The playwright Eugene Ionesco may have had social media in mind when he wrote, “You can only predict things after they’ve happened.”
Much of the crystal ball gazing of digital soothsayers at the start of 2013 didn’t come to pass. So, no Mystic Meg-type prophesies from me this New Year.
Instead, I have an expectation that digital and social media will become even more deeply embedded in the communications strategies of major companies and organisations.
More than ever before, business leaders are grasping the importance of social media in protecting their company’s reputation and communicating a corporate vision.
In the past, many executives were left bamboozled by the terminology used by so-called social media experts (usually from the disciplines of IT or marketing). Some yielded to the pressure to launch social media initiatives that weren’t necessarily consistent with the overall strategy or goals for the business.
Now, there are signs that digital has moved from the lab to the boardroom and corporate leaders are demanding a more evidence-based and accountable approach to how online is deployed within the business.
With this in mind, here are some core principles which will drive the development of digital in 2014;
Narrative is number one. In a fast-moving communications environment, it’s easy to get lost in tactics and to lose control of your messages. Spend some time reviewing the core narrative of your organisation and asking “what do we want people to think about us”. Everything after that, content and messages, must flow from that central story.
Understand the purpose and role of each social channel. Start 2014 with an audit and review your digital footprint. I often find businesses are lazily reusing the same content across various channels without understanding that some of better suited to conversation, others are more appropriate for visual content and so on. Use data to understand how people are using a particular social channel and what content is driving views and shares? Then, use those insights to create and publish more relevant content.
Google is changing and remains your No1 shop window. As my colleague, Melissa Conibear has written, Google has made significant changes to its search algorithm which rewards high quality content matching long tail search terms. Start with your main website; is it user friendly (or full of corporate speak)? Are you creating content that matches what people want to know? This means understanding search, understanding what people’s questions are, and what terminology they use – and matching those needs with targetted content.
Social Sharing has never been more important. We know that audiences find information on the web through one of two routes: either looking for something (search) or people prompted into awareness (social media). The task, therefore, is to create content which is searchable and informative and to do so in ways and formats which encourage social sharing. Your aim is to get the information into the bloodstream of the major social media channels.
Engage to the level you are most comfortable. As we’ve said before, communications is no longer a one-way street. In a digital age, people expect every organisation, corporate and government, to engage around the messaging, to explain and respond, whether nor not there’s any legal imperative to do so. However, this doesn’t mean every CEO launching themselves on to Twitter at random (think Michael O’Leary). Frame any engagement around your comfort level, the external media environment, any regulatory barriers and internal resources.
Feel free to discuss any of this with me by getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy New Year!