What is Social Media Governance and 5 Key Elements of a Successful Model

I’ve been noodling on the topic of social media governance for a while and it took a chat with Jim Storer and Aaron Strout on the Quick n’ Dirty podcast to finally get it on my blog. (Thanks for the question, Jim!)

Much has been written about the importance of social media policy and why every company should have one. However, what’s often overlooked by companies and experts alike is that creation of a policy by itself isn’t cause enough to celebrate.

So, let me start by saying that social media governance is much more than just a policy (even if policy is the first thing that comes to mind, when you use  the term “Governance”).   Governance is much more broader in scope than policy and has greater significance, especially for larger companies.

While your social media policy defines how your employees should engage via social media channels, your governance model is a bundle of policies, guidelines, processes, and educational resources to guide your employees to successfully represent your company in social media activities.

Here are the 5 key elements of a solid social media governance model:

#1 Definition of Scope: This sounds so basic but it is critical that you define what is and isn’t covered by your governance model. Be sure to call out the specific social channels along with the policies and guidelines that relate to each of them. Depending on business and organizational needs, some companies may decide to have a common governance model for their internal and external customer-facing communities, while others may decide to keep the two separate. So it’s essential to call out which ones are included to provide clarity to your employees.

#2 Frequency & Process for Updates: Given that social media is evolving at the pace of light, your governance model will need regular review and update. Make sure you define the frequency of updates and the process for those updates. This will ensure that your governance model is not outdated and provides clarity on how the updates are made. If you want employee participation in the review (highly recommended), make sure you call it out along with details on when and how to provide input.

#3 Branding Guidelines: For a large company, the broad variety of social media channels makes it imperative to clearly call out the branding guidelines for your external channels. The same principles that govern the design of all your external-facing communications such as website, collateral, etc. should be applied to official social channels. This would include, but not limited to, branded templates for your social channels like Twitter, social sharing & follow icons, as well as the use of company logo and related elements on external-facing channels.

#4 Training & Education: A solid governance model should have plenty of educational resources for employees. This should include training on responding to customer feedback, both positive and negative. Typically, it’s the customer support and PR organizations that are tasked with the responsibility of responding to customer feedback. However, social media is breaking down the traditional boundaries and depending on your company’s social media engagement policy, it could be a marketing or salesperson who is having to respond to a customer query. So it’s essential to have training as a cornerstone of your social media governance model.

#5: Approval Processes & Continuity Planning: Your governance model should clearly call out what approval processes are in place for employees to engage in social media. It should answer questions such as: Can everyone participate (highly recommended) or only members of certain external-facing groups can engage via your company’s social channels? What is the process for getting approval for an official account?

Last but not the least, it’s critical you have a continuity plan, which covers not only accounts are set up but how the account will be transitioned to a new owner, if needed. Having a centralized governace model in place will ensure that you’re not locked out of your highly popular Twitter or Facebook account/s if the person engaging on your company’s behalf decides to leave the company.

Bottom line, rather than policing your employees, start with a robust social media governance model as that will empower your employees with the right resources and training to become successful advocates for your company.

If you think there are other items that should be included here, feel free to chime in.

Listening (by itself) is Not Enough in Social Media

I recently talked about ”B2B marketing in the Real Time Web” at the #140conf in San Francisco, organized by Jeff Pulver. One point that resonated the most with the audience is that “listening” has become the most overused and abused word in social media.

Some people actually think that “listening” is  a brand-new concept invited by social media gurus. The reality is that if you need an expert to tell you that you should “listen” to the customers, your business may already be in more trouble than you realize.

While listening is a great first step in getting started in social media and helps set up a good foundation for your activities, that by itself is not enough any more. As consumers get more savvy in their use of social media, it’s become a business imperative that companies move beyond just listening and start responding to what they’re hearing.

