Tag social media

Social Media Playbooks

11 common themes of the best social media playbooks

We’re often asked to put together social media strategies for our clients, and then to make them as practical as possible – to develop a social media playbook (although I hate that term)

So what does a good social media playbook involve?

Obviously it varies dependent on individual clients and objectives, but in practice there are a number of themes which are fairly consistent. I thought it would be useful to share the 11 common themes of the best social media playbooks, based on our own methodology and approach.

  1. Define objectives (based on business objectives, but with more than a nod to communications objectives)
  2. Identify target audiences
  3. Audit existing channels against objectives and target audiences
  4. Refresh or write social media policy
  5. Develop and agree content themes, and % of created v curated content
  6. Define roles, responsibilities and set up teams/tools/processes for listening, content-creation, engagement, escalation and reporting
  7. Develop tone of voice guidelines, and copywriting/technical guidelines for each of your social channels
  8. Create a process to produce and regularly update and approve content plans
  9. Establish a triage and response methodology, including classification of content and individuals who engage with you, workflows, response timelines and approval processes, and associated KPIs
  10. Create an evaluation methodology which recognises the right mix of ROI and other business objectives
  11. Refresh escalation and crisis communications processes (or start them from scratch)

This is clearly just a framework, but I figured it’s worth sharing, particularly as I think it sits very comfortably with social media playbooks from the likes of GDS, Cisco, and Salesforce [registration required].

I’m sure there are other really good playbooks around – if I should link to any more, let me know.


One algorithm for influence? You’re having a laugh…

Understanding and measuring influence has vexed social media communicators for years.

Two good places to start would be the release of Brian Solis/Altimeter’s “how to” guide, The Rise of Digital Influence on 21 March, and last week’s panel debate (22 March 2012) at the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit, featuring Leo Ryan (group head of social at Ogilvy), Andrew Grill (UK CEO of Kred), Bonin Bough (global head of digital at Kraft), Philip Sheldrake (Author – The Business of Influence), and Joanna Geary (digital development editor at Guardian News and Media).

But neither one will nail it. Because trying to find a single algorithm to measure influence is like trying to nail jelly to a wall. Fun trying. Maybe a degree of success, but you’re going to basically end up in a bit of a mess.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It just means that you shouldn’t rely on a single algorithm. Your mix of qual and quant tools and analytics has to have the right balance. Algorithms should be the starting point, not the end point.

And above all, it means you need to ask the right question to start with. You need to know exactly what you’re trying to measure, why you’re trying to measure it. And what all the proxies are along the way. Quite separate to that you need to ensure your tools aren’t being gamed – which they all are to a greater or lesser extent.

Yes, it’s possible to use tools like Peer Index, or Klout (or younger and better upstart Kred) to put a measure on ‘influence’, but influence always depends on the context of the question. By way of analogy, which of those tools would tell us: Who is the most influential journalist when it comes to reporting last week’s budget? Or even, which is the most influential newspaper, or broadcast channel? It all depends on who’s asking, and why they’re asking. Ask five different people, you’ll get five different answers, depending on their different perspectives. There’s no way an algorithm can answer the question and get it ‘right’.

Back in the day some people used to think that content is king. Then it became conversation. Now it’s context. While empirical data is always useful, it is shortsighted to run any ‘influencer’ campaign based on that data alone. And naive to base it on any one number which is spat out by an influence-identification tool without understanding individuals’ pre-disposition and motivation alongside it, as well as desired outcomes.

Brian Solis is right when he writes: Before you start to even try and measure influence, you need to understand what you want to achieve at the end of the process.

Which – hang on – is exactly what good PR people have been doing for years. Using a mix of qual and quant data, and a decent brief.

I’ve lost track of the number of stakeholder maps I’ve helped draw up using a combination of readership figures, demographics, gut feel and (the missing link with most of these tools apart from Kred) that stakeholder’s willingness to listen/participate – “to be influenced” if you like.

So I was disappointed to see that Klout featured so heavily in the Altimeter case studies. It’s an incredibly blunt tool, and extremely easily gamed. And it takes no account of people’s ‘receptiveness’ to what is essentially a PR approach. People who know their own Klout score know what’s expected of them when they’re invited to something. There is still no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free status update.

I therefore hope that the case studies were actually much more sophisticated than they’ve been presented. From my experience, all the UK mobile phone networks are already significantly more advanced in their social CRM and influencer engagement than the Windows Phone case study. And Nokia have been running a textbook influencer-engagement programme with 1000 Heads for years.

Having said that, though, Altimeter’s Influence Action Plan is spot on – maybe because it reads to me as a decent guide to running an effective PR campaign. The only thing that’s different compared to 5 years ago is the scale and the channels/tools to reach people. And while there are now tools to help measure influence which can cope with this recent change in scale and channels, I worry that the more the process is automated (i.e. based exclusively on Klout scores) the blunter and ultimately less effective it becomes.

