The insider’s guide to social media consulting success

social media consulting success

By Mark Schaefer

When I have been asked for a proposal to create a social media marketing strategy for a company, I have won the business 95 percent of the time. That may seem remarkable but I’ve found there is one simple secret of social media consulting success and connecting with companies at this early stage of engagement.

Competing agencies typically try to impress by piecing together glossy, elaborate plans spanning from Facebook promotions to blasting out a Pinterest campaign.

I do no such thing.  In fact, I put together no plan at all.  I simply, and truthfully, tell the client that I don’t know what they need. And neither do they. We need to start with a foundational strategy (not an action plan) that is aligned with the company’s goals, and even more important, aligned with the company’s CULTURE.

Social media consulting success secrets

This is the difference between creating a glimmering strategy that crashes and burns on take-off, and a realistic strategy that can actually be accomplished and change the company.

In every organization there are five common hurdles to social media success. A critical step in the strategy development process is to provide a painfully honest assessment of these factors and the company’s ability to execute and sustain a social media marketing initiative. That is where the consulting process should begin — not picking out the colors for the Facebook page!

Assessing the social media “engine”

Here are the five critical components I assess before even thinking about creating a social media plan:

Budget and resources — Is the company willing to commit the proper financial and human resources to execute the right way, or are they just checking a box to create an image?  Do they seem committed to adopting “digital” as a business philosophy? How will they make this transformation?

Technology — I look at this very broadly. Is this a tech-savvy company eager to embrace new platforms or are they stuck in the 1990s? Are they fast and flexible, or ponderous in their approach to development? Have they erected security firewalls that will jeopardize success? Is the IT department a fortress resisting change or an agent propelling progress?

ROI and measurement — Does the company have a realistic view of the social media opportunity, or are they looking for immediate gratification? Are they willing to consider qualitative, as well as quantitative, measures of success? Do they even have measurement processes in place that we can build upon? Are they looking at this as a band-aid or a long-term strategy?

Legal — Can the Legal Department adjust to the new demands of the social web? Are they willing to push accountability down through the organization or will they have to approve every tweet?  Are they also willing to make the cultural adjustment necessary or will they “review” an initiative into oblivion?

Corporate culture/leadership — I mention this last, but it is not the least. In fact, it is most important of all. A corporate culture is very complex but is largely determined by the leadership of the organization. If the leadership does not understand, embrace, and become actively involved in the change, a social media initiative will never move past checking a box.  There is no such thing as a grassroots cultural change in a company> The leader has to be actively on board. Is the company culture customer-centric? Conservative? Slow to change? Nimble?

Now what?

Once you do this analysis, what do you do with it?

Creating an actionable and sustainable social media initiative requires all five of these building blocks to be in place. Think of these elements as integral parts of an engine. If even one part is not working, the car may start quickly, limp along for awhile, but ultimately sputter and stop.

So the strategy must be created in the context of the political reality of the company.  Perhaps the first step toward social media success is not starting a blog or Facebook page, but hosting a series of social media workshops to get everybody on the same page. Or maybe it’s one-on-one counseling with a leader, or creating an internal social media council.

Social media consulting success doesn’t start with a Facebook page, it begins (and perhaps ends) with corporate culture.  Agree? Do you see these landmines and opportunities at your companies too?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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