Setting up social channels by itself or “being on Facebook” is not good enough any more, companies need to have solid processes in place to quickly relay feedback from social media channels to create better products and help solve customer issues before they reach a crisis point. Social media monitoring/listening tool vendors should be focused on translating the streams of data into meaningful insights for their clients as quicky as possible.

In this fast evolving conversational age,  the true measure of success and a key differentiator will be how quickly companies respond to feedback from their customers. It’s time to assess – Is your company ready for this challenge?

How to: Demystify the Social Media Expert Myth

Much has been said about social media “experts” ranging from Hallelujah, they exist! to “(they) are the cancer..and must be stopped.

These diverse responses are perfectly understandable in an age where every other person (and her nanny) is an “expert”, “guru”, “pundit” or other. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, companies still rely on these darn “experts” to help navigate the uncharted and often turbulent social media waters.

The key to demystifying the social media “expert” myth and finding the real deal is to take a hard look at what a social media “expert” actually does. Based on their role, the experts can be classified into 3 major categories – “Do”ers, Planners, and Talkers.

The most popular and generic “Social Media Manager” roles typically belong to the “Do”ers category, which includes folks who “do” social media and typically are the public face of the brand on social networking sites. These are the folks who manage communities, tweet, blog, and engage on sites like Facebook on behalf of the brand. “Do”ers tend to be individual contributors who spend a great deal of time on the social networking sites and/or have roles that require them to be highly visible brand ambassadors. Having strong online communication skills is a must-have for this role. Folks with engaging personalities and community background (forums, chat, etc.) shine in these types of roles. While this is often an after-thought, this role is best suited for folks with calm temperaments who are less likely to go off the deep end in a crisis. Case in point is the Nestle crisis, where the company rep snapped under pressure on Facebook and had to apologize at the end.

Planners are typically folks who have decent social media expertise and presence but their focus is primarily on planning/managing social media activities. The typical role in this category is social media strategist, who is responsible for pulling together all disparate social media activities into a cohesive strategy/plan. Actively engaging on social media sites is a time-consuming activity, it’s rare to find someone who can balance both roles (planning and engaging) without getting overwhelmed. Folks with solid marketing and/or community management backgrounds seem to do well in these roles. You’ll probably see these types of roles filled by people managers who typically work behind-the-scenes vs. on the front-lines. There aren’t many folks who have the skill set/experience required for these types of roles so increasingly, companies are relying on external social media agencies and consultants to meet their planning needs.

Talkers are your blogbertis or twitteratis who are well-known for talking/writing about social media and may or may not actually engage in social media on behalf of any specific cause for your company (other than social media). Folks in this category typically have a large following on social networks, but may lack the experience in applying social media in a business context. This is a great category for hiring your spokespeople especially if your company is trying to build brand-recognition and wants to get more visibility in the social media space. Many major brands seem to have at least one social media celebrity on their roster, who is not strategically aligned to any specific business function or objective but is rather focused on promoting the company’s overall brand and related messaging.

So there you have it, not everyone is an expert but even among the real experts, different folks excel at different roles. That being said, knowing what you want to achieve is key to deciding the type of expert you need and to avoid getting sucked into the expert myth.

Would love to hear your thoughts on other categories/roles that should be added here.

Role of Education in Keeping US Tech Industry Competitive

Here’s a must-read post on Techcrunch, “Craig Barrett Takes On Vivek Wadhwa In The Tech Education Debate“ , where two experts debate the role of education in ensuring US tech competitiveness in this era of globalization.

Here’s the premise for this highly insightful debate,

The most valuable employees of any technology company are the engineers and scientists, which is why everyone in Silicon Valley does whatever they can to ensure the continuous supply to this talent pool. The size of the talent pool is ultimately determined by the number of people who graduate from colleges and universities with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degrees. The U.S. is graduating fewer and fewer scientists and engineers, causing concern in many quarters. While many people agree this is a problem, not everyone agrees on what should be done about it.

