Friday, August 3, 2012

Become the Expert by Going Social: 4 Tips to Getting Started


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Some companies think that because they don’t have “customers” (in the traditional sense of the word) they don’t have a huge need to go social. The problem with that thinking is that you are missing out on a huge opportunity to reach other stakeholders who influence your business and the bottom line.

As a corporate communications professional, I'm currently developing a social media strategy that will support our efforts to be a thought leader.  As I learn about new channels in my Direct and Interactive Marketing class in the IMC graduate program at Northwestern's Medill school, I'm finding new ways to go social and various considerations for the strategy I'm creating.

Here are a few things I've learned through my research and plan to use as I develop my social media strategy focused on thought leadership.. 

#1 Setting the Stage

Before you even step foot onto the social landscape, identify what you want to achieve as a thought leader. Do you want to be the voice of the industry? Do you want to influence policy? Do you want to establish your brand in the minds of consumers? Who do you want to be part of your following?

Define your audience (be selective!) and determine what you want to achieve. Focus your goals so that you can truly measure engagement and sentiment over time. Don’t get lost on the day to day numbers.

# 2 Role Reinvention

In times like these, few companies have the luxury of hiring new staff and engaging in big contracts with new agencies. Think about how your key communicators are spending their time and how they can adjust their efforts to leverage social channels to promote the key messages – and experts – of the company to a broader audience.

The media relations team can think of themselves more as brand journalists and how they can start repurposing content to attract more readers by making it more compelling and personal.

# 3 Think Outside of the Site

While your website is often thought of as the destination for your key audiences, they are often times using other sites as resources for industry information and expertise on various topics. Publish your rich content on sites such as slideshare and YouTube to cast a wider net.

"The social platform [slideshare] is much more than the Web’s largest archive of presentations, PDFs, and videos. It’s also a vibrant, mobile-friendly, Google-indexed community frequented by reporters, buyers, and senior executives.” – Joe Chernov, Mashable 05/07/12

Contributing white papers and blogs to sites with established audiences within in your industry can help you reach more people while using the rapport of the host site to build your credibility. Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) is also a great way to have meaningful conversations with your audiences and help them understand the inner workings of your business and industry while putting a face to it.

# 4 Shameless Cross-Promotion

Once you have created the content, posted it on your channels and others, don’t forget to use your social channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook as well as your established communication channels such as your website, enewsletters, and collateral to promote your work. These cross-promotions will help reinforce the messages while building a captive community.

Moving Forward
Even though we don't have customers, in the traditional sense, it has become obvious to our leadership that we need to become active in the social media world.  I know that connecting our social media strategy to our business goals will be a huge selling point and the thought leadership angle will do that.  What advice do you have for someone starting out?

Jennifer Chulski is a full-time marketing communications professional with more than 10 years of experience. She currently leads branding and digital efforts of a Fortune 100 brand. Jennifer is also a part-time graduate student in Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University. As a proud Chicago transplant, Jennifer never grows tired of all that the Second City has to offer. @JenniferChulski

These thoughts and opinions are my own.

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