Then create a social media strategy, and map it to all the areas of your organization, inside and out. Only then should you begin to talk about tactics and tools. Your CEO’s 20-year-old nephew might seem like a good option to help you get started, but he’s not likely to have the depth of under­standing of your strategy, and of social media strategy, to ensure that you won’t just waste your time and money on an ineffective Facebook fan page, for example.

With social media, like a lot of things on the Web, you can’t build it and expect them to come.

So how do you get started? First, think about the makeup of a good social computing strategy.

Elements of a Social Computing Strategy

As we’ve said, your social computing strategy should map social computing activities to your enterprise’s overall goals and objectives. As we’ve stated previously in this book, a good social computing strategy:

  • Effectively communicates goals and benefits of social media internally and externally
  • Guides selection of the right tools to use
  • Ensures sustainability of your social media endeavor
  • Involves regular reviews of people, processes, and tools to ensure that your business stays relevant

Specifically, a social computing strategy addresses how your enterprise will:

  • Approach social media
    • Create the messaging
    • Handle community responses, positive and negative
    • Create and maintain social computing policy
    • Maintain the connection between organizational strategy and social computing strategy
  • Join the conversation
    • Determine how to Be a Person, not an organization — who gets to speak online?
    • Determine how to listen
    • Find community members
    • Engage your community
      • Ask for their help
      • Who manages your community?
      • Measure your social computing success
  • Ensure safe social computing
    • Manage legal issues
    • Manage your online reputation
  • Brand your business online
    • Determine how your main Website supports your social computing initiatives
    • Determine kinds of online branding campaigns to focus on
    • Manage the connection between online and offline branding
  • Find and create online evangelists
    • Determine the kinds of people to cultivate as evangelists
    • Support evangelist development and sustain existing evangelists
  • Create buzz
    • Examine types of online and offline promotions
    • Manage and sustain online buzz
  • Attract and convert new customers, staff, and evangelists
    • Create online rules of engagement
    • Prioritize outreach techniques
  • Encourage and manage eCommerce
    • Plan prospect conversion
    • Foster recommendations, ratings, and research
    • Coordinate with offline techniques

You can use this list as an outline as you create your organi­zation’s overall social computing strategy. We elaborate on many of these points in later sections of this book.

Create an Internal Social Computing Strategy

Many people think of social computing as an externally-oriented thing. The popularity of the various large social media sites — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube — encourages enterprises to think social media is only about external relationships.

In reality, one of the more powerful ways to use social computing is inside your organization. In fact, as we’ve said, we believe that sales and marketing may be the least impress­ive things that social computing does. Social media can help build a sense of community among your employees, help improve internal communications, and greatly increase staff retention.

As we’ve mentioned, beginning by following an internal social computing strategy may be a lower-risk way to get started with social media. Whether this is your attitude or not, you should definitely create an internal social computing strategy. This strategy should support your enterprise’s overall strategy and your external social computing strategy. And if the com­munity you address has challenges in getting computer-based access to social media, you should also create a mobile social computing strategy.

Create your internal social computing strategy to help:

  • Communicate with your base
  • Energize your base
  • Help your base communicate your enterprise’s goals and objectives
  • Create evangelists

Your internal social computing strategy should communicate to all stakeholders:

  • What the business is
  • How each stakeholder supports the mission — and each other
  • How to use internal social media
  • Policies
  • How-to’s
  • Their responsibility in creating internal and external community

Your internal social computing strategy should:

  • Leverage your assessment of staff’s strengths and weaknesses so you can assign tasks accordingly
  • Create an internal communication system to quickly and easily communicate social media strategy, tactics, and techniques
  • Ensure that employees create profiles within chosen social media tools and actively use them
  • Identify one or two people to be in charge of social media (both internal and external)
  • Ensure your enterprise keeps a unified voice to the outside

Some of the organizational pain points you might want to address with your internal strategy include:

  • Inefficient Communications — Communicating among staff or between staff and partners may rely entirely on email. This can often be inefficient as large files get emailed or recipients forget where or if they have them, resulting in redundancy and inefficiency. Consider how using social computing techniques such as internal blogs or wikis could help.
  • Ineffective Collaboration — If your staff must collaborate on projects by, say, jointly revising a document, the back and forth of changes, and the difficulty in collecting and applying them can be challenging. In addition, reporting status via email may be prone to confusion if everyone doesn’t follow the email thread. Using social computing features such as document repositories and project-based collaborative blogging may help.
  • Rampant Rumor Mongering — One way to know if your organization seems disconnected from its leadership is the quantity of rumors that circulate within it. A leadership blog can help establish a connection between management and staff. Enabling comments on the blog can help leaders get a pulse on staff attitudes as well as foster innovation.