In this highly insightful debate between Dr.Vivek Wadhwa , Harvard Law School fellow and Dr. Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO take on an important topic, which is the role of education in ensuring the future global competitiveness of US in technology.

It’s interesting that Dr. Wadhwa points out that the real issue at heart of this debate is NOT that “The U.S. is graduating fewer and fewer scientists and engineers.” The real problem is “that the majority of these graduates are foreign nationals (who are now increasingly returning home).”

So Dr.Wadhwa suggests,

“…while we fix the incentives for Americans, let’s do all we can to keep the best foreign students who come to the U.S. to study, here, so they are competing on our side.”

Although, retention of talented foreign students may help US competitiveness in the short-term, there is a definite need to grow the US Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent pool as Dr. Barrett has pointed out. He goes on to say,

“If the US is really serious about competing in the 21st Century economy we will have to decide to compete. This simply means that you have to create the work force (smart people), invest in R&D (smart ideas) and make sure the environment is attractive to investment in innovation (do something about tax rates, make it easier to form corporations, provide incentives to invest in R&D and make capital investments, etc).”

This is an issue that requires a comprehensive solution and there is no quick fix. Both agree that it is imperative to foster children’s interest and excitement in STEM early on in the education system, but the onus is on both public and private sectors to create an ecosystem with the right incentives for deserving talent, regardless of whether it’s US or foreign-bred. Creating an ecosystem without fostering the talent pool or having an abundant talent base with few opportunities is meaningless.

One point that especially resonates with me is Dr.Barrett’s contention that “it’s not just a financial compensation issue”. I completely agree that without genuine passion, pride, and excitement, all you’re left with is a culture of dollar-chasing sociopaths.

5 Signs Your Company is Not Ready for Social Media

If you’ve read my blog post on “Why Social Media Won’t Save Your Business“, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that I think some companies shouldn’t have a social media presence.

So here’s what triggered this blog post. Recently, I tried to contact a live human being at a well-known national grocery chain via their Twitter account. But I didn’t get very far as the Corporate Twit (no pun intended) kept referring me back to the website, which has the contact information of one person in “Public Affairs”. Apparently, there’s only one live person at that huge national chain or the only one who dares to put his name out there.

What’s even more amusing is the disclaimer on this company’s Twitter page which says,

 

So this company won’t tell you who is posting this information but whatever this unknown person is posting is not their responsibility. Anyone else see anything wrong with this? I wonder if their lawyers are patting themselves on the back for coming up with this.

It was almost a year back when Robert Scoble wrote his blog post on how one large retailer’s website doesn’t have any people on there. What Scoble said then and I agree:

“Here it is in simple terms: add people to your web sites.”

Scoble’s not talking just about pretty stock pictures. He’s talking about real people – your employees, your customers, people your business needs in order to thrive. The same logic applies to blogs and every other type of your company’s online social media presence. Even a year later, it’s clear that there are plenty of businesses who still don’t get it or just plain don’t care.

Here are 5 signs that your company is not ready for an external social media presence:  

#1 If your company policy prevents you from adding a name or picture of a live human being on your corporate social media account (whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or other), change that policy first and then launch your social media presence.

#2 If your company culture is all about one-way propaganda rather than two-way communication, train your employees in ”social” skills before letting them loose on the social media sites.  

#3 If you’re only using social media for pitching products and/or shameless self-promotion, then you need to STOP. You’re no better than the spammers abusing the email system. Use social media for good – engage don’t annoy your customers.  

#4 If your customers didn’t like your cold and impersonal website and if try to replicate that same uninspiring experience on an external social media site, you will fail. We get that you’re a big company but don’t overdo the branding.

#5 If you don’t have a plan for managing and engaging your customers, STOP and create one before you go crazy on the social media sites.Your external social media presence should be treated as an extension of your existing community/customer programs and not as someone’s pet project.

Use of  social media by itself is not good enough any more. The only choice you have is to do it right or don’t do it. Doing it just because some “expert” says so, is far worse than waiting until you’re truly ready and can handle social media.

