Whereabouts – Week of March 3

Monday – 3.3 Cotuit

Tuesday – 3.4  New York City

Wednesday-Friday 3.5-7 North Carolina

Big travel week – NYC for some Olympic discussions, then HQ for some HR and fiscal 09 planning. I’m booked to Bangalore on Sunday but may cancel due to persistent vertigo/migraine stuff. Need to get checked out before I can consider the big plane ride.

Social Media 201

I guess I stepped in the big cow-pie last week when I called out the SMM Pundits for overworking the elementary level of social media discourse – “be authentic!” “be transparent!” “it’s a conversation!” – as 101 Thumbsuckers. Now I am officially Mister SmartyPants 201 and feel compelled to play the part of know-it-all weenie. I guest blogged on a sample “201” topic for Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester on how to avoid blowing a corporate policy through a private action. I also threatened to give Jeremiah a list of example topics I want to see more discussion on. Here we go. In the Kawasakian Tradition of Blog Lists: here are ten random things that I don’t see a lot of discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms: what tools a corporation uses for its social media platform says volumes about its credibility. I look at the footers: Is it a WordPress blog? Do they use Flickr for their photos? Do they license those photos as Creative Commons 2.5? Do they use MediaWiki for their wiki platform? Do they launder their feeds through Feedburner? Are there Digg and del.icio.us tagging tools? There are smart tools which to me indicate a deep understanding of certain basic precepts crucial to effective SMM. Are the tools favored by the organization also widely adopted by users or did the company seek a commercial vendor relationship and non-standard proprietary tools? Is an agency supporting and providing sysadmin functions?
  2. Pronouns: I have a bug up my you-know-what about the overuse of the Royal We in addressing one’s audience. Am I alone in viewing “we” as an attempt to dilute personal accountability for an organization’s actions? How many corporate SMM, community managers take accountability and responsibility on their shoulders by using “me” and “I?”
  3. Metrics: this is a 101 topic that is a 301 headache. SMM has no Internet Advertising Bureau or Web Analytics Association to codify a set of uniform measurements, and as all of us have to bow to the God of Accountability, how ROI is proven is going to be debated forever and ever. Let’s get off the “engagement” thing and go to the next level. Is it comment counts? Rank and influence? Pageviews and gross tonnage? Net Promoter Scores gathered through surveys?
  4. Rogue SMM: what do you do when a member of the organization launches into a blog brawl by stepping into a customer’s comments and says, “Blow it out your #$%, you have no idea what you are talking about you whiny $*%#%$@!” How can you manage the unmanageable? How do you keep you employees from editing the Wikipedia entry for your brand? What do you do when legal and security ask you to help them track down the identity of an anonymous employee blogger who is leaking company secrets? How do you educate rather than discipline?
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right: how do you promote favorable expressions about your brand and should you? When is it ethical to promote a piece of social media (e.g. “Digging”) and when is it unethical? (demoting a negative comment or flagging a negative comment as “objectionable” without identifying yourself. Knocking off hats to draw attention to yourself (something I a good at, it would appear.)
  6. Going Uplevel: what are your escalation paths? When do you pull the fire alarm? When do you declare Code Red and ask for all hands on deck in resolving an SMM crisis? Have you established crisis “service level agreements” with the legal and PR teams? Is there a formal mechanism for bringing an issue to the attention of an owner and getting a public statement out within a reasonable amount of time?
  7. Organizational Ownership: where does SMM belong? Customer service? Marketing? Public relations? All three?
  8. One vs many: a single corporate blog or many? How does SMM loosen control without losing control over the organization’s burgeoning ranks of bloggers? Where do you drawn the line between corporate and personal blogs.
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems: how do your SMM statements (blog posts, forum discussions) get vetted and approved? Should they? How do you make your bloggers sensitive to the “RSS is eternal” phenomenon so that there is no such thing as a “deleted” post. Do you use a buddy system.
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all: okay, you’re the authority. You’ve done the Social Media 101 stuff, you’ve read the books, you went to the conference, you have all the right pundits in your RSS. You can b.s. about transparency and Marketing 2.0 and the ClueTrain with the best of them. You get your wish and now you’re the SMM person. How do you deal with those less enlightened recesses of the organization that view you as a loose cannon? Who do you threaten? How do you navigate the shoals of internal politics?

I could do ten more – throwing out topics is easy — delivering something substantial and actionable is another issue altogether. If 101 is theory and broad practice, 201 is operations and execution, the sort of stuff you’re going to stumble into as you go along. Dealing with customers and partners, critics and competitors – that stuff is either natural or it isn’t. Writing a solid corporate Social Media Marketing strategy document, knowing the difference between it and an SMM policy document, building a strong operation without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in licenses and agency fees …. That’s SMM 201. I’ll try to tackle one of these every week – amidst posts about clams, the King Phillip War, sculling, and interactive/digital marketing. And, in the spirit of 101 advice, always end your blog posts with a call to action to your audience: tell me what is on your mind.