These are just a few ideas on ways social computing can help your enterprise. When crafting your internal strategy, look for these and other ways you can foster the social cohesion and communication of your company using social computing.

For example, as we’ve mentioned, using social media intern­ally can greatly increase staff satisfaction at a relatively low cost.[1] Using forums and Twitter direct messaging can help your teams communicate better and in real-time. Using a wiki can help you capture the organizational knowledge that often walks out the door when an employee quits.

Create an External Social Computing Strategy

Create an external strategy to:

  • Communicate with prospects and customers
  • Recruit new evangelists and influencers
  • Create a network of partners to multiply the effect of your own sales and marketing efforts

It is becoming well-accepted that today’s social-media-savvy users do not respond as readily as they once did to pushed marketing messages (TV, radio, newspapers, magazine ad­vertising).[2] Social media transforms an old sales platitude — “People do not like to be sold, but they love to buy” — into “People love buying from their friends. Make someone your friend and they will buy from you.”

The advertising industry knows this, according to the Chief Creative Officer of the world’s 4th largest ad agency, Craig Davis of J. Walter Thompson:

Audiences everywhere are tough. They don’t have time to be bored or brow-beaten by orthodox, old-fashioned advertising. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.[3]

So it’s likely that your average prospect is barraged daily with appeals and pitches, which they can become quite adept at ignoring. Social media, on the other hand, creates value by fos­ter­­ing a relationship with an organization and a brand, rather than creating another loud member of a clamoring crowd.

A social computing strategy has become a must, particularly for large enterprises, and incorporating social media into an organization’s overall strategy ensures that social media becomes an integrated driver of relationships, brand loyalty, and sales, rather than a less-effective afterthought.


Social Media Performance Group Approach

Our approach to creating a social computing strategic plan is designed to first and foremost integrate with your org­anization’s strategic goals. We believe attacking a point opportunity (“Let’s do some tweets about our new product”) or a tactical implementation (“Let’s drive traffic to our YouTube client testimonials”) without alignment with your enterprise’s strategy not only misses much of the value social media can bring to an organization, but also risks becoming counterproductive.

In addition, if all social media efforts are not coordinated with clear objectives and metrics, your organization runs the risk of wasting money and effort and losing effectiveness.

We lay out the elements of a successful approach to a social computing strategy in the sections that follow.

Review Business Strategy

As a first step, as we’ve indicated in previous sections, conduct a review of your enterprise’s strategy, goals, and im­ple­mentation plans to ensure alignment of the social media strategy. Next, work with your organization’s senior leaders to create an enterprise-wide strategic blueprint. Determine how social media will support your operations, employees, sales, service delivery, and so on.

During this process, you should examine all the potential social media touch points for your enterprise, both internally and externally. We suggest you look beyond the usual suspects when thinking about how social media can help your company.

Who are the usual suspects? Typically, the leading purveyors of social media solutions in businesses of all sizes are public relations and marketing, and it’s likely the same for your organization. The 2009 Digital Readiness Report,[4] found that PR and Marketing lead the vast majority of social media engagements inside businesses of all types and sizes:

  • In 51 percent of businesses, PR leads digital commun­ications compared to 40.5 percent where marketing leads
  • PR is responsible for blogging at 49 percent of all businesses vs. marketing’s 22 percent
  • PR is responsible for micro-blogging (think Twitter) at 52 percent of all businesses vs. 22 percent for marketing, for a combined 74 percent

We think this state of affairs misses the point of social media, which, for us, is about relationships between people, not pushing PR and marketing messages.

Social media expert and author David Meerman Scott says:

At every one of my speeches, I say PR people are spammers. That gets everyone’s attention so I have an opportunity to explain what I mean … I get several hundred unsolicited press releases and PR pitches every week. Well over 99% of them are not targeted to me, instead they are sent to me because I am on various PR people’s lists …

Scott is far from being alone in this situation. Way back in 2006,[5] writer Tom Foremski called for the death of the press release:

Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) And so on…

Press releases are created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then sent out at great expense through Businesswire or PRnewswire to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists.