As far as my saga with the grocery chain goes, it had a positive outcome. I got a tweet from someone offering to introduce me to an executive he knows at that company. So we have proof that social media works but many companies still need to learn how to make it work for them and their customers.

The Tide is Turning for Enterprise 2.0 Adoption

Steve Wylie, General Manager for Enterprise 2.0 conference set an optimistic tone for the keynote speeches at the inaugural event in San Francisco, California. In his assessment of the current state of Enterprise 2.0, Wylie highlighted that the industry is maturing and it is no longer the domain of startups. Large players like Microsoft are leveraging their enterprise expertise and knowledge to move into this space.

Another observation he shared was the rise in professional services, which signifies the shift as enterprises move from the technology phase into adoption and implementation phase.

Tammy Erickson, President, nGenera Innovation Network, started with a bold and optimistic prediction that 2010 is going to be the year of “A-ha” for the enterprise executives who have been struggling with E 2.0 all this time. She outlined the challenges to Enterprise 2.o adoption,

For executives, E2.0 is like tsunami wave that’s overwhelming, they can’t figure out how to manage (basic, yet) critical issues like data security.

However, Erickson went on to say, that’s changing as executives move beyond the technology and understand the true business potential for this event. She also reiterated the need for executives to adopt and promote collaborative behavior to encourage E2.adoption in their organizations. She pointed out a huge shift in behavior where the E2.0 discussions have moved from technology/tools  to  serious dialogues on business implication.

Christian Finn, Director of SharePoint Product Management, Microsoft followed up with a mock “speed dating” skit designed to highlight that the software giant is serious about E2.0 with the addition of truckload of social features to SharePoint 2010.

The skit itself was wholly uninspired but what was very intriguing was the promise to deliver the best of both worlds. On the ”social” side, Microsoft’s promising a slew of social features like streaming podcasts, real-time news feeds, ratings, commenting, and even social tagging. All backed by the company’s experience and expertise in enterprise software and content management system.

SpeakerAndrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist from MIT Sloan School of Management followed up with a stellar speech on what the champions of E2.0 are doing wrong.
McAfee said the tide is turning on E2.0 adoption as the success stories and case studies continue to mount. However, the evangelists are doing a huge disservice to their cause by attacking  the enterprise because they should be working with the Enterprise 1.0 advocates rather than against them. Trying to replace them will just create more barriers to E2.0 adoption.
 
In their effort to be fair and transparent, many E2.0 vendors and champions over-emphasize the negative aspects and thereby scare off  the decision makers. The positives far outweigh the negatives and that’s something the champions need to constantly reiterate.
 
McAfee pointed out something that’s very obvious to the end-user but often overlooked by the vendors and that’s to keep things simple. E2.0 champions often fall in love with the features without considering whether or not it works for the end users. McAfee was emphatic,
“Your customers don’t need more bells and whistles”
He also cautioned the audience against the pitfalls of advocating and creating walled gardens within the enterprise because E2.0 is about collaboration and these silos defeat the purpose. 
 
Another key point he highlighted was the attempt to replace the email was self-defeating because E2.0 and email serve two different purposes, to try to replace email was futile because for all its flaws, email works okay for most enterprises.
 
Another critical flaw he pointed was overuse (abuse) of the word “social”, as that word has a negative connotation for business leaders. He gave the example of executive who made it very clear that,  ”I am not running a social club, I am running a business.”  So, champions need to make sure they don’t oversell the social features of E2.0 but rather focus on the business implications for an effective pitch.
 
The last (but not the least) speech was from Rob Tarkoff, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Business Productivity Solutions at Adobe. He also started off with a provocative statement that,
“”Enterprise Software is Failing”
According to Tarkoff, the full potential of E2.0 has yet to be realized. He gave a real example of how social web can be used in a very traditional industry like healthcare for real-time collaboration and provide exceptional service to end consumer. He went on to say how Adobe’s focus is on creating end-to-end user engagement while giving due attention to the “on ramps” or the devices that consumers use to access the information.

