“Even if you never post, social should be part of your communications strategy,” read Matt Staub’s opening slide at a recent Greater Kansas City Public Relations Society event. The statement elicits the given reaction of “Why?” The rest of Staub’s presentation went on to explain the usefulness of social media, and twitter specifically, in both everyday and crisis communications.
Part of the magic of social media is the plethora of information it aggregates. Some people have praise, some people have criticism, sometimes it is hard to tell which is which because in comes the sentiment associated with different personalities and different perspectives. Via strategic search building through, organizations can really dive into what the general population cares about. Staub walked through a few different mechanisms for building these searches, but recommended first beginning with Twitter’s native advanced search. Incredibly useful and complex searches can render a significant benefit to the search builder if done correctly. The insights garnered from searches like this are only limited by the imagination, said Staub, and even better, the findings are all in natural language. It could be sarcasm, it could be slang, it could be raw, unfiltered opinions, but all of the findings are what people really think and feel about what you care about.
For organizations, this means social can be an early warning sign of what may be wrong, said Staub. Monitoring social and taking into account the real problems people are having with a product or the challenge they are having finding information can help the organization really understand what changes need to be made. Plus, it is culturally acceptable, said Staub, to engage in a discussion happening on twitter: that’s the point of public tweets. Even when a brand engages, it isn’t frowned upon, it is still cool. And, as general themes keep appearing, the organization can extend the way they respond into other digital venues such as blogs. If there is a question that continually gets asked on twitter, FAQ blog posts provide a simple solution.
When an organization decides to engage from a social standpoint, though, there are table stakes that Staub laid out.
- Policies and procedures are imperative as they align everyone on the strategy and goals of what can and cannot be shared and talked about. Disclosure guidelines are part of this.
- Back-channel connections must be developed to make sure everyone knows what each teammates roles is in the operation.
- Social media very rarely works well without bold transparency. The social audience is used to information and lots of it. Organizations that succeed are authentic and honest.
- If the first three components are in place, liberation of the social team can be done with more confidence. Give those who own the channels the opportunity to represent the organization in good times and in bad.
Social media is here to stay. At this point, it is up to organizations to determine not whether it will be part of their communications strategy, but rather how it will be.