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LEAP into Social Media

By Karen Addis, APR

Professional development workshops on social media continue to be a big draw, and the chapter’s Aug. 14 workshop was no exception. More than 90 attendees gathered at the Navy Memorial for a presentation on “Using Social Media to Drive Influence” by Social Driver’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Anthony Shop, and Change the Equation’s Director of Communications, Christina Gordon.

Much of the discussion and Q& A session centered around how to convince the C-suite of the value of and need for social media. Social Driver’s Sharp noted that many executives approach social media with a “TV attitude.”  Said Sharp, “They want to push information out. They want to broadcast [their message] in one direction and hope people absorb it.

But as all good PR professionals know, communication  — especially nowadays — needs to be two-way. “Social media needs to be more like a telephone,” said Sharp, “where you communicate back and forth.”

Change the Equation’s Gordon used the analogy of communicating via bullhorn versus sitting around a campfire, where people get to know one another and exchange information, resulting in more meaningful conversations.

Sharp talked about the four stages of effective social media: talking, listening, sharing and engaging. For example, he said, when an organization is doing the talking, it should keep three main questions in mind about its communications: 1) Is it relevant? 2) Is it authentic? 3) Is it segmented to your various audiences?

Sharp also stressed the need to compare where an organization is seeing results versus where is it spending its money, and then make adjustments where needed. Most businesses, he said, find their ROI comes from the sharing and engaging stages, yet a lot of organizations spend the majority of their money on the talking stage.

Gordon emphasized the importance of focusing energy in the right places, especially when staff and resources are limited, as they are at her small nonprofit organization, which has been in existence less than three years.

When Gordon joined Change the Equation about a year ago, the organization was having only limited success with social media.

However, as the result of developing a sound strategic plan for how the organization approached social media, the nonprofit has experienced a dramatic increase in audience engagement. Today, the organization’s Twitter account averages 800 interactions a month, 400 new followers, and 400 re-tweets.

For organizations venturing into social media, Gordon recommends a four-step process:

  1. Develop a written plan
  2. Educate your CEO and staff
  3. Assemble a team (internal, external, or a combination)
  4. LEAP – listen, engage, assess, and polish

Gordon concluded by reminding everyone that content is an organization’s most important asset. “And don’t forget to frame your content so that it is relevant to your audience.”

Karen Addis, APR, is a senior communications executive with more than 25 years of experience providing strategic communications counsel and support to a range of clients, including corporations, associations and nonprofit organizations. You can follow her on Twitter at @karenaddis or connect with her on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/karenaddis.