Why Social Media ROI is Still Elusive

eMarketer reported yesterday that marketers still aren’t measuring the investment on their social media investments,

Despite widespread adoption of social media, measurement still lags. Only 16% of those polled said they currently measured ROI for their social media programs.

Lately, it’s become very fashionable to talk about the ROI on social media. You hear the dreaded term everywhere – at conferences, in meetings, on research reports, at your child’s daycare (no kidding) so the question begs to be asked and answered - Why is social media ROI so elusive?

So, here are my top reasons (and please feel free to add your own below in the comments):

#1 This report and many others are making a very flawed assumption – these reports assume social media is a “program” and it needs to be justified like any other short-term program or campaign. Newsflash: Social media is not just a program, it’s a fundamental shift in way your customers and employees consume information and communicate. Social media is fast becoming as ubiquitous as email and when’s the last time your IT department did a ROI analysis on your email network?

#2 Should you measure, track the results on your social media activity? Absolutely! However, you’ll find that with any new channel, the “I” will always be substantially higher because you’re still making investments in this new media and may not have realized any of the efficiencies yet, so any ROI analysis on the new media is skewed. 

#3 In many cases, it doesn’t even make sense to do the financial analysis on some social media activities because it’s pretty much, the cost of doing business. Here’s an example: Adding social sharing tags to your email so your customers can share your marketing email with their friends and family on some social network is a no-brainer and as essential as providing an URL link to your website. It doesn’t justify a ROI analysis, although I would recommend analyzing the click-through/share rate. This is something you should do in any case, regardless of whether or not, any social tag is included.

#4 Having a blog or Twitter account is not a social media strategy. Social media success is dependent on the sum of different parts. Just like you wouldn’t utilize just one traditional channel to market your product or services, it’s ridiculous to think that one Twitter account or a blog by itself is somehow going to generate ROI overnight. That’s why it’s essential to remember that not everything that’s important in business (and in life) can be measured and just because  you can measure it, doesn’t make it important or relevant.

#5 I’ve blogged about this before, but social media will not solve your pre-existing business problems.

A guy goes to the doctor with a broken arm and asks, “Doc, can I play the piano once my arm has healed.”

The doc says, “Of course, you can!” 

The guy says, “Great, I never knew how to play (the piano) before.”

Bottom line, if you weren’t able to accurately track the results from your traditional marketing activities because of your internal tracking/lead management issues, you’re not magically going to start doing it just because you’re using social media.

One reality that most ROI proponents gloss over is that even the most traditional, established media activities don’t have a clear defined ROI. Not to pick on events but let’s look at event sponsorships like Golf tournaments etc.?  How on earth do companies measure the ROI on those or even television ads for that matter?!

Attribution was an issue with traditional media and it will continue to remain an issue, no matter which media you choose.

Trying to assign a specific dollar amount to any social media marketing activity is an exercise in futility because individually these activities are weak but done in coordination, these can move the needle. That’s also why marketing is still part science and part art.

Rather than looking at ROI on specific social media activities, marketers should be looking at their key business objectives, selecting/incorporating the right social media elements to meet those objectives, and then evaluating the overall results. Ultimately, what matters is not whether the social media activity was a success but whether the business objectives were met.

4 Common Excuses from Social Media Skeptics

Yes, Oprah’s on Twitter and so’s your 50-year old neighbor but that doesn’t mean everyone is on planet Social Media. Once you get out of the social media bubble and if you’re willing to listen to some professionals in the B2B space, you’ll more likely than not, come up against pockets of resistance to the new media. I have tremendous respect for folks who think before latching on to the latest latest fad and and in a previous post, I gave 5 reasons why social media skeptics may be onto something. But, there is a difference between healthy skepticism and unwillingess to change/adapt to a new environment.

