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Social Media Learnings From the Front Lines

  |  January 25, 2012   |  Comments

Ten social media life lessons learned in the field.

There is nothing like experience to teach you some hard lessons. After numerous, successful social media launches, campaigns, and sweepstakes, our team has accumulated our share of well-earned bruises and scrapes. We have tried to learn from our experiences in order to alleviate some of the pain that can result and also to catalog a growing understanding of the best practices that drive brand results. Here are some of our social media life lessons.

Your clients (internal or external) are new to this and will react in predictable ways. They will be watching the pages intently, almost hourly, and may not know how to interpret what they see. They will expect daily or more frequent updates and reports on any metrics that they can't see, and they will need guidance. Is this a good response? Average? Poor? Be prepared in advance with a schedule of reporting that recognizes the need, particularly at launch, for regular updates and provide them with context on the results. Have a glossary of terms available to make your jargon understandable. Better yet, don't use jargon.

Plan for the impact of social media across channels. A social effort touches the website, the mobile experience, and most of the other social spaces. The strategy, budget, timeline, creative, and technology all need to be prepped in advance for those impacts. Don't forget to adjust your offline and digital media efforts to help support your social campaigns. Get a link and a line of copy into the print ad or FSI or even as a closing frame of the TV ad or radio spot. Produce new search ads and banner ads and rotate them into the digital media campaigns. Track the results.

Caution - good ideas tend to grow. It's critical to have the social media team and, in particular, the community managers who will be the face of the effort involved in the campaign strategy and formation. Have them map out all the touch points and implications of your core idea in advance of sign off to make sure you have accounted for all the impacts. It's very tough to resist the impulse to enhance or connect additional populations or channels mid-build when you could "just" add this one element to the campaign. That's how budgets are blown and unexpected consequences occur.

The technology will crack - just a little. Plan for it. Facebook will change something mid-campaign and consumers will mysteriously revert back to IE6 just to vex you. Be prepared to troubleshoot on an almost daily basis and think about posting the desired browsers and other environments that you built your app to support. Have your servers prepared for a ridiculous amount of traffic; more than you could ever hope for in your wildest dreams. Server capacity is cheap. Watching a promotion go down - even for a half hour - when response overwhelms the technology is a disheartening event.

Plan for the end of campaign before you launch. Does that app need to come down at midnight? Do you have the copy and graphics ready to transition? Did you change the corresponding images and copy on the website? Most importantly, how do you plan to continue to engage with your audience now that you have them fired up? Listening and collecting feedback will help you plan for what's next and apply your learnings as you move forward.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. If you're running a contest or sweeps, plan for more than just one grand prize winner with some instant wins, daily or weekly wins, or giveaways to spread the wealth and keep people engaged. If you have instant wins, make them something that has perceived value even if it's small. Digital downloads, screensavers, and ringtones may not fit the bill unless you have a truly passionate fan base or it's an entertainment brand.

Prepare everyone for the Negative Nellies. Clients struggle with a proportional response when they see some cranky person making negative comments about the brand, promotion, or campaign in the middle of their tightly planned social campaign. There will always be that one, probably several or more cranky souls if you have sufficient scale. Prepare clients in advance for this eventuality and let them know how you plan to handle the situation. Often other members of the community will begin to police and control the negative elements and, if at all possible, you should let them.

Be careful with absolute dates. Don't promise to announce something or do something on day X if you don't have 100 percent control of the timing. Winners of promotions, for example, often have a few days or a week to respond to notification in the rules. If they don't check their email or mistyped it in your form, you might need some extra time to get in touch with them or disqualify and replace them. In the meantime, your audience may be getting antsy waiting to find out who won. Awwkward…

Not all social media participants are created equal. If you're running a sweeps, you're going to draw some consumers who don't care about your brand, may unlike you shortly after you announce the winners, and who won't engage fully or at all with the community. To the extent that you are building a remarketing database, acknowledge and note those consumers who came to your brand through different doors so that you can create relevant messaging and promotions for them down the line.

Get your language squared away up front. If you play in a regulated industry or have other legal concerns, get clearance in advance for specific language you can use, but also ask for general guidelines that allow you to respond quickly in the unscripted world of social media. You simply won't have time to play phone tag with the legal team before you post responses. Even if yours isn't a legal concern, it's still a good idea to have some sample language vetted by the key stakeholders to make sure everyone has the same idea on messaging and voice. This allows your community managers the autonomy they need to react and respond.

Social media is a quickly evolving space, and consumers, vendors, partners, and brands are all learning and adjusting together. What lessons has social media taught you?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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