The days of social media activity residing alone in an organisation – enshrined in mystery like some sort of digital Pandora’s Box – should be numbered if not over altogether.
As John Gordon of New York’s Fenton Communications put it memorably in yesterday’s Social Media Today webinar: What are the metrics that matter in social media, “Social media should not be playing in its own sandbox”.
Gordon emphasised that any social media activity should fall in line with overall organisational goals. In other words, mixing the “yellow” of social media goals and blue of organisational goals should make the “green” of integrated goals; any other colour signifies potential chaos.
This is helpful especially when an unexpected event arises and an organisation’s response needs to be centred, consistent, coherent and in keeping with its corporate purpose. Such an event put the US organisation, Planned Parenthood’s social media approach to the test.
The provider of reproductive healthcare was faced with the withdrawal of breast screening funds from the Susan G.Koman for the Cure cancer foundation, following pressure from anti-abortion groups.
Heather Holdridge , director of digital strategy at Planned Parenthood, described the ensuing campaign, using Twitter and Facebook to inform its audiences of the cancer charity’s decision. The story went, literally, viral through social media channels, resulting in a user-generated Tumblr blog featuring women’s stories of how Planned Parenthood had helped them. Social media drove the debate for two days – during which time Planned Parenthood’s messages were consistent – and ended with Komen reversing its decision to cut funding.
John Gordon added: “Komen thought it could direct messages downwards but didn’t recognise people were going to respond in the way they did and didn’t have the channels or the relationships to respond.”
Fenton neatly sums up Planned Parenthood’s social media strategy as “See, Say, Feel, Do”:
Who is your audience?
Where are they?
What do you want them to do?
What do they want from you?
Messages, stories and insights that can be shared online quickly.
User comments, Twitter re-tweets personalised – described as the “gold dust created when people have internalised and endorsed your message through their own voice. It needs the right content to elicit that effect, such as the Tumblr blog in the Planned Parenthood example.
The actions your users take as a result of the above.
Ultimately, the artificial line that may have existed between digital communications activity and everything else in an organisation can’t be allowed to persist. Never mind playing in its own sandbox; digital needs lifting from the sandbox to play with everyone else.