Developing a social media strategy?

If you’re looking to develop a social media strategy let me just stop you right there. Don’t. Start off by revisiting what it is your organisation does; look at its vision, mission and strategy. Once you’re clear on that and the way in which your department/faculty/service supports that strategy, only then should you really start to consider a communications strategy. Social media is a method of communication and quite frankly won’t be used by your whole audience. It does have its advantages over traditional media but they’re to be ignored at your own peril.

This post outlines some of my learning from a recent workshop led by Tracy Playle (Pickle Jar Communications) and my experience of developing (ongoing) Jisc infoNet’s communications strategy.

Catalyst for reviewing your organisation’s strategic objectives

When we began to develop our communications strategy we immediately started to question our service’s strategic objectives as currently stated. Are they clear enough – Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-constrained (SMART)? The short answer to this question was not particularly. To make things simpler a colleague of mine asked the question “if we were a shop and someone came in what would we have to offer?” This really helped us to clarify and simplify how we phrase what it is we do. In my mind it comes down to the following, we:

  • Develop information, advice and guidance
  • Problem-solve
  • Provide staff development opportunities
  • Manage programmes and projects
  • Undertake research

We already had this ‘kind of’ defined but perhaps not as clearly as this. From here we have started to develop a more comprehensive list of indicators and targets which we can use to assess how well we’re doing in each of the areas. There is still some work to do on these, however we can now begin to clearly articulate where different communication channels can help us to achieve our targets. Reassuringly, this aligned very closely to the advice given in the workshop.

What’s available?

The workshop we attended didn’t focus too much on individual tools, rather we looked at the different types of social media tools that could be used to communicate with our audience. The types of tools our group came up with consisted of:

  • Social/Business Networks
  • Blogs/Microblogs
  • Forums
  • Image/Video sharing (also creation)
  • Location-based
  • Content curation
  • Mobile apps
  • Webinars
  • Slidecasts
  • Social gaming

I think some of them could be grouped together and I’d probably add in collaboration tools but other than that it’s a pretty comprehensive list. I think focusing on type as opposed to a tool is quite important as the focus should be around practice. Tools come and go and we should be wary of that. Focusing on practice will put us in a good position going forward.

Next steps…

Audience profiling

One of the biggest lessons that came out of the Pickle Jar Communications workshop for me was the idea of audience profiling. As a team, we’ve developed a fantastic stakeholder analysis which provides a whole raft of information on key stakeholders and their communications channels however we’ve never really drilled down into the behaviour of specific individuals eg a user’s journey when booking a workshop. It kind of ties in with the idea of service design in my mind. In mapping the user’s journey you can gain a clearer understanding of the key interactions and begin to identify whether they can be introduced earlier in the process through other means – perhaps a YouTube video of a previous consumer outlining what they got out of the event up front on the website.

Campaign ideas

For me there are two sides to communications. On the one hand you’re focusing on identity and having a presence in the outside world. On the other hand it’s about setting up specific campaigns to help support your organisational objectives. On the train home from the workshop my colleague and I began to brainstorm some ideas. Will we get the go-ahead? Keep an eye out for the next instalment of our journey into the complex world of marketing and communications.