At the Women In Strategy Summit this spring, Likeable Media’s CEO, Carrie Kerpen, introduced the social media forum as a way to help businesses staff for success. Because this model is largely uncharted territory, use the following as guide for creating a social media forum at your organization.
What is a social media forum?
A social media forum is a group of representatives from various business departments that train their organization on social media, reporting back to their respective departments.
Imagine you’re a large company with over 10,000 employees. Your social presence has garnered over a few million members, but it lives solely in your marketing department. How do you solve the disconnect? Organize a forum by pulling in representatives from each business department (finance, R&D, customer service, legal, product development, etc.) who are passionate about social media, even though marketing is not in their day-to-day responsibilities. This 6 -10 person council organizes trainings for each department on social, including best practices for personal use and what to do when a crisis arises.
Sounds good. But why do I need one?
Simply put: it takes a village. It’s natural to take a look at your social media team and see it falling short--but that’s not necessarily their fault. The truth is that your Social Media Manager is overworked. He or she is handling social media 24/7, responding and posting on behalf of your brand to engage with your communities. There’s no surplus of time. Right now, 65% of companies are asking their employees to “do social” on top of their regular duties, and 57% of brands aren't monitoring their competition on social, citing the reason as a lack of time.
Social media for your entire business cannot live only in the marketing department; best practices in social must be taught across all departments.
Great. Now how do I make it happen?
With these five steps:
1. Define the purpose and responsibilities. Every organization is different so naturally, purposes for a social media council will be varied. Whether you’re aiming to reduce customer service operational costs or gain more feedback before product launches, take your business objectives into account before shaping the function of your forum. For example, are you creating the forum to:
- Develop and/or update social media policies/guidelines
- Control your global brand’s social media profile
- Ensure consistent content messaging
- Train and educate social media best practices and case studies for your industry
- Identify and test third-party tools
2. Establish leadership. Who is going to own this council: your CEO, CMO, Social Media Director? The answer will depend largely on how your company is structured and how you’re using social media. Generally, an ideal leader of the council will be a senior executive and/or on the marketing side.
3. Enlist representatives from each department. Pull in members from your various departments: Legal, Human Resources, Marketing, Customer Service, Public Relations, Internal Communications, Sales, IT, Product Development. Make sure to include those who have a say in how your company communicates, and aim for striking a balance between personality types and skill sets. Invite both the social media advocates and those that need convincing. As you build the team, determine which members of each department are able to set the strategy, assist with social, and take action when necessary.
4. Share best practices. Determine the answers to common questions from your organization, like: How often should I tweet? What should I share on social? How do I merge or separate my personal and professional lives? This forum will be your place to identify social media best practices and spread the adoption of them to all employees across the organization.
5. Stay educated. How can a social media forum foster success if it’s not constantly informed? Stay on top of industry trends and announcements so that you can share these with the rest of your department. Ensure that you’re able to serve as an authority on the social space and a reliable resource for the whole company.
Being a champion for social media at a big brand can be hard, certainly. It takes time and money--both serious investments (you may want to consider using an agency to act as your forum). But by seriously evaluating your business objectives and pulling skills from across your entire organization, you’ll be able to better reach your goals. Help your organization properly embrace social media and let social be the hero of your next success story.