Social media has permeated society, with individuals embracing all the popular tools for everything from hobbies to research to peer group communication. Corporations are also investing more in social organization resources to do things like promote products, fend off bad publicity, and collaborate with community stakeholders.
However, simply using social tools doesn't mean you're fully leveraging all there is to offer in the social world. Now that 2012 is well on its way, organizations should ask themselves whether they really have a meaningful plan to achieve their social organization goals.
Before you can determine whether you have a meaningful social plan, let's confirm what a social organization is. For example, Gartner defines it the following way: Social organizations "target social media to important business purposes, achieve otherwise impossible results by facilitating productive mass collaboration, and use collaboration to repeatedly tap into the collective genius of customers, employees, partners, etc."
Clearly, social media is no longer just an add-on for marketers. Social media budgets are increasing as marketers shift funds from other types of marketing. Companies are integrating social tools into company functions, and they're looking closely at the ROI these tools generate to justify the future spending increases they're committing to.
To understand how effective you are as a social organization, you should determine how well you've defined "your community." Your community is not just the people who read your blogs, check out your Facebook page, or subscribe to your Twitter. It's the whole process taken together -- the relationships you build, the ideas you share, and the purpose and passion you bring. It's about making connections and energizing people to facilitate the needs of not only the members of the community, but also the organization you're serving.
Every socially savvy organization aligns its social-engagement strategy with its business objectives. Some examples of objectives are: create brand consideration, grow customer advocacy, grow revenue, drive product innovation, and decrease the cost of product support. To do this, set up initiatives to promote advocacy, feedback, and support. For example, advocacy drives marketing awareness through increases in membership and the systematic release of user-generated content. The feedback loop can promote the discussion of ideas, participation by beta users, and reactions by the community to the look and feel of a new product. The support step can improve the customer experience and reduce the cost of service through question-and-answer sessions, strategic search results, and collaborative help.
The nexus of all social engagement is tuning in and content creation. Listening has been covered extensively, so I won't belabor this. Content, however, is both campaign-oriented and conversational, and it doesn't create itself. There has to be a plan and team in place to create it, deliver it, and leverage its value in different ways.
First, there is the sourcing of content, which involves identifying the first topics and stories that reflect the promoter's legacy, points of distinction, and vision. Second is the creation of content. A "content grid" approach develops content assets in multiple formats. Next is the management of content, which guides the workflow, archiving, and curation of information. Fourth, the logistics involves the actual delivery of content across multiple distribution channels. And last, but certainly not least, is measurement, which quantifies the return on content assets, tracks performance, and provides data points needed to improve performance.
We are all publishers of content. The multipart question is, is it really great content, is it meaningful to your audience, is it being segmented and personalized for your audience, and is it driving the kind of performance that you are after?