Here are 4 typical pushbacks that I’ve come across that are a result of ignorance rather than pragmatism:

#1 “Our customers don’t do social media” I have heard this excuse so many times, even from organizers of social media events, who have confessed that they don’t see the value of social media for their customers. So finally, I asked one of them, “If your customers don’t read blogs or tweet, what channels do they use? Have you asked where they’re getting their information” and the answer is often a resounding “No”. Many professionals who play the “New media doesn’t apply to our customers” card haven’t even talked to their customers because leading research shows that social media is increasing in use among B2B marketers. Many purchase decision-makers pay attention to non-traditional media such as blogs and now, Twitter, thanks to big name celebrities. How much social media influences their decision-making is something the skeptics need to look into rather than hiding behind this excuse.

#2 “We’ve tried it but didn’t get any response” There’s a sense of “build it and they will come” attitude that’s very destructive for social media implementation because poor execution and lack of promotion is often blamed on the media. Companies spend a lot of time encouraging their employees to blog and tweet but don’t really spend any time promoting their efforts to the customers. “Tell our customer, what we’re doing? What a crazy concept!” Social media is new and will take some time for your customer base to adopt. That’s no different from email, not everyone was on it but you need to promote it and do it well for it to be successful.

#3  ”There’s no clear ROI” That’s another common excuse that I’ve heard over and over again. Many companies still struggle with the ROI dilemma, but if social media doesn’t have clear returns, neither do many of traditional alternatives that your company currently uses. Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it’s working. Social media metrics should be tied to clear business objectives and keep in mind, setting up a new channel will take time. Marketers who expect results overnight are setting themselves up for failure. Given that even the most traditional and established media struggle with the question of attribution, we need to give social media due time to get to its full potential.

#4 “It’s a fad“  Skeptics can keep hoping that the social media fad will blow over but hype aside, social media gives you the the ability to engage directly with your customers and that’s very powerful. Social sharing features provide the ability to make your marketing more impactful and empower your customers, champions to do the marketing for you and that’s not something you want to wish away. 

I am too much of a pragmatist to buy into all that jazz about how “social media is so wonderful and everyone on the planet should be on Twitter” but that being said, social media is inevitable. Engaging with our customers isn’t new, it’s not rocket-science, and it’s a no-brainer. So if social media tools enable us to do a better job at it, you either learn to do it and do it right, or else risk being irrelevant to your customers. While it’s not perfect, social media is revolutionizing the way we do business and communication, sooner companies learn how to navigate it the better off they’ll be in the long-run.

Case Study: Using Social Media to Drive Business Results in a Large Enterprise

newcomm09-016At the NewComm Forum this week, Zena Weist  and Kevin Cobb, from the Brand Management team at Embarq walked the audience  through a candid and detailed case study on how a large company successfully leveraged social media to solve a critical business problem – negative customer sentiment.

Moderated by Charlotte Ziems, Vice President at Tendo Communications and SNCR fellow, this was a highly interactive session with many questions from an engaged audience. The duo along with their customer service team manager, Linda O’Neill and team member, Joey Harper (on the phone) offered valuable insights for implementing a customer-oriented social media strategy in a large enterprise.

Headquartered in Kansas, Embarq is on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations company and  offers local and long distance home phone service and high-speed Internet services to both residential and business customers in far-flung rural areas.

Problem: When the company spun off from Sprint in 2006, it had inherited a culture that was extremely conservative. Employees were under a “gag order” and weren’t permitted to interact with customers outside of the traditional communications/customer service channels. Symptomatic  of these underlying cultural and legal issues was a high level of negative customer sentiment towards the company.

Their goal was to do a proactive outreach to customers and prospects on social media networks, typically within 24hrs, to resolve their issues, answer their questions, and change their perception of Embarq. They used pilots to test their theories before rolling out full-fledged programs, this helped in minimizing the risks, getting buy in, and ensured that their programs had higher likelihood of success.

