Editor’s note: Lt. Col. Andrew Morton, the chief of online and social media for the
United States Army Reserve, shared this list of things the Army Reserve has learned about social media over the last several years. With his permission, we’re sharing it with you.
1. Develop a “plan on a page.”
Before you sign up for Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn or any platform, you must evaluate whom your audience is (internal and external), what your organization’s key communications goals are, and what’s your desired “end state.” Having a Facebook page is not a social media strategy; it’s a reactionary effort to “keep up with the Jones.” Communications plans are a key part of any corporation’s strategy and social media is not immune to this step.
2. Integrate with all other media.
Don’t work in a vacuum. Continually ask how you can integrate with the other media (your media team, outreach/events team, executive communications, etc). If your senior executive is doing a media interview, he should be plugging your social media sites, and if the chief of corporate policy is sending an internal communications directive she should be “asking for feedback” via your internal social media channels. Never miss an opportunity to plug and promote your sites through all your organization’s media executions and outlets.
3. Plan for success, not for failure.
Ask yourself, “What happens if we are successful?” If your defined end state is an active community of followers then you must have the community management team in place before you start. By creating content that’s engaging, you’ll develop an audience that’s active. You must have a plan to sustain the needs of your community before you start.
4. Decentralize your efforts.
Social Media is not an “empire,” it’s a “republic.” That means having two to three people in one room as your sole moderators, content creators and strategists is a recipe for failure—that is, it’s not sustainable. You have to train each of your departments to be capable of providing content, being able to engage when necessary, and to have an understanding of these requirements in today’s environment (for example, no three-day waiting period for HR to get back to you on a relevant question that your followers are asking). This decentralization requires training, trust and tact.
5. Curate content that’s “real and relevant.”
If you are trying to get people to understand what it’s like to work for your organization don’t have your chief of communications tell them in a packaged piece. Get an employee to tell his or her story candidly. Whether it’s video or blogging, people want to know what it’s like from those who live it. Finding the right storytellers is easier than you may think. Once you’ve established internal channels for people to share their thoughts on work policies and practices, you will start to see many stories that are ready for use within your external audience.
6. Don’t practice Web 1.5.
Don’t treat your corporate presence within social media as a direct extension of your “brand ground”—that is, your corporate website. You must foster real and responsive posts, and foster engaging dialogue (within a certain decorum of course). If you try and re-purpose that one-way dialogue that typical websites promote, you will lose credibility and stifle your growth.
7. Develop measurements and monitoring capability.
You cannot manage what you don’t measure and cannot measure what you don’t monitor. There are great “out of the box” analytical tools or you can customize your own “monitoring dashboard” to identify measurable return on investment and seek out those who are talking about your brand.
8. Trust your subordinates, but train them.
And have a crisis communications plan to deal with mistakes. Mistakes will be made in social media. Posts will be taken out of context. The wrong word may be used at the wrong time, or moderation may be seen as arbitrary by your audience. These things happen. First, develop a standardized training program that gets each of your content managers proficient. Then, have a plan to react to these “mishaps,” but don’t make “hanging people that work for you from the rafters” step one. If you do, you create a zero-defects mentality and that stifles initiative. Good social media practitioners are never afraid of getting fired.
9. Develop user-engagement policies that are reasonable and enforceable.
Don’t make it impossible for someone to engage on your sites with arbitrary regulations and procedures. At the same time, make sure that people understand this is not their teenage daughter’s Twitter account. Establish engagement standards; make them clearly understandable and enforceable, and don’t be too quick to moderate. If you’ve built a community of users strategically and with a solid content management plan, it will keep people in check more successfully than you, if you allow them.
10. Collaborate, borrow, copy and steal.
Use every possible good idea and lesson learned. Lean on others in the space setting the standard. Look for examples of engaging content, effective moderation, and efficient platform management. When the Wizard’s curtain is pulled back, the dirty secret is that no one
is an expert in every part of social media. No one. Even if someone was an industry expert so much of the medium is constantly changing. To be successful you have to look at what everyone else is doing and apply what’s going to work in your organization.
Social media is not a device, a platform, or a medium. It’s a culture. Most of the mistakes people make in executing within the space are not linked to platform management (for example, how to use the newest feature on Facebook
). Mistakes are made when an organization treats the venue as if it were “theirs.” Yes, you’re absolutely responsible for your organization’s sites. However, you don’t always get to be in the driver’s seat. Embrace the ride and glean as much as you can about your brand and people’s perception of your brand by listening to what your followers are saying.
Lt. Col. Andrew Morton is the chief of online and social media for the United States Army Reserve. You can find the Army Reserve on Facebook.