5Ws to Community Management Part 1: Advisory Committees

This week, I spent some time listening to lawyers, regulatory folks and marketers share their struggles in terms of social media. Knowing the importance, yet not understanding how to overcome the fear and maybe even ignorance. As we polled members in the room of who was listening and monitoring social media, I was shocked at the number of hands not enthusiastically waving in the air. So, if you recognize the need, why haven’t you started?

For some, this world is scary, complicated and overwhelming. As communicators, it’s our job to make it feel fun, free, simple and yes, maybe even easy. But we know better. So, take the fundamentals of what you already know, and apply it to something that feels scary and a little risky. For me, it’s like knowing how to skateboard, and transitioning that to snowboarding.

In terms of community management, let’s take one piece and pair it with something we PR folks know best — the 5 Ws. Since we’ve talked a lot about external communications, I want to focus a little more on internal, employee communications – and how to get the right people in the room, at the right time. Internal buy-off is essential and will set the foundation for your success as a community manager or social media champion.

Who? Who makes up your social media council or advisory board? This is an incredibly difficult question, and it plays to several pieces – getting what you need and playing into the politics of your organization. You’ll struggle with people who want to be involved, because it’s seems fun and shiny, and then you’ll need others who are resistant.  As you think about your company’s divisions, be sure to include: corporate communications, PR, marketing, customer service, legal/regulatory, IT, and your advocacy or foundation folks, to name a few. This committee that you are working to create must be collaborative, and the key is that each person must have a willingness to take some level of risk.

What? What can you say and not say, do and not do? I’m a big fan of rules, after all, I was a criminal justice major. This point speaks to the need for guidance, both internally and externally. However, today, it goes beyond that. The trouble with guidance policies is that they can be too broad for those who are implementing content development and distribution, and engagement and relationship-building. Work with your SMAB to create a framework what content requires what path of review or sign-off. Also, outline the timeline for response. Social media is does not work on a 5-10 business day cycle, and if you’re working in that space, you shouldn’t either. You need to distribute the accountability to others, to ensure that it’s the most accurate, while also mitigating risk for your company, and even you.

When? When do you meet? When do you update guidelines? All your guidance policies and framework documents, or guiding parameters, are fluid. They will be updated and they need to be updated. I think a safe bet is a standing meeting with the core team to discuss things that are going well, things that aren’t twice a month. Also, guidance policies need to be updated at least twice a year. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be in frequent communications with the team. Since materials will require internal discussions, it’s likely that you’ll connect with at least 1-2 members of the committee once a week.

Where? Where will your presences be? And, bigger picture – where do you want to go? Have a vision for your engagement, have a purpose. Time and time again I’ve heard a variety of poor reasons to be engaged in social media – it’s free, someone else is doing it, everyone is talking about it. It makes me feel like I’m back in grade school – Lindsey has a new pair of Doc Martens and we find ourselves begging mom to head to the store that night for my very own! Except this time, social media isn’t a fad, and it’s not going away with the newest fashion trend. It’s changing the way we do business and we need to have a vision for what we want to achieve if we are going to succeed.

How? How are you going to achieve this? Social media isn’t free, because it takes resources and that means headcount. If you’re hiring an agency to do your social media engagement, have someone (maybe it’s you) to be the direct voice from the SMAB. Map out an action plan, and start small. It’s okay to start small. There’s no need to go out their guns blazing. Test the waters, see what works and understand that you will make mistakes.

Why? This is the hardest question, and I’ve caught myself asking this in the hardest moments. Why do this at all? Your answer can be, “Because I have to,” but it can’t end there. It’s how you finish that sentence that matters. I know that social media is a commitment, and yes, breaking down silos in your organization is frustrating and it’s hard work. Know your end goal, and know the impact that you’re making. Each person at your table might have their own reasons, but at least 1 of those, needs to be shared.

Does your company have a social media advisory board or something similar? If so, what have you experienced? Any tips?

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Posted on June 26, 2011, in Corp Comms, Leadership/Management, Marketing, Professional, Public Relations, social media, Web/Tech and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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