Challenges:The Embarq team faced multiple challenges that they had to overcome in order to break away from their legacy of minimal engagement and reinvent their internal culture as they tried to meet their customer service and (re)branding objectives. Here are the 4 key challenges that social media marketing practitioners in large enterprises across industries are familiar with:

  • Lack of Social Media Awareness
  • Conservative Culture
  • Technology Hurdle

Lack of Social Media Awareness:As in any other large enterprise, the lack of awareness and knowledge about the new media fuels fear of the unknown and Embarq was no different. In order to build awareness and reduce the fear of engagement as well as build internal support for their social media strategy, the tteam started by listening to customer conversations for over 6months. Going through this intensive listening process helped them to surface the issues and questions that their customers were asking. It also helped demonstrate the value of direct engagement as well as get buy in from the internal stakeholders including the executive management.

The team didn’t use any fancy tools or complex technologies for their listening process. They started off with some free tools and started using those to monitor social media conversations, some examples: – Google and Yahoo! Alerts – Google Blog Searches – BlogPulse – DSLReports.com – Complaint boards – Technorati Later on, they added more sophisticated monitoring tools, one of them being Radian6. Once the information started trickling in, the internal stakeholders started pushing for a response to the issues they were hearing.

Conservative Culture:The Embarq team started their social media cultural revolution with people within the company who were already participating in social media. They identified the champions across the organization and leveraged their knowledge to set the plan in motion. They identified about 10-15 people out there and invited them in to join their initiative. They made the individual the focus of the activities, which helped break down the traditional silos in the organization. They empowered the customer service team to reach out to the customers directly.

When asked about any friction between the traditional CS channel and the social media outreach efforts, the team explained how they made a clear differentiation between the #800 customer support  team vs. what their team was tasked with. The outreach team was reaching out to customers who chose to vent on a public/social media forum such as Twitter or Face book where the traditional channel didn’t have a presence.

Technology Hurdles: The team started their listening and research by using very manual search and react processes. As they got going, the team started leveraging the existing communication and software tools without requiring many resources. Scaling their process while staying flexible was critical because they were regionally based and were engaging in fairly long-tail conversations. They tested several different pilots to see which ones would work before they rolled it out so that also minimized the investment and increase likelihood of success for the programs that were rolled out. The presenters said it was easier to implement social media outreach because it doesn’t cost that much and mainly required human resources. That’s primarily how they managed to eliminate and avoid any additional IT investment or involvement.

Results:

The ROI question invariably comes up in every enterprise social media/web 2.0 discussion and it is a fair question. The team used a two-pronged strategy where they combined short-term wins with long-term strategic initiatives.

embarq-2The team kicked off  their rebranding and education strategy with a with highly viral video contest “48 seconds” designed to create buzz around their high-speed internet service. The team invited video submissions from contestants, which was a hugely successful campaign that also got picked up by the news media.

The presenters emphasized how relevancy in messaging was the key to their success so the campaign wasn\’t just clever but also highlighted the benefits of using their offering.

They followed up on their short-term campaign by rolling out series of short but highly effective “how-to” videosthat addressed their top 10 customer service issues. This is where the team superbly demonstrates the value of listening to the customers by basing topics on information gathered from their online outreach and call center data. Not surprising, these videos became highly popular with their customer base and also demonstrated that the company was being responsive to their customer\’s needs.

They not only managed to meet their education objectives but also their branding objective of creating a presence in an online community where customer and prospects are already engaged. Over an  one-year period, the team saw a 81% success rate (Dec 07 to Mar 09) on their social media outreach initiatives. They also found significant increase in the number of customers self-correcting their negative posts and subsequent increase in the number of customers likely to recommend their service.

Most importantly, they were able to connect their social media outreach efforts directly to orders placed. Overall, this was an excellent case study in how social media can be effectively used to drive business results and chockfull of insights for social media practitioners in other larger enterprises.

