10 Rules For Social Media from the Army Reserve’s Chief of Social Media

Posted February 29, 2012 by

LTC Andrew Morton, Army ReserveBy LTC Andrew Morton, Chief of Social Media / Web, U.S. Army Reserve

  1. Develop a “Plan on a Page”– Before you sign up for Facebook , twitter, LinkedIn or any platform you must evaluate who your audience is (internal and external), what your organization’s key communications goals are, and what’s your desired “end state”. Having a Facebook page is not a social media strategy it’s a reactionary effort to “keep up with the Jones.” Communications plans are a key part of any corporation’s strategy and social media is not immune to this step.
  2. Integrate with all other mediums– Don’t “Work in a vacuum”- Continually ask how you can integrate with the other mediums (your media team, outreach/ events team, executive communications, etc). If your senior executive is doing a media interview he should be plugging your social media sites, and if the chief of corporate policy is sending out an internal communications directive she should be “asking for feedback” via your internal social media channels. Never miss an opportunity to plug and promote your sites through all your organization’s media executions and outlets!
  3. Plan for Success, not for Failure!– Ask yourself “what happens if we are successful?”- If your defined end state is an active community of followers then you must have the community management team in place before you start. By creating content that’s engaging and you’ll develop an audience that’s active. You must have a plan to sustain the needs of your community before you start.
  4. Decentralize your efforts– Social Media is not an “Empire”..It’s a “Republic.” That means having 2-3 people in one room as your sole moderators, content creators and strategists is a recipe for failure, i.e. not sustainable. You have to train each of your departments to be capable of providing content, being able to engage when necessary, and to have an understanding of these requirements in today’s environment (i.e. no 3-day waiting period for HR to get back to you on a relevant question that your followers are asking). This decentralization takes Training, Trust and Tact (See later tips for more on those).
  5. Curate content that’s “Real and Relevant”– If you are trying to get people to understand what it’s like to work for your organization don’t have your Chief of Communications tell them in a packaged piece…Get an employee to tell his/ her story anecdotally and candidly. Whether it’s video or blogging people want to know what it’s like from those who live it. Finding the right story tellers is a lot easier than you may think..Once you’ve established internal channels for people to share their thoughts on work policies and practices you will start to see many stories that are ready for use within your external audience.
  6. Don’t Practice Web 1.5– Don’t treat your corporate presence within social media as a direct extension of your “brand ground”- i.e. your corporate website. You must foster real and responsive posts, and foster engaging dialogue (within a certain decorum of course)..If you try and re-purpose that one-way dialogue that typical websites promote you will lose credibility and stifle your growth.
  7. Develop measurements and monitoring capability– You cannot manage what you don’t measure and cannot measure what you don’t monitor. There are great “out of the box” analytical tools or you can customize your own “monitoring dashboard” to identify measurable ROI and seek out those who are talking about your brand.
  8. Trust your Subordinates…But Train them…and have a crisis communications plan to deal with mistakes- Mistakes will be made in social media…Posts will be taken out of context..The wrong word may be used at the wrong time, or moderation may be seen as arbitrary by your audience. These things happen..First, develop a standardized training program that gets each of your content managers proficient…Then, have a plan to react to these “mishaps” but don’t make “hanging people that work for you from the rafters” step one. If you do, you create a zero-defects mentality and that stifles initiative. Good social media practitioners are never afraid of getting fired.
  9. Develop User-Engagement Policies that are reasonable and enforceable- Don’t make it impossible for someone to engage on your sites with arbitrary regulations and procedures. At the same time, make sure that people understand this is not their “teenage daughter’s twitter account.” Establish engagement standards; make them clearly understandable and enforceable, and don’t be too quick to “moderate”. The community of users, if you’ve built it strategically with a solid content management plan, will keep people in check more successfully than you, if you allow them.
  10. Collaborate, borrow, copy and steal!– Use every good idea and lesson learned you can. Lean on others who are out there in the space, setting the standard..Look for examples of engaging content, effective moderation, and efficient platform management. The dirty secret, when the Wizard’s curtain is pulled back is that NO ONE is an expert in every part of social media..NO ONE! Even if they were an industry expert so much of the medium is constantly changing. To be successful you have to look at what everyone else is doing and apply what’s going to work in your organization.

In summary- Social media is not a device, a platform, or a medium. It’s a culture. Most of the mistakes people make in executing within the space are not linked to platform management (i.e. how to use the newest feature on Facebook)…Mistakes are made when an organization treats the venue as if it were “theirs”…Yes, you’re absolutely responsible for your organization’s sites..However, you don’t always get to be in the driver’s seat…Embrace the ride and glean as much as you can about your brand and people’s perception of your brand by listening to what your followers are saying.

Lt. Col. Andrew Morton is the Chief of On-Line and Social Media for the United States Army Reserve. You can find the Army Reserve on Facebook or Twitter.

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