How do you manage a ‘social media’ campaign? The breaking down of barriers that Internet communication has encouraged is probably faster and more fundamental than many communications managers realise. One major problem is the challenge of speed – you can no longer take a few days to respond to a media enquiry while your exec finishes travelling or deals with ‘more important’ business. In a social media environment, people expecting total access and answerability from your organisation are beating on the door right now. There’s no gatekeeper anymore, remember?
It’s also worth bearing in mind that social media is user-driven so you’re leading a conversation and, like all conversations, it will have ebbs and flows. You can’t expect relentless positivity but are aiming to have an overall dialogue that puts your position and proposition.
Another issue facing social media campaign managers is that of approvals. In the old paradigm, your agency made sure that every single communication was approved. It would never do, for instance, for the agency to be speaking in your place. And agencies, for their part, wanted to be indemnified from clients’ actions and liabilities. If you’re running a campaign that cuts across websites and interactive, ‘social’ media, someone needs to be posting, responding, commenting, Tweeting, filming and uploading content on your behalf. And that either means that you, as a campaign ‘manager’ need to be 100% engaged 24×7 in your campaign or you need to redefine the rules so that your agency has a wider scope of responsibility, empowerment and response-ability. That means you have to let your agency take more risks on your behalf, and therefore that your agency is sufficiently indemnified to take those risks. Dispensing with indemnity can be an expensive game for the hapless communicator.
Likewise, you need to be sure that you’re working with an agency that understands those risks, that gets where the pain points of social communication lie, but also that understands the issues of corporate governance in this changing environment as well as new expectations of corporate behaviour. It can be a complicated trade-off – ensuring that the company is answerable at every level and yet also responsive at every level, that it is transparent and yet decisive and that it communicates with its stakeholders appropriately, despite the immediacy and ubiquity of online ‘social’ access.
This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named ‘A Moment with McNabb’ columns in Campaign Middle East magazine.