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A helpful book for social media leaders at large organizations

If you lead social media strategy for a large organization, here’s a must-read: The Social Media Strategist: Build a Successful Program from the Inside Out by Christopher Barger. Lots of great best practices and lessons learned from a seasoned pro who has guided successful programs at IBM and GM.

Barger does an excellent job of spelling out the internal structures and processes needed to transform an organization into a social business. For example, he talks in detail about two key players and their roles — the executive champion and the social media evangelist.  He explains the advantages and disadvantages of various departments owning social media. He talks about forging relationships with functions such as Legal to move an organization ahead. Areas such as social media policy, ROI and measurement and training are covered.

As Barger points out, these may not be the glamorous parts of the job — nearly as much fun as interacting with a blogger, giving a “rock star” presentation at a conference, or executing an exciting campaign — but they are critical.

As the social media evangelist at Catholic Health Partners, I find myself often doing the behind-the-scenes stuff that Barger describes. It was excellent to have him affirm some of what I’ve learned — and to pick up ideas based on the experiences he shares in the books.

Here are a few nuggets that I highlighted:

* “The true goal when building a brand’s social media program is to embed social media expertise and practice deep into the organizational DNA, as much a part of the brand as traditional marketing, advertising, or PR.”

* “…while you can’t control online conversations, you can influence them… they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt… Plus, your responses end up showing up in searches on the topic; if you’re not out there to counter unfair or inaccurate statements about your brand, the only thing Google or Bing will turn up is your critics.”

* “(Dell) ascribes (very few turf wars) to the culture of the company adopting social media as a business tool applicable across the entire organization rather than as a marketing tool, communications tool, or customer service tool.”

* “First and foremost, you should start not with an action but with a mind-set: by seeing social media as tools for the entire business, not just a marketing, PR or customer service tool.”

* “Before beginning a social media program and trying to measure its success, there are four fundamental questions to ask:

“1. What data will we be collecting? (Which metrics do we believe are the most important?)

“2. How will we be collecting it? (Which tools do we believe or find to be most effective in acquiring the data we’ve chosen?)

“3. What kind of analysis will we apply to it? (Will we report just raw numbers? What kind of insights are we hoping to get from the data once it’s collected, and how will we derive them from this data?)

“4. How will we report it? (Through what mechanisms will we distribute what we learn to the rest of the organization?)

I highlighted lots of other helpful info, too. If you’re in the same line of work as me, pick up the book and see what ends up in yellow on your pages.


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