This was an outstanding example of innovation by breaking down organization silos and leveraging social media to drive business outcomes. Couple of things that stood out for me in this case study were: Listening played an important role in formulating the strategy, trials and pilots were used extensively, and clear definition of objectives, and tied it all back to the bottom line.

I want to close this post with an insightful quote from the presenters that highlights their practical, yet thoughtful approach to social media:

 “It (social media outreach) doesn’t stop the telephones but it gives you an opportunity to resolve the situation and change their experience.”

You can look at the detailed slides from the Embarq presentation on the NewComm Forum site.

Measuring Success in Online Communities

Today, SNCR Fellow Connie Bensen & Kellie Parker walked the NewComm Forum audience through a joint presentation on ”Measurement & Metrics for a Successful Community“. Connie is the Community Strategist for Techrigy SM2, a social media monitoring tool while, Kellie Parker is Community Manager at Sega of America.

Benson and Parker covered two critical measurement topics for any company:

  • How are you measuring the interaction & growth of your community?
  • What metrics are important?

They outlined 5 easy steps used to measure the progress and health of a community:

  • Identify business objectives
  • Decide on priorities
  • Chose what to measure and measurement tools
    • Quantitative
    • Qualitative
  • Define benchmark
  • Identify trends & report it

Here are some examples of business objectives:

  • Generate more word of mouth
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Bring outside ideas into organization
  • Increase product/brand awareness
  • Improve new product success rations
  • Improve PR effectiveness
  • Reduce Customer acquistion costs
  • Reduce customer support
  • Reduce market research costs
  • Reduce product development costs

Here’s a sentiment that was echoed by other speakers as well – “Identify your goals and work your way to metrics from your goals”.

Start with:

  • Target percentage of desired increase
    • Start with an estimate, if you don’t have available benchmarks
  • Use benchmarks to set goals
  • Translate that information to business needs

The presenters suggest prioritization of business objectives in order of importance. For Benson, increasing the product awareness & WOM (ROI as # of additional sales) was the key objective.

Here’s how to determine what’s important to measure:

- What keeps your boss up at night?
- What are competitive threats?

The presenters suggested choosing one measurement per business objective and here are some suggested metrics:  

Activity/Engagement:
- number of visitors & repeat visitors
- number of registered users vs. active
- frequency of posting & number of comments
- type of searches

External:
- Increase in SEO ranking

Marketing:
- Number of subscriptions via email & RSS
- Usage of Features

Some suggested measurement tools:

Web analytics tools:
- Google analytics, stat counter, getclicky
- Proprietary to community

SM monitoring tools:
- google alers, search twitter.com
Techrigy, radian6, trucast
Social search tools – deliver, who’s talking?, same point, social mention, seprh, one riot

NPS:
- Survey tool used to measure sentiment about the brand
- http://www.netpromoter.com/calculate

Qualitative results:

- Testimonials
- Marketing use
- Product development & use cases
- Identify brand advocates
- Appreciation for customer service

Quantitative results:
- Use to calculate progress (% increase)

Last but not the least, reporting your results:

Benson provided a sample template that she uses for monthly reporting:

- Ongoing definition of objectives
- Interaction
- Qualitative quotes
- Recommendations
-  Benchmarks based on previous report
- Web analytics (unless someone else is tracking them)
- Social web analytics

Here’s what included in the reports:

Ongoing:
- Note & report customer requests needing immediate assistance
- Identify topics requiring FAQs or blog posts

Monthly:
- Marketing/pr
- Feedback on connection of messaging
- Identify sites for potential partnerships
- Report on time periods of high traffic
- Feedback on brand sentiment

Executive/management:
- Overview of brand sentiment & competitive analysis
- Offer insight/ suggestions on future trends & key industry topics

The presenter mentioned overlap with other functions and to leverage what are other departments are already measuring. Collaboration with other departments will ensure that there’s no reinventing of the wheel.