Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Strategies for organizing a Corporate Social Media Program

Jeremiah Owyang writes a blog called Web Strategy, and offered in a recent post some excellent thoughts on integrating social media into an organization. I'm reprinting a large portion of the post verbatim, simply because the advice is so concise, so relevant and so right (thanks to Ian Ketcheson for the link.)

  • Recognize the new influencers. Like Media, Press, and Analysts, consider Social Media yet an additional influencer group to reach.
  • Prepare for all scenarios. Create an internal process or at least discuss how to deal with crises. (such as exploding products, embarrassing situations). Draw from classic PR strategies, but realize that acting quickly in a human way, and not hiding is key.
  • Don’t shy away. Acknowledge deficiencies, no matter how shameful immediately. If you don’t have the answer, at least acknowledge you see the problem and will respond as soon as you have an answer. As a result you will become the first source of news, and will control any additional buzz. Stay relevant, address the issues.
  • Human media is at your disposal. Consider using video to humanize communications, during a crisis this could be a big difference. Recently Jet Blue and KFC have done these during crises.
  • Address the good as well as the bad. In addition to planning for fire drills, be sure to plan for positive unexpected events. If a customer raves about your produce on his blog, learn how to acknowledge and harness. There’s a variety of ways to use this.
  • Track who’s who. Create an index of bloggers and influences in your industry, consider putting on an internal list, an internal feedreader or even on an industry wiki.
  • Appoint and Empower. For especially large organizations figure out who’s on point to respond to bloggers and social media in different segments, product groups or verticals. Teach them, empower them and support them to act without unnecessary political review processes. Let them be human.
  • Employees will blog, embrace. In addition to creating the corporate blog(s), be sure to recognize the natural employee bloggers that appear. You may find them in the product groups, support, and marketing departments. Have a discussion on how to include them in your strategy, even if it means to let them continue on their own. When it comes to trust, prospects and customers may trust employee bloggers that don’t have the corporate logo on their blog.
  • The Blogging/Ethics Policy. This depends on the corporate situation, for some companies, this is a requirement, and for other companies, this is already covered in the employee ethics policy. Figure out what’s right for your culture. Ultimately, you should trust your employees, if not, why did you hire them?
  • Consider creating the “Air Traffic Control Tower”. Just like at an airport, having an internal direction to let know corporate and employee bloggers know what’s happening is helpful. This internal blog could help let bloggers know what’s appropriate to say, what’s not, and indicate what’s happening out on the blogosphere. Use to keep track of advocates and detractors, and use tags as appropriate to create a running history.
  • Use Social Media as Sales Tools. I’ve found that corporate blogs can be used for sales and marketing three ways: 1) A “living” white paper by your companies thought leaders, 2) A rapid response tool. Think about how long a press release takes to craft. 3) A Conversation Starter: encourage your sales teams to send along interesting or controversial blog topics to prospects and customers to elicit a dialogue –even if they don’t agree. Consider creating sales FAQs and upload to intranet, these are tools that can be used.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The British tax collectors, HM Revenue & Customs, have recently launched a series of podcasts with free tax advice:

The service <http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/podcasts> , launched on 12 April 2007, makes the government department one of the first to use the medium. It said it will help to make information on various issues simple and accessible.

The podcasts last between three and four minutes, and offer advice, support and helpful hints in a conversational style.

One of the first is aimed at helping employers to file their end of year returns. It leads them through the process step by step, telling them what options are available and providing advice on other sources of information.

Another podcast, launched on the same day, discusses topical issues relating to the tax profession. It carries an interview with HMRC's director general (business) Dave Hartnett, talks about the lessons learned from last year's trials of new style inspections, and how the department is trying to work better with agents.

"Compliance interventions are rightly one of the issues most discussed by tax practitioners today," said Chris Hopson, communications and marketing director at HMRC. "The launch of podcasts is another way HMRC is endeavouring to communicate better with this vital audience."

From Kable's Government Computing, with a hat-tip to Colin of Canuckflack.

Monday, April 16, 2007

When social media goes too far

This subject wanders a bit from our intended focus on the intersection of government and social media, but I can't help myself on posting this editorial aside.

A colleauge has just forwarded me this link to CNN's coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting today. CNN has pulled out all the social media stops, offering an annotated campus map, an interactive map of Blackburg Virginia, and video clips of the police chief describing where the bodies were found. Even more disturbing, though, are the links to video clips of ambulances rushing to the scene and of a student's camera-phone recording of "police responding to loud bangs."

Maybe I'm just averse to this kind of sensationalism, but I think this is way too much information.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mass to Grass: Canada's Word of Mouth Marketing Conference

I had the great pleasure of attending the Canadian Marketing Association's first-ever Word of Mouth Marketing Conference in Toronto this week. It was one of those all-too-rare conferences that turned out to far exceed my expectations. Every session was interesting, but some of them were simply phenomenal.

