Considerations to Inform Your Social Content & Digital Communications Strategies There are plenty of consultants, former reporters & public relations firms who happily insist that your business or institution needs social media right away. Enterprises in the B2B and professional service sectors hear all the time from experts who tell them, with furrowed brows and worried tones, that they are lagging behind the latest social content and digital communication techniques. Amazingly, however, virtually all of these companies – including commercial and residential real estate developers, law firms, architects, designers, brokers, construction management companies, REITs and many others – have managed to attract clients, grow and make profits without this stuff for many years. The truth is the decision to “go social” should be the subject of some strategic reflection and planning. Solomon McCown provides a wide range of social media and digital communication programs for dozens of regional and national organizations in the real estate, health care, public affairs and non-profit fields. In our experience, there are five questions that clients need to answer before deciding how to devote their resources to a blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest and all the rest. 1. Why would we do this? In any strategic communications initiative, the most basic and most important of all decisions is to identify your objective. The answer may be qualitative: From a marketing perspective, we have the chance to create a reputational advantage through thought leadership. Or, it may be quantitative: We can use social or digital to generate leads for sales, tenants, leases or employees. Look closely at the context of your business as the first step. What you want to accomplish should align with and contribute to advancing your business goals, not just be “cool” or check-off an arbitrary box. 2. With whom would we engage? Now that you have identified what you want to get out of it, it's critical to determine whether you can get it with a reasonable investment of time and resources. The people you want to reach must be the kind of folks who value social media and digital communication to help inform and shape their preferences and decisions. This is a critical analysis in a B2B environment where connecting with industry and trade media is easy, but standing out among influencers and potential clients is hard. 3. What channels and platforms should we use? Since social media and digital tools are tactical, fitting the best ones to your overall marketing and communications strategy is important. Once you've decided who you want to engage and why, determine which methods of outreach and engagement make sense. Maybe You Tube is the best way to make your people known. Maybe Twitter can drive audiences to your insights. Perhaps Facebook can rally folks to your point of view. The answer depends largely on what your business or institution has to offer and the outcome you want. 4. What content will we use? This is the point at which most social and digital PR initiatives fail. These tools are designed to expose content – blog posts, videos, case studies, lessons learned, news releases, white papers, announcements, information, etc. Think of these channels and platforms as a small part of a giant, flowing river. You're trying to create a nice place along the banks for folks to catch your fish. Unless you're stocking the river consistently with quality social content, the people you're trying to reach are going to fish elsewhere. 5. How is this going to work? The final determination – and another crucial pivot point between success and failure – is to decide the framework and rules that will make your program self-sustaining, as well as strategically focused and operationally efficient. Setting a social media policy for your organization is recommended. Lay out the roles and responsibilities for monitoring the conversation in your industry; assessing relevancy; owning the voice and point of view; developing, editing and scheduling content; socializing the content; engaging or not engaging, etc. For many companies and organizations, especially in the B2B space, social content and digital communication won't necessarily make or break their business model. But, when executed correctly, these efforts can be a big plus by helping to build a reputation for thought leadership; to reinforce client purchase decisions; and, to attract attention from the media, influencers, prospective employees and allies. Rushing in and doing it wrong is worse than doing nothing. Think it through and retain a smart, experienced partner.