As social capabilities mature they become like any other business process or work flow and need to be documented as such.
Let me first start by saying there is such a thing as good process and bad process. I recently read this post on being a slave to process over on Overit.com and a lot of it resonated with me. I highly suggest giving that a read as you're building out your own process documentation. It should help you avoid some pitfalls.
Even in smaller organizations process is important and worth investment. Processes are designed to increase efficiency, ensure consistency and provide guidance and empowerment to staff. As the writer at Overit emphasizes however, flexibility is key to any process. No two situations in social will be the same and enabling your employees by building flexibility into the plans and culture will help prevent your team from becoming a slave to any process.
With all of that said, let's take a look at some of the processes you may want to build out and document for your organization in order to increase efficiency, maintain consistency and aid in turnover or attrition.
One of the most powerful aspects of social media is listening and the associated insights. All too often we see organizations set up a listening effort but with no formalized reporting structure the information goes nowhere. The insights are not digested and spread throughout for all to take advantage of.
There are really two components to listening that require action:
a. Insights: You've got your listening tool all set up and even reports built out. Your dashboards are simply gleaming. Now. Now what do you do with it?
It's time to layout your reporting structure and cadence. Who needs to see what, and how often? Document this to help ensure it happens. Make sure the recipient is involved as well. They can help you determine what is actually helpful information for them and how often they are going to want to see it. Give them too much too often, and suddenly your hard work turns to noise and has zero impact.
b. Engagement: One of the core components to having a social presence is to listen AND engage with your audience. People are out there talking about your products or brand and you should be there to engage with them when they do.
Much like what you'll do for your Crisis Management procedures it's best to try and document different types of posts you're likely to see and respond to. This allows you to then craft typical responses that will provide guidance to the community managers.
You want to take your brand voice and level of personality your community managers are allowed but giving them suggestions on how to handle different engagements will help ensure consistency.
Advocates and Influencers are two different animals. They're like unicorns and narwhals. Only…you know…less mythical. Equally different and shocking similar. A somewhat popular infographic that attempts to distinguish the two can be found here. I do think that it over simplifies things and there are nuances that it skips over as well as marginalizing the influencer. however, it does give you an idea of the differences between the two.
c. Identification: Document the process of finding each of these types of users.
The processes may be similar but they will be different. You may use different tools and will surely use different criteria.
Documenting this process will also help you solidify what is important and (perhaps more importantly) WHY its important to your efforts.
d. Engagement: While every influencer and advocate will be different you ought to document at least your approach in outreach if not the exact methodology. (This is where that flexibility will come into place, particularly on social since there are so many potential channels this outreach will take place on.)
Having this documentation will help you scale your efforts, and help you create a paper trail for regulatory and organizational purposes.
e. Activation: Documenting the program itself and how you actually plan on activating these groups is critical.
The FTC has recently made very clear their stance on disclosure. You'll want to be familiar with this before outlining your program.
But a part of protecting your business will definitely become documentation of your outreach efforts.
f. Refresh: Part of any documentation and process should be a review process. Whether this is done on a quarterly or annual basis depends largely on your business and the program you have set up.
Regardless however, you will want to build this in to ensure your identification criteria are still helping you meet your goals, your program governance aligns with your goals and your target advocates/influencers are still on point.
Content Lifecycle Management
Content marketing has been getting a lot of attention lately. If you're just getting started I highly recommend checking out Content Strategy for the Web. There is a great deal of information in that book that will help you begin to define your overall content strategy. In terms of process only however, I suggest taking a look at:
a) Inputs: What data points are you using to make content decisions?
If search and social data aren't both in there you might want to review that process.
b) Success Metrics: Different content on your website will map to different points in the sales funnel.
Know which pieces of content are designed to do what and how you intend on measuring that. Mapping this process out can save you major headaches and chaos down the road.
c) Conversion Rate: This is very closely related to the previous. Now that you know what success looks like for each page or content type, how is it converting on that goal?
Have a documented process in place to ensure you know whether or not our content is converting. This begins to form the basis for your test:iterate model.
d) Freshness: There's little else more frustrating for a user than landing on a piece of content that is out of date, or a product page for an item that's no longer available. While this isn't strictly social in nature, there are definitely social implications.
Consider the freshness process you have for product pages and the like and how you could translate that to other content on your site. Where you might 302/301 a product page, you're going to want to come up with a different solution for, say, blog content. But it will need to be addressed regardless. (Hint: Don't delete obsolete blog posts, rather add an update pointing to a more up to date/accurate post.)
Product Feedback (Closed Loop)
There is a lot of research and process that goes into capturing product feedback that we're not going to address here. however we do want make particular note of the role social media can play in gathering and engaging with your customers around their product feedback.
a) Listening: The easiest way to gather this feedback is to leverage the listening processes you've already put into place.
Listening tools such as Radian6 or Sysomos are perfectly suited to capture and analyze conversations around your products. Build this into your existing workflows (with some minor tweaks to profiles for specific product language) and you're on your way!
b) Co-creation and Ideation: This particular tactic can be as simple as requesting feedback via a form, or as complicated as creating a web portal or forum where customers can interact directly with product managers around feedback and feature requests.
The most important thing to remember is the importance of closing the loop. Asking for feedback tells the customer you care and want their input. Ignoring that information and not closing the loop with them will leave them experiencing a lack of faith and trust. Don't do that. Build the feedback into the process.
Perhaps one of the most important processes to document (and socialize) is the crisis management plan for your company. Now, most companies of a medium to large size may already have a crisis communications plan in place. Smaller companies tend to less frequently, but that's not to say it isn't just as good an idea or just as important.
a) Identification of a crisis event. What are the thresholds you are looking for? How are you monitoring so you know when you hit them?
b) Escalation. When you've identified the event and the level of severity you next need to understand the escalation path and who to get involved.
c) Resolution and Response: This process will be very similar to the engagement workflow but will likely involve folks higher up in the organization depending on the level of severity. Having processes in place to get executives involved at the right time is key.
d) Recovery: This is perhaps the most difficult portion of crisis management to document because it will greatly depend on the event and the repercussions.
Being aware and honest with leadership that there will be a recovery period, and building this into the documentation plan can go along way towards gaining the latitude needed to take required action. It's worth noting that it may be the case that no action is the best action.
Knowing when to stay quiet is just as important as knowing when to make a statement.
e) Prevention: After a crisis has come and gone it is time to visit the event for learning's.
Having this built into the process in a documented fashion will help to ensure that some sort of post-mortem does officially occur and the organization is able to learn from the findings. This forces prevention to be built into operations.
Whenever an employee exits the organization there are going to be processes involved. Usually this involves handing over of technology, exit interviews, termination letters and the like. With the increasing use of social media at work there are other considerations at play and processes need to adapt.
While you're already looking at the tools they had access to, take a deeper look at social accounts they may have had access to as well. Make it a regular process to evaluate this and change credentials when necessary.
One of the most important components to nearly any process is that it has an owner. If there isn't a dedicated person/team responsible for creating, and owning the actual process it will die. If it's everyone's job, it is no ones job. Make it someone's job.
So you're not sold on why you should invest all of this time documenting these processes? Here are some good reasons: People quit, then get fired, people get promoted out of roles, law suits happen, federal regulations change, investigations are brought, and waste happens. Take the time and safeguard your investment, people, company and customer.
Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.