Does Your Social Media Effort Have A Sound Strategy?

Community marketing budgets are under more pressure than ever before. The economic crisis and pull back of federal stimulus dollars have created a perfect storm that is forcing communities to decide on how to allocate constrained resources. In response, community marketers are turning to social media as a key component in their communication mix.

But, often the social media efforts launched by communities are poorly conceived and a significant drain on staff resources to maintain. Creating a Facebook page, LinkedIn group or blog on your website does not ensure success.

Like any other communication channel (print, email, radio, television, etc.), social media programs need to be created based on a sound strategic foundation. You need to have a clear vision for how the people participating in your social media efforts will help strengthen your community’s image. The connection between engagement and impact must be clear.

Creating an effort that leverages the influence of bloggers and has an opportunity to go viral can certainly help a community build its brand – if the program is strategically sound and well executed.

Here are three excellent private sector examples of social media efforts that are strategically well grounded and have potential to go viral:

P&G has recently launched a social media effort to touch lives and improve the life of people who are in need of clean water. Strategically, P&G is able to help strengthen both its corporate brand and PUR brand image.

http://mashable.com/2010/10/25/pg-water-widget/

GE has launched a social media campaign to help raise awareness of the value of energy conservation and alternative energy sources. The program will help build the GE corporate brand image and inspire innovative solutions to reduce global energy consumption.

http://mashable.com/2010/10/21/ge-tag-your-green/

Love 146 Round Home used a novel social media campaign to help build awareness of child slavery and exploitation. The effort will help build the Love 146 brand and set the stage for increased donations.

http://love146.org/send-valentine

Three key characteristics each of these examples have in common are:

  1. The underlying strategic objective is clear. In each execution, there is an easy to understand connection between the choice of social media and the desired outcome. Social media was not selected as simply and add-on component to the communication plan with the hope that it will make an impact.
  2. The execution is designed specifically for the media. Each campaign’s tactical elements are designed specifically to leverage the capability of the media. In the case of P&G’s water widget, they designed a tool that bloggers would conceivably use to help build traffic to their own site while helping P&G meet it’s image-enhancing objective. In the Love 146 program, the choice of an electronic card to pass along takes advantage of the viral nature of communities.
  3. Each execution has a strong emotional appeal. Providing clean water to communities, saving the planet, eliminating child slavery and exploitation. The strength of the emotional appeal is directly proportionate to the probability of follow-through by the community.

As you reflect on your own Organization’s social media efforts, is there a transparent strategy underpinning your decision to leverage the media? Does your program share any of the three common characteristics noted in the above examples?

Some additional reading you may find valuable on the effective use of social media include –

Making Sense of Social Media (Part 1)

Making Sense of Social Media (Part 2)

Making Sense of Social Media (Part 3)

Social Media Great Reads

Social Media Growing in Importance in Economic Development

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3 Comments so far

  1. Nostrand Park

    October 27, 2010

    My organization, Nostrand Park (www.nostrandpark.org), has actually used social media quite successfully to promote our district of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Social media is at the core of what we do – we call it “virtual placemaking”.

    Our website has a readership of 50,000. A number of our articles about the neighborhood have been referenced in esteemed media outlets such as the NY Times, RealDeal, and online stalwart Brownstoner. And we consistently receive inquiries from entrepreneurs, property owners, and other parties about opportunities to invest in the neighborhood. Prior to our launch, the media had virtually written off the neighborhood.

    We consider ourselves at the forefront of a new model of promoting economic development.

  2. T.J. Justice

    November 4, 2010

    The Switzerland County Recreation, Tourism and Convention Commission maintains a very active Facebook and Twitter fan site. It is used to promote events that encourage overnight stays but also as an interactive and fun tool for our residents.

    Like many other organizations, the Facebook logo is embroidered into many of our marketing pieces online and in hard copy.

    Just recently, I accepted a challenge from two neighboring counties to see which tourism office could gain the most new Facebook fans in the next 30 days. A treasure hunt will be held near the end of the 30-day period with clues given out only on Facebook to encourage interested people to become a fan. It’s intended to promote not just Switzerland County but Southeast Indiana’s wine trails, casino resorts, the Ohio River and other amenities.

    My staff maintains daily monitoring of numerous statistics to measure its efficiency which rates very high.

    I highly recommend that all economic development organizations create and MAINTAIN a Facebook and Twitter site. Four Corners is our next online venture!!!!

  3. Susan P.

    November 5, 2010

    A couple of comments.

    Firstly, congratulations to Nostrand Park if what they are doing is genuinely working for them and generating positive and renewed sense of community. Would appreciate staying connected with that.

    I see so many similar attempts fail – in fact, the internet is littered with sites that are only ‘just’ working (but very poorly) or that are still evident but, to all intents and purposes are dead.

    Reasons? I suspect some of the originators were very well intended but assumed: “If we build it, they will come”. So, someone designs a site to cater to X area and then, after the fact, tries to build community. In the main this strategy fails.

    Why? Well, the site appears an imposition and hasn’t talked to anyone in the community (or very few) prior to development. And, poor design – sometimes conflicting with businesses own sites – isn’t encouraging. AND, how does the set-up actually serve the community? Does the name of the site reflect the community? Many questions aren’t answered in the affirmative.

    I was involved with a company who developed a New York based travel app and that was very successful. I believe community/site based developments are going to become BIG in the short to medium term.

    Ed, in terms of the campaigns you name – and I have only looked at one of the two before coming here today – I wonder something….

    Some campaigns can look new (and ARE new for the company or even industry group) BUT, others have been doing work in a similar light for some years. In addition, there have been some wonderful developments in that area e.g. there is a drinking straw product that filters dirty water as you suck through it. That’s been available for close to a decade I think.

    I’d love to see major companies coming out with certain campaigns to actually celebrate what has been done before or what is going on in another areas. So, romancing innovation more broadly vs one single idea..?

    I suspect this would be a new way of being for some corporations who are more used to “Look at ME” when they advertise as opposed to “Look at US”.

    I believe there is room for one corporation out there to actually say…”we are going to launch Z BUT, we have drawn into this process Y, V and W because we can’t deny their ground breaking activities in this area”.

    That would appeal to me. I wonder, would it appeal to others? To corporate values (as they are stated)?

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