This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.

With all due respect to PR professionals, the typical public relations approach is to scatter a million seeds, hoping some will find fertile ground. From their perspective, this makes sense. From a recipient’s perspective, it doesn’t. Those who groan under the load of all the messages wonder why you don’t know them better. Why can’t you establish at least a profile, and at best a relationship, so you understand what they want and are interested in?

The answer is because public relations has never had a tool that enables relationships. They’ve got a seed-scatterer.

The cool thing is social media provides a better way: relationships not messages. The further cool thing is you’ve got people all over your organization who can create relationships. PR professional Todd Defren responded to Foremski’s cry to kill the PR by creating a template for a social media press release.[6] That’s a good start, but using this tool with a standard PR distribution system still misses the point.

Our point is that, no matter how enlightened they may be about social media, letting the PR and marketing folks in your enterprise dominate your social media use, might cause you to miss lots of places where social media can contribute to your organization, and as a result, you’ll scatter a lot of seeds on fallow ground.

Enterprises that have understood the real potential use social media inside and outside their organizations successfully. When we help enterprises realize the value of social media, we do this based on our proprietary Enterprise Social Media Framework™ (ESMF). The ESMF maps your organization’s structure to social media best practices and includes dozens of illustrative case studies pulled from the experiences of non-profit and for-profit organizations from all over the world. Insights derived from the ESMF help enterprises fully utilize the potential of social media.

Figure 5 — A small section of the Case Studies area of SMPG’s ESMF

You can contact us if you’re interested in learning more about ESMF. Otherwise, take a look at what has been successful for enterprises like yours and think about how the advantages of social media can help you beyond PR and marketing.

Finally, decide which opportunities to address first, and de­velop implementation plans.

Comprehensive Strategic Approach

We propose that you take a comprehensive approach in which you:

  • Analyze the competition — Ensure that your enterprise is positioned to succeed against competitors’ efforts
  • Create a comprehensive social media strategy — Develop a social media strategy that is intimately bound to your objectives and current implementations
  • Create a social media tactical plan and structure— Be sure to iterate out all implementation details to create a turnkey social media infrastructure including:
    • A  community space on your organization’s Website where users can comment
    • A facility to capture client reviews, suggestions, and testimonials
    • Presence on all relevant social media sites along with tactical plans for using them
    • A model for involving partners in coordinating social media campaigns
    • Social media monitoring services
  • Ensure social media training for your enterprise — You’ll need to assess and train your organization as well as designating community manager(s) and others who will implement your tactics. If you’re interested, you can outsource ongoing community management and other social media execution to Social Media Performance Group, or we can train your staff to fulfill these functions.

Integrate Search with the Social Media Strategy

Social media must be integrated with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. Your enterprise may not be involved with such efforts at this point. That may be a mistake. SEM and SEO are critical to the success of any Website these days.

With recent moves by Google to index Facebook and Twitter, social media’s influence on online search is accelerating to the point that leading-edge firms are increasingly talking about a new term, Social Search Optimization (SSO). [7]  We talk about social search in the section Real-Time Social Search xxxxxxx.

All your Websites should follow good Search Engine Optim­iz­ation processes, so you should review current prac­tices and determine how social media interacts with SEO. (We cover this in the Find Your Community section xxxxxxx.) Among the areas that you should address are page content, titles and metadata, content positioning, underlying codebase, site navigation, sitemap, and URL structure.

Create and implement a Social Search Optimization strategy, including identifying keywords and analyzing competitive sites.

Next up: Create an External Social Computing Strategy


[1] Just one example of the many articles and studies that support this: SocialTimes’ How to Connect With Your Employees Using Social Media, Email and Some Common Sense

[2] Fournaise Marketing Group,


[4] Produced by iPressroom, a hosted content management software platform, with support from the Public Relations Society of America:

[5] Foremski’s Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!

[6] MultiVu – SHIFT Communications Debuts First-Ever Template for “Social Media Press Release”:

[7] Some Social Search Optimization resources:

[8] Crash the Superbowl:

[9] See the definition of badges on page 20

[10] Source: Facebook

[11] Source: Facebook

[12] Facebook Mobile:

[13] Ground Truth is a mobile computing research firm:

[14] Ruder Finn is a public relations firm:

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