The work you do... before you do the work
As more and more companies are eyeing Web 2.0 (or "social media") possibilities, they have a lot of questions. That's understandable. While all of these tools and technologies are business as usual to many of us who have been participating in social media, they're new as a shiny new toy on Christmas morn' to many others.
Basically, when it comes to delving into “all things Web 2.0” each company should be asking questions. But make sure you're asking the right questions, including:
- Tools that support strategy: Which tools--of the many tools available like blogs, wikis, widgets, social networks and so many others--will support our specific strategy and goals?
- Programs that differentiate: How can we use social media to develop a program that will differentiate us from what competitors are doing in this space (and others)?
- Value proposition: How will the program lend value to our customers and prospects… and how will it build a community of interested readers/participants? Your program may give thought leadership, it may solve problems, it may create a community where people can network--or it may do all of these things. Just like your other marketing programs, it has to offer a strong and ongoing value proposition.
- Branding: You'll want to determine how you'll brand your program and while this will likely be an extension of the brand you've already created, you'll want to understand the tone, style and personality that you'll want to exude.
- Content strategy: What will be our content strategy so that the effort remains “fresh” and populated with new content? You won't just be creating "the thing" you'll need to nurture and grow "the thing" and thus, the content needs its own strategy so as to determine focus, writers, special content series and the like.
- Learning curve: How can we get up-to-speed on the rules and practices of social media so that we launch strong? There's much to learn and while some of it can be learned by reading and doing, it helps to have a guide (this WSJ article calls this guide a "technopologist" due to their skills in technology, marketing and sociology/psychology). This may be an internal or third-party resource.
- Plan for promotion: How will we use both social media as well as other media to promote awareness of this new program? Like any new program it needs to be promoted. The difference is that social media can be used for both increasing awareness of the program as well as creating the actual program.
- Plan for listening and monitoring: You'll need to keep a close ear to the ground so you'll want a plan for listening and monitoring feedback that occurs at your "place" or any others (the blogosphere is a really, really big place). You'll also want to appoint a professional or a team that's in charge of responding... after all, a real conversation is what you're after and you'll want to use all feedback to improve and as an opportunity to build and/or strengthen relationships.
- Processes: As a core part of determining your strategy and plan you'll need to identify and codify processes that will support the launch, maintenance and optimization of your programs. Think of it as such: a program gives birth to an idea, but a process ensures that the idea has a long, healthy life.
- Success metrics: Your team will need to establish how you'll determine success. Is it sales? Increased awareness? A certain number of unique visitors or participants? For each company and endeavor, the metrics are case-specific, just be sure to (1) pinpoint how you'll measure success + (2) that those measurement systems are put into place at the same time that your program is implemented + (3) that you are staying on top of your progress so as to understand where you're doing well and where you need to optimize.
And once you've done the above work...then you can get to work ;-).
My point is only the upfront thinking, planning and analysis that is involved. While it may seem like a lot, you'll thank me for it. After all, anything worth doing is worth doing right... especially in times where budgets and brainpower may be more limited than in years' past.
PS: I have an entire section devoted to "all things 2.0" that includes several articles and posts with some tips, benefits and pointers that might be helpful to you, they're right here (and Happy 2.0, it's a challenging and rewarding medium).