There were a wide variety of speakers, from author Jackie Huba (author of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force and Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message) to Kyle MacDonald of One Red Paperclip fame to Eric Petersen, Director of Community Relations at Lululemon. There were also speakers from Rogers Publishing, Yahoo! Canada, Ogilvy & Mather, and Cossette Media, among many others.

I have more than a dozen pages of nearly illegible notes, but I manage to glean some interesting statistics on word of mouth marketing and social media from the various presentations. Some of the more salient ones:

  • nearly 2/3 of purchasing decisions are made based on word of mouth advertising.
  • 70% of CEOs say they will use some form of word of mouth marketing in the next year.
  • more than 48 million users in the United States have created some form of "user-generated content" (USG) on the Internet (everything from writing a blog to uploading a video to YouTube to writing a review on Amazon.com) Although a comparable Canadian statistic isn't available, Internet penetration is higher in Canada than the US and it is known that 58% of Canadians have read or wrote a blog.
  • 87% of consumers will research a purchase online before buying offline.
  • only 1% of the population that reads a particular social media channel(forum or bulletin board or other) will participate by actively creating content for it, and only 10% of the audience with interact with that content.

The presentations covered a wide range of subjects relating to word of mouth marketing, and I only attended those sessions that had a particular focus on social media and user-generated content. Here's a few of the bits that caught my attention.

Jackie Huba said that social media allows marketers to connect with customers in new and uniquely interactive ways, and that consumer participation and involvement begets customer loyalty. She also stressed that in today's market "you are your Google results." Joe Thornley wrote a great summary her presentation over on his ProPR blog.

Doug Walker of TBWA (and founder of the World Rock Paper Scissors Society) said that the RPS society was both the dumbest idea he ever had, and the most successful. In his view, the four principles of a successful word of mouth campaign are: authority, mutation (to keep perpsectives fresh and relevant), participation and accretion (one by one, things build mass around a centre of gravity.)

Janet Kestin, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy & Mather, is behind the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty campaign for Unilever. She talked about the Evolution video, the most successful branded viral film ever: they had so much traffic in the first 24 hours of launch that their server crashed, and had two million hits in two weeks. Within days, the mainstream media were reporting on it, and it has since been viewed by more than 600 milion people. The film alone reinvigorated the Real Beauty campaign and drove up share prices. Kestin, who admits she was a neophyte to social media at the beginning of the campaign, offers the following advice: "if you've done it, do it differently" and "fish where the fish are." She also says be open to the risk, read the wind and timing is everything, and believes that marketing in today's world means chasing interests and passion over demographics.

The last two sessions of the day had some lively interactive debating on the social media and word of mouth marketing. Some quick hits from the panel featuring David Jones of Fleishman-Hillard, Rob Cottingham of Social Signal and Steve Osgoode from HarperCollins:
  • Social media is risk. "If you don't have the stones for it, don't bother."
  • Web 1.0 was about eyeballs. Web 2.0 is about hands (as in, poised over the keyboard, typing madly.)
  • If it makes your boss squirm, you're probably on the right track.
  • It doesn't matter whether social media 'belongs' to the PR deparment, the marketing department, communications or the CEO. What's important is that somebody does it, and somebody is participating in a meaningful way. It requires internal champions.
  • The value of social media cannot be measured in ROI terms. Expectations cannot be results-driven.
  • Sell social media in your organization as something new to try, not the be-all end-all solution.
  • Some users, especially those unfamiliar with the platform, might find Second Life tedious and horribly unintuitive. What's far more important than where it is now is what it is capable of being and where it is heading (just like the Internet in 1995 compared to now.)

It was truly an excellent conference. Take a tour around the blogosphere for some other perspectives on the day's festivities: One Degree (and here, too), Scott MacDonald, and Sean from Craphammer had spoken up as of press time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A blogger code of conduct

Several prominent bloggers have started work on a Blogger Code of Conduct, partly in response to the online bullying experienced by tech blogger and author Kathy Sierra last month. Sierra cancelled a scheduled public speaking engagement and then stopped blogging altogether after comments on and about her blog denigrated to death threats.

The Code of Conduct has been posted to a site called Wikia, so any and all bloggers can contribute to the discussion about the development of the Code. The Code itself calls for a fairly basic set of civil behaviours including taking responsiblity for one's own words, defending others when they are unfairly attacked and not allowing commenters to post anonymously.

While there are many who support the Code, others question the validity of something that is ultimately unenforceable, and complain that it infringes on the right to free speech.

I was personally horrified at the cyber-bullying that happened to Kathy Sierra, and while I've seen some vitriolic comments in the blogosphere, I've never seen anything even remotely that hateful. And while I think the Code is a well-intentioned concept, I don't think it will have any practical or measurable effect on the blogosphere. I expect it will remain largely ignored by the people who most need to heed it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We're back!

Sorry for the long gap between posts. This project, while dear to our hearts, had to take a back seat to some other things that were going on. Let's just say we've all had a crash course in crisis communications - and survived!

Please stand by, and we'll have more new conversations on government and social media here in the near future!