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 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.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Social Media 201”

  1. David

    Thanks, I see this, I’ll be addressing some of these in upcoming posts, and many of them are already answered in Forrester reports.

    Also, this plays to your social media 101, 201, 301. The years are wrong, but the questions still are still very relevant

    I tag some of my more advanced classes/posts ‘web strategy’

    Expect to see me adding to your questions in the future, thanks.

  2. The reason I read people I trust to report trends in social media is to see what course i can comfortably chart given my style and interests.
    What turns me off is a repeated rehashiong of basics and then watching people try and capitalize on an oportunity with elemental tactics an old ionformation, and then using blogs to record their activities.
    It’s time for the pros to step up and for the semipros to go out and try to manage some farm clubs out in the heartland.
    Some of the most insightful conversations I”ve been a part of have been at the 3rd and 4th year college level at various universities here in southern California. And among those, a couple that have stood out include: a twop hour lecture on what bag biz majors should and can do to develop blogs aimed at , local, state and federal bodies; and the opportunity seed and supply makers can do to encourage blogging on their sites from trusted “farmers” and agriculturalists. In both of these discussions the participants suggested that blogging should include hard data presented in easily recognized, compelling formats, and that data links in such blogs need to be dynamic.

  3. David,

    So much great material to shoot at. For brevity, I’d like to talk about #2 and #10. I know you hate the royal we. I find it a challenge when blogging on behalf of my employer or representing that employer’s interest in communications to customers online. The alternative to “We” seems to be “I”. That’s fine for expressing opinion, but comes off sounding rather pretentious and regal in it’s own regard.

    To much of the “I” and I begin to sound like I’m the CEO, when I’m anything but. I keep my broom out of sight, but you see how many keys are on my key ring don’t you? You know what that means…stay off the floor, I just mopped.

    The other risk is transferrence. I’m supposed to be building customer affinity for my supplier, but sometimes the comments comeback as “Thanks for shaking the dingbats out of my widget – You Rock, but I still think Newco sucks…”

    Which leads me to #10….
    When you become the SMM guru, and memos go out saying that your the man, and everything should be routed to you to deal with. Well…pretty soon your in box gets flooded by every joe and jane employee who just subscribed to google alerts and want to help you out by sending along whatever turd just popped up, and of course management from all corners of the organization subscribes too, and has interest in what your doing about each one they found..and they have opinions and perhaps directives about it. How to avoid the horrific “group edit” of a post.

  4. Your list and impatience with the SM bland pundits is refreshing. These are all issues we are wrestling everyday beacuse we are actuaqlly doing the work. Not the least of these is the measurement challenge. Yes, I am tired of the promise behind the “engagement word. What I really object to is the ARF using engagement as a measure of really neat advertising (e.g. time spent looking at an ad). There are a lot of good folks beside ourselves trying to come up with an adult measure for social media-based WOM – Nuconomy, BzzAgent, WOMMA. The metrics will include numbers like comments and posts, time spent, pos/neg/neutral, etc… but in the interests of simplicity, we need to find the three numbers that matter most or we need to roll up the many numbers into a measure that you and other marketers would agree is generally useful. For now, we use custom KPIs (jargon watch: key performance indicators) that include the type of granular information you mention. That works – but is not a standard. Interestingly, we see more andmore marketing measurement programs moving away from standards towards custom, relevant KPIs. I still believe SMM or WOMM needs a simple stadard we can all generally accept (and place monetary value around).

    We need more diligence from SM pros. We need harder work wrestling with problems enocuntered by those of us actually doing the work – creating strategy, executing it and learning along the way. The armchair pundits are a dime a dozen. We need SM 201, 301 and AP-level.

  5. Salue David

    As John says, custom KPIs (jargon watch: key performance indicators) can do a lot but unfortunately, I still feel that we need some measures that help us do better when it comes to metrics.

    I am working on a quick way to measure a blog’s value added (but from the reader’s perspective). Also I have a tentative measure for impact but it is a partial one only.
    We (myself and the techie 🙂 ) are working on the online tool to allow you all to go and benchmark your blogs (

    One vs many: a single corporate blog or many? this is difficult to address and even if one says we have one corporate blog only and the woman is our CEO and writes using I 😉 what about all the blogs from people like you David. This is not a corporate blog but there is a lot about your work in it. Ooops and Jeremiah Owyang, his blog is pretty much his but pushing Forrester nonetheless, is it not.

    I am not sure how to control this but I am certain that one corporate blog will not work because of all the people blogging about their work on their own sites such as you David.

    Thanks for this interesting post I found via John Bell’s blog.

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