I’m willing the tools to get better, I really am. Altimeter’s reviews and feature trackers are really useful in picking out some of the highlights. But those tools are never going to be as effective as people within organisations having a relationship with the people they are trying to influence – the ‘permeability’ that, as a social business consultant, I’m helping clients develop on a daily basis.

Yes, use the tools can help identify potential influencers. But those tools are better used, in my opinion, as a starting point for further research, not as a definitive list. Simply using an algorithmic tool to start a ‘transactional’ relationship will (as Dinah Boyd acknowledges) kickstart the Heisenburg uncertainty principle – just as professional ‘compers’ have mastered the “RT to win” phrase on Twitter.

Influence totally depends on content, context and nuance. That’s the problem with trying to measure it. Tools can help. But – although it’s time-consuming – eyeballs and gut feel should always play a bigger part in doing so.


(This is a version of a post originally written for Social Media Influence)

2012 – Social Business predictions

We’ve all had fun (well, all apart from him), but the party season is now over.

At the same time, social business is now coming of age – and growing up quickly

I know I’ve been a touch quiet on the blogging front recently (mostly due to being extremely busy), but it seems only right to start January by publishing a few predictions about what 2012 might hold for social business/social media.

I’ll be posting a series of social media/social business predictions in total over the next few days, in no particular order, but a few a day. As ever, comments very welcome…


Enterprise versions of Google+ and Facebook will bring social business tools (if not thinking) into the mainstream

People will get more used to sharing information within organisations in a manner which does NOT rely on email – a trend exascerbated by the influx of Gen-Y and beyond employees. Email will not die – far from it, it’s still the document of record for back-coverers everywhere, but the providers of tools for social business – in particular Google+ – will have a very good year. Especially if they can sort out the ugly UI.


Organisations will radically streamline their social media presences

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent research suggested that the average organisation has 178 different social media accounts. These will have to be streamlined, and ownership/management will tend to be brought into the centre of businesses before being devolved to business units again once

The ‘Centre of Excellence’ model/hub-and-spoke leading to ‘dandelion’ approach will become ever more common.


Community Management will rightly start to be seen as a subset of Content Planning.

The more platforms that an organisation is active across, the more thought needs to go into the roles for each of those platforms (including the audiences targeted and communities served). It simply won’t be good enough to replicate your Facebook posts on Google+, Twitter, Path, etc. etc


Is your business ready for its social crisis?

We’ve been doing a fair bit of work with companies recently, helping them to dovetail social media and crisis response protocols for when the inevitable arises.

I’ve got form in this space: from my media-focused crisis communications experience in PR (cutting my teeth in the BBC during September 11th, then helping to run London’s Congestion Charging PR campaign), to then being called in by Eurostar to help them out with their sn0w-induced operational and social media crisis in Christmas 2009.

So this report naturally caught my eye. And I have to say, agree with pretty much every word in it.

Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group, undoubtedly one of the foremost thinkers in the social media space recently published a review of the state of readiness amongst 140+ organisations with 1000+ employees, and found a distinct lack of readiness across the board – apart from some of the very largest organisations.

Their starting point is this:

We define a social media crisis as a crises issue that arises in or is amplified by social media, and results in negative mainstream media coverage, a change in business process, or financial loss.

And one of his conclusions – that there is a significant amount that most organisations could do to better prepare themselves for a crisis is undoubtedly one we’d agree with 100%.

Which is, I guess, one of the reasons that we’re very busy in this space recently.

The full report is here – well worth a read…

And if you’d like to talk about how your organisation can better join up your social media and crisis response teams, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Crisis communications *is* social

I’m on the platform tomorrow at Social Media Influence, talking about social media and crisis communications.

I’ve always got a lot out of SMI conferences in previous years, both as a delegate, and from the platform, so I expect tomorrow’s to be the same.

As far as I’m concerned, good crisis communications using social media channels is no different from good communications using ‘traditional’ media. In fact, the internal structures required to deal with a crisis perfectly map the best structures for dealing with social media per se, given the ‘always on’ nature of social.

My experience as a PR for BBC News during (and after) 9/11, and then running TfL’s media relations during the introduction of the congestion charge, and more recently helping Eurostar during their snow-induced crisis least year taught me that you need three distinct teams to operate effectively during a crisis.

  • One team to listen/monitor both internal and external commentary
  • A second to prepare collateral (both original material, and responses where appropriate)
  • And a third to distribute that material


Yes, the channels have changed (from PA and broadcasters to your own site and then cascaded out via Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, as well as PA/broadcast) and the speed of response has changed,  but the overall approach remains the same. Gather information, shape it, then distribute it. And the adage ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ remains – a theme I picked up in my piece for Reputation Online just before I was seconded in to Eurostar’s corporate comms team to establish and structure their pan-European corporate social media presence.

If you’re there, come and say hi.