I recently went against my own rules about working for free, but the result was winning a contest, connecting with a probable client and confirming in my own head that getting started with any organization’s social media strategy is actually pretty simple.
Here’s the story….
Every year, I always make time to go to SOBCon – a “think tank” event. It’s all about businesses, communities and customers, online and off and the attendees are some incredible people. Founded by my friends Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker, the main conference is in Chicago (it’s April 29 – May 1 in 2011) and there’s also a smaller one in Colorado.
One of the sponsors is Carlsen Resources, Inc (CRI), an executive search firm in global media and telecommunications. In fall 2010 they supported a SOBCon social media strategy contest:
“The prize? A FREE trip to our flagship event, SOBCon 2011 in Chicago! (registration, 3 night’s hotel, air up to $750)
The contest? Propose, in 500 words or less, a Social Media strategy for Carlsen Resources.
How will the winner be selected? A team at Carlsen Resources will review and determine which proposal best suits their business. The SOBCon social media team will act in an advisory role only.”
Carlsen wants to connect with their market AND do a better job of reaching out to those who spend time on the social Web, particularly younger people. Pretty straightforward, and similar to the goals of many organizations these days who “know they need to do something besides having a website.”
I was reluctant to spend valuable time on this project without a paycheck at the other end – heck, I’m even doing a webinar about avoiding “brain-picking” as a freelancer/entrepreneur – but was intrigued by the deceptively simple premise and the opportunity to have my conference expenses covered. SOBCon is an amazing value, but it’s not cheap.
The Strategic Approach & Framework
Since I normally don’t work in the executive recruiting industry, the contest offered an opportunity to do some higher level thinking; to see if I could take a simple framework that I use with Tourism Currents, and apply it outside of our normal focus on tourism, hospitality and economic development.
It all boils down to four very basic questions:
1) Who is the market for Carlsen?
2) What sort of people are their customers?
3) Where are they right now on the social Web (and where might they go in the near future?)
4) How can Carlsen best engage with them there?
That’s it. Anyone can ask these questions of any person or organization that wants to establish a presence using social media.
The value I brought was in knowing the organization (I did my homework to learn as much as I could about Carlsen and about their market) AND knowing the cultures of the different social media spaces to determine the best fit, which comes from spending one hell of a lot of time online since I started a family travel blog in early 2006.
So, what did I recommend? Drumroll….
A much more wide-ranging and effective company presence on LinkedIn, and that they start a high-level blog about C-suite issues in their market and industries of interest.
Yep, that’s it. That’s what makes sense for their market, and would make the best use of their time and brainpower.
To some people, these may seem to be absurdly simple ideas, but anyone who knows what they’re doing knows that a lot goes into creating an “effective presence” on LinkedIn, and a TON of effort goes into a really solid blog that hits C-suite issues.
At some point, a Facebook Page for the business would be good (I did point out that one of their competitors has a lively Page) and then a Twitter account plus participation in industry-related chats like #TNL, #CareerChat and #LeadershipChat.
BUT….only when it makes sense for reaching their market and only if they have the time and commitment to making the content on all channels absolutely top-notch.
Thanks so much to Carlsen for sponsoring SOBCon and financially supporting my participation in one of my very favorite events.
(Update: Wow, had to come back and add these Mack Collier thoughts on How to Fix a Broken Social Media Strategy – he reminds his readers that strategy comes first, then the tactics (social media channels) to implement that strategy. He also suggests ways to measure your impact and success/failure. Great post, Mack!)
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Sheila, congratulations! We all have to balance the brain pick vs potential all the time. This isn’t to suggest we don’t reach to find the next great client but I know I have gone old school with the sales process and simply asked for the business earlier. The worry was that it would insult the prospect but I had forgotten what I told sales representatives for two decades – they are not a client until they get out their wallet. It sounds crass but I’m sure like you, my bank doesn’t accept my 27 years of media and marketing experience in lieu of mortgage payments. If we don’t value our time, who will?
But in this case you took the shot, got the business and almost as importantly pointed out that just because options are available, clients don’t have to embrace them all. The key issue is to find solutions that will help them with their pain with a strategy and tactics they will actually do and sustain.
We are deluged with opinions in the social web from so-called experts who feel this tool or that channel will be the answer to all dreams. Without business acumen and follow-through, it’s just opinion.
Thanks so much for visiting, Kneale – when I say that the people who attend SOBCon are pretty incredible, it’s nice to have one of them – you – leave a comment that supports that. 🙂
Kneale is on the money — your example is a good reminder that just because the buffet has 12 tables of sweets — it doesn’t mean that it’s wise or healthy to try and consume them all!
We’re in the infancy of social media. Imagine how many channels/choices we’ll have in a year or 5 years. But your questions allow a business to keep the focus where it belongs — on their customers.
No wonder we all think you’re so smart.
Oh, gosh. You just made my weekend, Drew. I really appreciate it.
I like your emphasis on the high level blog – my recommendation is wordpress.
Once that is complete, you can take the RSS Feed from the website and import it into your Notes Section of your business page on Facebook. Import the RSS feed in to feedburner and friendfeed as well so your information is automatically syndicated to a few of the big centers online.
If you map out your syndication strategy, and use correct links back to your own website from the first paragraph of each post – this becomes a huge benefit to your SEO.
Nice to have found YOUR page on Facebook Sheila – love your work!