8 steps to developing a social media strategy for stakeholder engagement
In a recent blog post for Northern Lights PR, I looked at the possibilities for building social media into your stakeholder engagement strategy.
To ensure best success from your stakeholder engagement campaigns, you should have:
- A clear idea of who your stakeholders are, how they behave, what’s important to them, and how they currently use digital technology and social media
- A digital and social media strategy that sets out the overall approach to nurturing long term relationships with all key partners and stakeholders, including key messages for each group of stakeholders
- A digital and social media activity plan, including details on the platforms to be used (ie for each segment: do they communicate through Twitter or via LinkedIn groups? And which groups?) and a schedule of activity, including an editorial calendar.
- Buy-in at all levels of your organisation, from board level through to the customer service team.
- Supporting training and employee guidelines that give staff the knowledge, tools and confidence to effectively manage and maximise the potential of social media
- An employee social media policy that empowers, rather than restricts staff
Social media and digital technologies offer a multitude of opportunities for engaging with stakeholders. For example, blogging is currently taking off in a big way as it has numerous benefits for business. But for stakeholder communications to work and investment in social media to be worthwhile, it is vital that your tactics and principles are fully aligned; and everyone in the organisation is on board both with the principles and objectives for your social media strategy and the practicalities of how to use it and support the plan.
Here is my ten-step plan to establishing a successful stakeholder engagement strategy, using social media and digital marketing.
So where do you start?
(1) Internal culture, communications and branding
For your stakeholder engagement strategy to work, you should have a clear brand, with associated values, culture and personality – to ensure the messages your staff send out are consistent. It helps to have an established culture of openness and inclusiveness among staff. If your organisation is not like this, you may want to consider if social media is right way to be engaging with your stakeholders.
For large, complex, multisite organisations, maintaining brand unity across the whole company can be extremely difficult. Social media can help to overcome geographical obstacles, and – due to its nature as a two-way platform – can also help to bridge cultural differences and promote innovation by giving different sections of the business a platform to connect and share ideas. Giving staff opportunities to engage and contribute to organisational initiatives shows they are being listened to and that their views are valued. This helps with both engagement and retention.
(2) Establish your goals
Look at your business plan, communication strategy and objectives. What do you want to achieve? How will you measure success? Draw up a set of social media strategy objectives.
(3) Stakeholder research
If you haven’t done so already, establish who all your key stakeholder groups are. Then look at which platform is best for engaging with each group (eg are they on Twitter or do they use LinkedIn groups – which ones?) and draw up a set of key messages for each group. (through all channels). Notice any gaps and missed opportunities.
(4) Social media audit
Carry out an audit of your existing digital platforms (including website, blog, Twitter page, staff and organisation LinkedIn pages etc) and note the extent to which they are currently contributing to your goals. Are your activities aligned with your goals and are you spending time on the right platforms?
(5) Staffing audit and resources planning
What do you realistically have resources to implement? What activities can you manage in-house, and what would you need to outsource?
What are current staff roles, responsibilities and social media requirements? Are there any knowledge gaps? A simple staff survey can be used to establish current knowledge and skills in the key social media platforms.
(6) Staff training
For a stakeholder engagement strategy to be successful, you need everyone to be on board. To get the most out of social media campaigns, all key members of staff should understand how to use social media.
For example, your communications team or agency may be managing your campaigns. But if key members of staff also share links to your thought leadership blogs through their own Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, the impact is hugely amplified.
Training should not just be practical, but should also be about how social media fits into your overall strategic communications plan.
(7) Employee social media policy
All organisations should have a staff social media policy, even for those who are not required to use social media as part of their job. Alongside training, the document should empower, not restrict. By giving employees the knowledge, tools and confidence to use social media strategically, not only will you reduce any risks to your company reputation, you will also have a powerful workforce of brand ambassadors working hard on your behalf to carry out stakeholder communications.
The document should set out recommendations on how social media could be used more effectively to achieve company objectives.
(8) Digital and social media strategy and plan
Once you have considered all of the seven steps above, you are ready to put your social media strategy and plan together.
Take the aims and objectives and create a digital and social media strategy document. Keep it short and to the point – the who, what and why – with key messages for each stakeholder group, and make it accessible for all staff who will be using social media as part of their role to communicate with stakeholders.
It should include details on strategic objectives, audience, content style and tone (informed by your brand guidelines), as well as guidance on monitoring and metrics.
And finally, include a six-month digital marketing plan, with implementation timelines and monitoring mechanisms.
Now you’re ready to go!
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